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I will be finishing my master's degree soon and am sending out emails to companies in my field. I have been recommended by many of my peers (co-workers, supervisors and academic acquaintances) to (at least eventually) also apply for a PhD, because I apparently strike them as someone, whom a PhD would suit. I do enjoy the relative autonomy of research and I am curious and interested in expanding the knowledge of my field. My field is highly technical (geomatics) and from what understand almost all PhDs are done in tight cooperation with a company. So yes, I would like to do a PhD, but it does not necessarily need to happen immediately.

So I am wondering if I should put in my job application emails that I am interested in doing a PhD. On the one hand, I want to show my interest in performing research and producing publications on behalf of the company, but on the other, I am worried that they may not be so interested in the academic merit of their work and may interpret it as a desire to jump ship entirely to pursue a PhD.

Either way, I do need to either find work or get registered in a PhD program because I am a foreign student who has to find something to do within 18 months of graduation.

I am interested in hearing other people's experiences in working while simultaneously pursuing a PhD, since I do not know much about it yet. is there a better way to approach potential employers with this intent?

I am currently living in Germany, if that matters.

  • Yes, I do want to do a PhD, but I am not necessarily in any immediate rush to do so. – wfgeo Mar 29 '18 at 12:13
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    Perhaps this is better suited to the workplace.se – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 29 '18 at 18:42
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Research each company and tailor your applications to each. See what their websites say about training opportunities, and/or reach out on LinkedIn or similar to see if you can informally ask a few questions of friends-of-friends who have worked there.

Situations where it's valuable to mention your eventual Ph.D. goals:

  • "almost all PhDs are done in tight cooperation with a company" -- talk to PhDs or look at dissertations, and you see that this company has helped with PhDs in this way.
  • They rely heavily on people with Ph.D.s and it would be hard for you to move up in the company without a Ph.D.
    • E.g. my old employer mostly recruited undergrads & PhDs, assuming the undergrads would stay 2-5 years before moving on. They were glad they could fit into a trajectory that helps people into grad school (and some return to the company later with that advanced degree).
  • Other companies might help fund your doctoral study if you prove to be a worthwhile employee, especially if you can pursue it part time. Or they might give you a loan which they forgive if you go back to work with them afterward. (This is unlikely to happen for you unless the company has a track record of doing this. And if they do, they'll probably mention it proudly.)

Situations where it may be counterproductive to mention your Ph.D. goals:

  • Few people at the company have a Ph.D. in this field, and most of your coworkers (and bosses) have a Masters degree.
  • They expect people to stay for a "career", and many people at the company have been there for 10 or 20 years.
  • It's a fairly small company, so they're unlikely to be able to support your PhD trajectory in the same way a larger company might.

In general, when you apply you want to maximize the ways that you will fit with the company and not make them worry that there is a mismatch. A company that expects you to choose a different company may be less likely to offer you a job in the first place. But you want to have as many options as possible and make a choice between them.

  • True enough, but you also likely want to limit yourself mostly to companies in the first category. Of course the research you suggest is also vital for doing so. If the relationship with the company is synergistic, everyone can win. – Buffy Jun 27 '18 at 20:30

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