# Who works the hardest?

1. Sep 6, 2008

### tgt

In general give a ranking from most to least of hours and effort needed for each occupation: Undergraduate, Grad student, Post doc, Lecturer, Associate professor, Professor.

Also state the field you are referring to.

2. Sep 6, 2008

### will.c

Of all the silly questions... The people who work the hardest work the hardest!

I've known undergraduates to spend 8 hours sleeping and all their remaining time either in class or studying. I myself spent very little time on schoolwork, but worked part time (and if that's not what you mean by "work," I had many friends who gave school less effort than me and spent their other waking hours on Warcraft). Grad students are mythologized to be worked to the bone with no time for a social life or outside interests, yet somehow I've spoken with grad students who also took care of families, grad students with outside employment, and just plain lazy grad students. As far as Post-docs and the various ranks of professor, once again, no one holds a gun to their head - if you wish to be offered a position and eventually tenure at a prestigious institution, I doubt you can be lazy, but if you set your sights a little lower, the spectrum comes right back.

3. Sep 6, 2008

4. Sep 7, 2008

### tgt

I didn't give a ranking at all. It was the list. You are meant to rank them, if you can.

5. Sep 7, 2008

### tgt

I did include 'in general' in the OP.

6. Sep 7, 2008

### Defennder

What's the difference between associate professor and professor?

7. Sep 7, 2008

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
8. Sep 7, 2008

### George Jones

Staff Emeritus
This is a very silly question.

9. Sep 7, 2008

### f95toli

I guess it depends on what you mean by work. I can say that there is much less daily pressure once you are past the undergraduate stage; mainly because there are fewer deadlines (exams, assignments etc) but also because you are more in control of your own schedule. Nowadays I only have to worry about deadlines for grant applications

Moreover, nowadays I rarely do any work at home (not surprising since I am an experimentalist) meaning when I leave work I am done for the day and can focus on other things; when I was an undergraduate (and when I took courses as a PhD student) there was ALWAYS something I should study which I found to be very stressful.
I can say that I would NOT like to relive my 5 years as an undergraduate, this was by far the hardest part yet, although it was great fun at times.

Last edited: Sep 7, 2008
10. Sep 7, 2008

### tgt

Why?

11. Sep 7, 2008

### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Because hours will vary, and the categories are very different, so as to make a comparison difficult, or impossible, or meaningless.

One's acheivements will depend on investment of effort and time.

One of my professors told me that one hour of classtime requires at least 3 hrs of review and homework. And the best students put in more hours than that perhaps.

Also, if one is married and/or with children, then one has to balance family with work.

I agree with George.

12. Sep 7, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
I agree with those who say this is a very silly question. Those with a strong work ethic who spend a lot of time working are the ones who work the most. They will carry this through regardless of the stage of their career.

About the only thing that will be weeded out along the way are those who goof around and play all the time and rarely put any effort into their work. They will wash out before graduating. But, I have to assume you're referring to those who are successful enough to progress to the next level.

What changes along the way is the TYPE of work one does. Undergrad...studying, doing homework, attending classes, a minimum-wage type job on the side. Graduate student...studying, homework, attending classes, lab research, dissertation writing, with the time distribution shifting from coursework to lab work as they progress. Post-doc...lab research, supervising undergraduate and graduate students in the lab, writing papers, learning to write grant proposals, maybe teaching a lecture or two in their subject area to gain teaching experience. Assistant professor...lab research, supervising technicians, undergrad and grad students and post-docs in the lab, helping their students write papers, writing grant proposals, teaching a block of lectures in a course or maybe responsibility for one entire course, some time spent on committees. Associate professor...about the same as assistant professor, but with an established track record to make grant writing easier. Full professor...same as assistant and associate professor, except may hire an assistant professor into the lab to supervise more of the every day work happening in the lab while getting established, and in place of being in the lab and directly supervising lab personnel as much, time is shifted toward university administrative responsibilities such as chairing committees, chairing a department, serving as director of a program, etc.

As Astronuc pointed out, yes, it's generally assumed that each class hour includes 3 hours of work. That applies to both students and professors (at all levels). For the students, it's 3 hours of studying, doing assignments, reading, etc. For professors, that's 3 hours to prep lectures, write exams, grade exams, enter grades into gradebooks and report them to administration, and meet with students outside scheduled class time.

And, yes, just as some students will put in more than 3 hours studying for every class hour they meet, some professors will put in more than 3 hours prepping for classes or meeting with students outside class time.

Welcome to being a grown-up. You get to stop working when you retire or die, whichever comes first. Even then, we get some Emeritus Professors who still won't stop working well past retirement age.

13. Sep 7, 2008

### mathwonk

a grad student has the most to do with the least compensation, hence is most motivated to work hard. they have to teach and learn and often grade as well, all this often while earning starvation wages, and not owning a car or having any fun (in math). but this is changing with new large grants available to entice people with US citizenship to be grad students.

I can say that as a married grad student with one then two children and an income of around 5K a year, I slept little, ate little, ran 2-4 miles a day to keep up energy, and worked almost all the time.

as a postdoc again i worked literally all the time, even rising sometimes at 4am to begin. the motivation then was to try to fit in with, and compete with the best young people, and possibly impress famous workers in my field.

so from 1970 to 1981, roughly the period of preparing for grad school, being in grad school, and then a postdoc, was the time i worked essentially to the exclusion of all else. ah yes, and about that time i received tenure.

A professor's life is relatively a piece of cake, but more boring sometimes, due to committee work and repetitious teaching. You also earn enough to actually eat and own a car, at least after a few decades. by the time i was 60 i could even afford to buy math books.

by the way anyone who posts on here more than once a month is probably not working that hard.

14. Sep 7, 2008

### mathwonk

i just had occasion to look in the garage at some old letters my mom saved that I sent her as a grad student and even as postdoc. apparently i was too poor to afford note paper or any kind of fresh paper as I wrote some of the letters on the backs of old handouts announcing talks in the department!

15. Sep 7, 2008

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
Wow!! Well, things have looked up: nowadays at least we get given paper to work on! Seriously, though, I don't find being a grad student all that difficult financially; we get a fair amount of money over here! That said, I don't have a family to support. I very much doubt I could do that, and have strong admiration for anyone who manages to do so.

16. Sep 7, 2008

### thewhills

It all depends.
An Undergrad could work their *** off for a 4.0 or slack.
A Professor could spend hours planing a lecture or just wing it every day.
from what I know, most tenured professor DO wing it everyday/

17. Sep 9, 2008

### tgt

Interesting post, Mathwonk. Full of insights as usual.

How does that sum up? Isn't one not motivated as much when paid less?

18. Sep 9, 2008

### tgt

Also an insightful post. I was asking about the demands on the person at each level and how much effort on average people will need to put in to meet those demands given the background they already have. So if a person has a high work ethic, would they need to step it up or can afford to step down at any of those stages. Whether they actually do increase or decrease is another matter, as that would depends on the person.

19. Sep 10, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Grad students don't get starvation wages any more. In biomedical programs, their stipends are running between $20K to$25K, which is quite decent when you consider they also receive tuition waivers and health insurance as well. If they share an apartment with 2 or 3 roommates, they can live very comfortably on those stipends.

20. Sep 10, 2008

### makethings

In which university is this stipend at that level offered moonbear?

I get 22K with benefits and coverage but no tuition waiver which eats like 7k of that money. But I hope to cover that mostly with TAships but thats still extra time put in.