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I know PhD is unsparing in terms of available time, but at times there may be situations that demand some extra income, for example, family situations or some medical emergency.

In such cases, are there any specific jobs PhD students could take up? This could be at some place within a university (a library, say) or somewhere in the city (assume it is a large one like London or NY). The desiderata are minimal time consumption and a sum of useful money which could be used to manage the unexpected expense.

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    I know someone who put themselves through graduate school playing poker. Not recommended unless you are very good at poker and you can afford having your weekly income's variance be three or four times its expectation. – JeffE Apr 12 '12 at 19:49
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    You can earn a very comfortable living playing poker. But you should never play the money for your house or food. – F'x Oct 24 '12 at 12:07
  • I guess answers to this question vary wildly between areas. – Raphael Oct 25 '12 at 8:57
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    Be advised that you are not always allowed to have an (official) external income. Some Belgian grants, for instance, strictly forbid students to earn something on the side. – Marc Claesen Jul 22 '14 at 11:54
  • There is this attractive option if you can spare 2 nights in a week. The campus patrol in some colleges look for volunteers to ensure that internal campus security is maintained during the night. It usually occurs in 2 shifts per week: 9pm to 5am per shift. I think this is reasonable considering most of your other options would entail a lot more time. – Hans Krupakar Oct 5 '16 at 16:31

11 Answers 11

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  1. I know of a few graduate students who successfully made money doing consulting in their line of work. Most of these were engineering students, where the knowledge gained during graduate school is easily transferable, but I've seen others as well.

    If you're interested in this, talk to as many people as you can and network, network, network. It can be a fun side project with the potential to become a full-time job if you're interested.

  2. Another very useful skill that some graduate students may be able to do is grant writing. While you may not realize it, this skill is necessary in many, many industries, and if you're good at writing, you can make earn some good income contracting out your skills.

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    Grant writing is really something which is rewarding in term of money. Consulting is less rewarding at the junior level. – Sylvain Peyronnet Apr 12 '12 at 15:27
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    @SylvainPeyronnet - I agree. However, I know of a few situations where an advisor with existing consulting relationships brought grad students in and had them help with the consulting, and in all cases it was a very positive experience for the student. – eykanal Apr 12 '12 at 16:16
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Two obvious answers are:

  1. Marking (grading). Ask your supervisor if they have coursework that needs to be marked (for a price).
  2. Tutoring. Put a note up in your departmental office offering to tutor undergraduates. If you're doing a more mathematical degree, you could tutor undergraduates from other disciplines. For example, helping out with some statistics coursework.
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    +1 for tutoring. Not only does it make money and benefit the student, it helps make you a better teacher. – eykanal Apr 12 '12 at 13:47
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    And to add to @eykanal's answer, it also challenges you on earlier subjects. Tutoring has kept my Algebra and Calculus skills sharp. – Jonathan Landrum Oct 3 '13 at 15:20
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It would depend on whether you are an international student or a domestic student. I am guessing, if you are an international student, you will have to work with your international office to work more than your allowed quota of hours citing extenuating circumstances.

For instance, as a PHD candidate from India in the USA, I know that I get a stipend that counts as 20 hours of work per week. If I were to have, God forbid, extenuating circumstances and needed more money to support my cause, I'd have to work with the international office who in turn would work it out with the INS/ICE in the US so that I stay "in status" as a full time student whilst working for more than my quota of hours.

Obviously, my answer is for international students in the US. If you are a domestic student, some of the answers provided here would actually help!

Good luck!

