I currently have a master's degree in my field. Before starting my Ph.D, I took a position in private industry. Recently I was hired to work at an American university, and part of my compensation includes tuition costs. Because I will be working a full-time job, I would be a part-time student taking only one course at a time. My intent would be to continue this job while I was working through the Ph.D. program.

I'm concerned that being a part-time student will make me an unattractive candidate for admission. One potential work-around that I have considered is that I take a number of the classes required for the Ph.D program prior to being admitted. Then I could complete the program in a similar amount of time to other students.

However, I don't know much of anything about how academic departments are managed. Would taking courses required for the Ph.D. program be advantageous when applying to that program?

  • "will make me an unattractive candidate for admission" --- This may be field dependent, because I can't think of why this might even be a possibility. But it would make it easier for the department to decide whether to admit you, since after taking some courses they will have a much better idea of your chances of success in their program. (moments later) I think I might have misunderstood your context. I thought you were going to take classes part-time and THEN apply for the Ph.D. program (because you said "being a part-time student ... will make ..."). Mar 12, 2018 at 14:37
  • @DaveLRenfro - I edited to clarify that I my intent would be to hold a full-time job both before and after admission to the program. Based on my previous graduate work, I had understood that performance indicator for departments was how long it takes students to complete their studies. If this is true, then a part-time student would reflect poorly on the department, because they would take much longer to complete their studies. There could be other reasons also. Mar 12, 2018 at 14:53
  • Unlike masters degrees in the US, part time PhDs are quite rare (there are some exceptions, such as professional degrees in education). Research-based PhDs are about much much more than coursework. Have you checked with the program you are interested in to see if there is any possibility to be part time? There may not be.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 12, 2018 at 15:55


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