PhD While Working: Pros, Cons, & Management Tips

Have you ever heard of the phrase “work smarter, not harder”? This is especially important when it comes to managing your workload and your personal life. If you are considering getting a PhD while working, this article is for you.

A doctoral degree is a serious undertaking, requiring years and thousands of dollars in tuition. During the beginning stages of your PhD program, you probably have your heart set on working full-time while you study.

It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s not impossible if you have plenty of discipline, tenacity, and self-motivation. 

This guide will examine the pros and cons of pursuing your PhD while working full-time and tips to manage the challenges.

Should you consider getting a PhD while working?

If you’re undecided about whether or not to go back to school, there’s one thing you can be sure of: a PhD is an incredibly demanding and time-consuming pursuit.

Getting a doctorate, especially while working isn’t for everyone, and it’s a big commitment. Before you commit to a PhD program, ask yourself “What is your ultimate goal?” 

The degree will likely take at least five years of full-time study, so think about what you want to accomplish in the next five years. 

If your goal is to become a professor at a university or research lab, then getting a PhD might be worth considering. 

If your goal is to earn more money than you would otherwise by working in an industry related to your field of interest, then getting a PhD might not be worth it. 

You’ll also need to consider how much time you’ll have for your job and studies. Furthermore, you need to consider the tuition. 

Remember that there is no guarantee that your employer will pay for tuition. If you can’t afford it out-of-pocket, it’s worth looking into scholarships and grants.

SEE: Here’s a definitive guide on financial aid

Pros and cons of getting a PhD while working

A Ph.D. can be a helpful addition to your skill set. Still, it’s an intensive undertaking that requires the ability to think critically, learn independently, and communicate effectively orally and in writing. 

If you’re considering pursuing your doctoral degree while also working full-time, here are some pros and cons to keep in mind as you prepare to make this significant life decision.

Pros

As education costs continue to rise, PhD programs become more and more necessary to compete in today’s job market. Here are some reasons you should consider getting your PhD while working.

  • The demand for PhD level positions is high 
  • You can get a higher salary 
  • Getting a PhD while working can be a great way to achieve career goals
  • There are many scholarships available 
  • You’ll develop a strong network of colleagues and peers

Cons

If you’re interested in getting a PhD while working, it’s important to understand that this has some downsides. One of the major drawbacks is a lack of time. 

  • The consequence of long hours: PhD holders often work long hours, which can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Lack of time for personal development: A PhD takes a lot of time and effort to complete, which may not leave enough time for personal development.
  • Lack of time for family: A PhD often requires much time spent away from family.
  • A PhD does not usually guarantee immediate career opportunities.
  • High cost: Getting a PhD often requires a significant financial investment.

Every decision has pros and cons, so do your research before deciding whether to get a PhD. 

Weigh all the benefits and drawbacks of getting a PhD, and then make an informed decision based on what’s best for you.

SEE: Find out if you need a PhD to become a professor

Tips for coping with PhD while working

Coping with phd while working - lmshero

1. Set realistic goals for yourself

Setting realistic goals for yourself is vital in any aspect of life, and this is just as true when coping with a PhD while working. 

When you set your expectations too high, it’s only going to lead to disappointment. It’s also a good idea not to compare yourself to others or put pressure on yourself. 

Do what’s best for you, and things will work out the way they should. Everyone’s situation is different, and what might be perfect for someone else may not be perfect for you. 

SEE: Find out how long you should study

2. Identify effective methods for managing time

It may not seem like it, but time is a scarce commodity. You know what I’m talking about if you have an ever-expanding to-do list. For many, the PhD is a long and arduous journey. 

It takes time, effort, and resources to get through. And while we all want to be successful at it, sometimes life doesn’t always go as planned. 

When this happens, it’s important to ensure you can manage your time effectively. The first step in effective time management is understanding where your time goes. 

Once you know what areas are using up your day-to-day schedule, you can start making adjustments for those areas that require more attention than others. 

You must also find ways to avoid distractions like social media and TV, which can eat away at the hours of the day without us noticing.

SEE: Here’s why time management is important to grow as a person

3. Network and seek out advice from your peers and professors

Networking with other PhD students and professors is crucial for several reasons. You never know when you might need to call on someone for advice or support. 

Plus, it’s an easy way to connect with others who are going through the same thing as you. 

It can help relieve some of the feelings of isolation that come with graduate school, especially if your advisor isn’t always there to offer personal support.

SEE: Learn more about professional learning communities

4. Take care of your health while juggling a PhD and a job

People who are juggling PhDs with jobs or are working on their PhDs, often find themselves with a lack of time, energy, and motivation to take care of themselves. 

It’s important to take care of your mental health to help combat the stress that comes with being overworked. 

One way to combat this is by going out into nature and getting some fresh air. Nature has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body as well as increase levels of serotonin (the happy chemical). 

You can also get enough sleep and try to eat three meals daily with two snacks. This is vital because when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more prone to depression, anxiety, and weight gain.

SEE: Here’s why nutrition is important

5. Keep a positive attitude and celebrate the small wins along the way

The doctorate lifestyle is full of challenges, frustrations, and uncertainties. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude while balancing the demands of your PhD research, coursework and life. 

Many graduate students rely on negative coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol or using drugs, but these will not get them anywhere. 

Keeping a positive attitude and celebrating the small wins along the way is vital for coping with a PhD while working because it will help you stay motivated when things seem too hard to do. 

Celebrating your accomplishments and being grateful for what you have will make coping with inevitable setbacks in any career path easier. You deserve to be happy.

SEE: Explore coping skills to manage stress and emotional trauma

FAQs

What type of work can you do during a PhD?

You might work as a researcher, do laboratory work, or be involved in teaching at the college level.

Should you study for your PhD full-time or part-time if you need to work?

If you need to work, it’s best to study part-time to maintain your income and spend more time with your family.

Why do people pursue a PhD while working?

Most people who pursue a PhD while working do so because they believe it will offer them more career opportunities.

Final Thoughts 

While it may be difficult to juggle a full-time job, graduate school, and family responsibilities, there are many benefits to pursuing a PhD while working. 

A PhD can help you advance your career, learn new skills, and contribute to your field. It’s important to be realistic about the challenges and prepare for them before starting your PhD program. 

The key to a successful PhD while working is dedication, patience, and hard work. Consider reading the article describing whether a PhD is worth it if you are still on the fence about pursuing one.

Thanks for reading.