  • You mean, we cannot work for more on our own accord? Should we necessarily have to do some paper work? – Bravo Apr 13 '12 at 7:37
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    As an international student? No, not in the US at least. An intl. student is eligible to work 20 hours a week. Anything in excess (unless in the summer, may-aug) is unlawful. – dearN Apr 13 '12 at 22:25
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    Technically, non-Americans on student visas are not allowed to "work" at all. Exceptions are carved out for TAships and RAships because they are considered an integral part of the student's education. If you're in the US on a student visa, you cannot legally work at Walmart. – JeffE Apr 14 '12 at 13:04
  • @JeffE Based on my experience (as an international student in the US for the past 8 years), non-Americans on student visas (in particular the F1 visa) can work up to 20 hours a week on campus. That is to say, I may work at the cafetaria, library, rec center, math learning center, etc. Working off campus, as you say, is not legal and is violates the terms of the student visa (don't do it!). Funnily, certain jobs that are physically on-campus do not count as such - e.g. I am not allowed to work with the construction crew on campus. (Whenever in doubt, consult your international student office) – Aru Ray Nov 7 '13 at 13:27
  • TAships and RAships count as part of this 20 hours a week business. As for 'integral part of student's education' those have to do with Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. (Let me refrain from describing these in detail unless someone specifically asks) – Aru Ray Nov 7 '13 at 13:29
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These are less attractive than either consulting or tutoring because they take a more regular committment, but these are jobs I have taken in the past for a few extra dollars (that haven't managed to kill me yet!)

  • Being an adjunct teacher at another institution.

This is very hard though, and requires a substantial time commitment. It has the positive benefit of you gaining teaching experience, which is useful if you plan on continuing a job in academia. I have also heard teaching online classes are much easier on your schedule as well, although take that as heresay from me as I have not done it myself.

  • Moonlighting as a security guard.

This probably comes off as an odd choice, but I have had two security guard jobs in the past that worked out really well. I intentionally chose jobs that I sat at a desk, so I could read or write while I was on duty. I'm sure your mileage varies though with this, and I may have just been crap lucky with getting jobs in which this was possible.

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    +1 for security guard gig, as you get lots of free time to study without interruption. – Jonathan Landrum Oct 3 '13 at 15:21
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Writing high-school or college-level books in your discipline. There are quite a few types of books that publishers are interested in and pay young authors for: exercises with solutions, compilations of admissions tests with answers and comments, that sort of thing.

I mention it because it usually is a job you can do on your own schedule. In my own experience, it does not pay as much as consulting, but it might be easier to get in. Also, it brings a lot of useful experience if you do it in a good team: learning how to write good pedagogical material is a precious skill!


Depending on your language skills, working as a translator or proofreader is a good option. It is a rather flexible job in term of work hours and place. Also, if you have necessary technical skills, scientific journals have large needs of grahics editing.

9

At my university, the school provides service for students with disabilities, any I have been a mentor/tutor for some of them.

It is quite fun, and more importantly, I feel like I do something meaningful.

6

Look into babysitting. A lot of professors and staff are looking for reliable people to babysit (and maybe tutor) their young children. That is how I supplemented my income through graduate school.

5

Online tutoring and teaching - It can be less time consuming especially in the area of their expertise. Good instructors are scarce and they are online and offline companies that are always looking for quality instructors. Companies like General Assembly, [Udemy], Venturesity (sorry for the shameless plug :)) etc.

3

depending on your major and skills, I believe you can find some teaching positions. like ESL, math, computer science etc. whatever you can teach, look for companies offering that kind of service. I was working as an instructor at a "computing for children" kinda company. using available software, it was fun to work with kids. I was also teaching A+,N+ classes, since I am a CS graduate and like to teach the stuff.

2

If you have the time and ability to - start a business in your disipline! I know this is a hard task but I managed to set at home accountancy and consulting business while a undergraduate (Accounting major and also a Computer Science). You can recruit people to work on commission for you, thus creating money for themselves and you! I have always been a fan of consulting and recruitment (headhunting) business start ups.

0

Private tutoring can be a good source of income -- getting pupils is difficult at first, but most of them will, once started, have many lessons, so there is some regularity in your income. If you want to reduce your hours, raising your rates can do the trick nicely (since you are an expert professional, you can and should charge a high hourly rate in any case, otherwise people will assume you are not very good).

Proof-reading and editorial work is flexible (because you can do it at any time of day or night), although it does not tend to be particularly lucrative. That said, if relevant to your field, a track record of such work can do wonders for your reputation and visibility.

Other specialist freelance activities relevant to your field. These tend to be brief and one-off, but can be very enjoyable and quite lucrative.

[NB: since all of the above tend to involve working in a self-employed capacity, it is your responsibility to register with the relevant tax authorities, file tax returns, and pay the taxes (this is one reason why self-employed hourly rates tend to be significantly higher than employed hourly rates). If you feel uncomfortable doing these administrative tasks yourself, you may want to hire an accountant.]

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