Academia PhD Studies

PhD Pathways

Given my experiences of the last year, and my impending wedding, I’ve started to wonder whether staying enrolled in my PhD as a full-time student and part-time worker is the best option for my stage of life.

You need to fit these things to your life, and it might be right for me to have a full-time wage so that I can support my soon-to-be-wife while she does some extra study. I’m enjoying my research immensely, though it is a challenge. As other PhD bloggers have noted, it can be a daunting and lonely experience. Still, I get to work from home and be flexibile with my time allocation, which helps meet certain other commitments.

I’m told that if I want a career in academia – I’d like to keep my options open – then I need to be in full time study and teaching as well. But if academia is in decline, is that even a realistic proposition? Where the US leads, Australia soon follows, and the lament of the adjunct is more and more common on websites discussing these kinds of things.

To make me even more uncertain, I came across some research jobs in the public service that look really interesting and have great pay. And I wonder whether it would be possible/suitable to apply for them and do that work while completing my PhD part-time.

Such a move would probably shut me out of academia for a little while. On the upside, it could mean that at the time I finish my PhD, I already have practical industry experience useful to a whole variety of government departments and private enterprises. I would have some extra cash to travel or save for a house (a honeymoon would be nice!), and even to throw at some study-related problems.

A list of pros and cons is never complete without some variables. Those that come into play for me in this situation include whether my (new) employer would allow the flexibility needed, whether it would be worth packing up and moving to Canberra, what my fiancee would do for work/study, and whether my research would suffer. Any full time wage would have to compensate for the loss of both my current income (my stipend and my part-time and tutoring work) and the increased travel my partner would have to do if she kept her job.

The other consideration is my health (will it hold out?) and the fact that I have committed to tutor at the University of Wollongong for this session. I don’t like backing out of commitments when that negatively impacts someone else.

On the whole, staying put is probably the best situation at least for the first part of 2014, but after that who knows?

I’d love to hear from others who have made the switch from full to part-time so they could get ahead career-wise.

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