working while getting a phd,The Pros and Cons of Getting a PhD While Working

Can you do a PhD while working? Before you answer this question, let’s discuss the pros and cons.

Whether you should work while doing a traditional full-time PhD is an important question. No matter what others tell you, the answer is often very personal. The answer is also determined by personal factors (i.e., can you afford to live on a PhD stipend) and external factors (i.e., does the school allow working).

Nonetheless, knowing the answers before you start your PhD education will determine the schools and PhD programs to which you’ll apply. Hence, saving you time and energy at the outset.

Before you make that decision, here are some pros and cons of doing PhD While Working.

The Pros of Getting a PhD While Working


It goes without saying that working will provide additional income.

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t want additional money in their bank account?

Career options:

Working affords you the flexibility of choice. Being on both sides, industry, and academia gives you a breath of knowledge about what’s going on in the field (that’s if your work is related to your field of PhD study).

This keeps your knowledge relevant and gives you a choice to stay in academia or go back to industry.

Research data opportunities:

One thing researchers delight in is access to good-quality data. Organizations produce and have lots of good quality data.

When you’re working for an organization, you can access the organization’s data (with permission) for your research. Studies with this kind of data are sought after.

The Cons of Getting a PhD while Working

Divided attention

Since your time, interests, and goals are split between PhD while working and your PhD education, you may find that your attention is always divided between the two interests.

This presents time management challenges, worrying about whether you’re giving enough attention to each interest.

Low research productivity.

Given the divided attention and time challenges, your research productivity may suffer.

How? You may not have enough time to dedicate to the rigor of research. You’ll almost always exert the minimum effort needed to complete a research project.

Exerting minimum effort is a human condition but can negatively impact the quality and quantity of research you produce.

Difficulty in deciding a career path after graduation.

When you have one foot in industry and the other in academia, it makes it hard to decide which to continue after graduation.

I interned twice in public institutions when I was getting my PhD, with the possibility to stay on. Even though I was only interning, it was still a difficult decision for me.

To make that final decision, I asked myself whether the reasons I wanted to pursue a PhD/be an academic had changed. In other words, I went back to my WHY. The answer was No. So I’m still in academia.

I’m familiar with a PhD while working student in their final year who is finding it hard to make that decision. I can tell you that it’s not a simple decision.

High Quit Rate

Getting a PhD education at any age is not easy; how much more doing so in your 40s and 50s.

People do quit or drop out of their PhD education. They quit for many reasons, including a lack of support from the PhD program and the quality of relationship with an advisor.

However, it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to say that stretching yourself between work and the rigor of a PhD could lead to quitting intentions. You could tackle that research study: “Does working increase the intention to quit in PhD students?

Now that you’ve seen some of the pros and cons of working while getting a PhD, think carefully about your decision.

Everyone’s situation is different, so make this decision based on yours. If you do decide that you’ll work while doing a PhD, consider all the different types of doctorate degrees: traditional, DBA, executive, etc. A DBA or Executive PhD allows work and might fit you better.

However, you’ll have to fund your own education (self-funding).  If you want external funding and still want to work, you need to seek out traditional PhD programs that might allow  doing a PhD While Working.

There are a few. They do not advertise it that but I have seen some traditional programs where their students PhD While Working. 

See more information on the difference between the different types of doctorate degrees. Send me a message if you have more questions on this topic.

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The Pros and Cons of Getting a PhD While Working

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