A friend of mine started a PhD program after finishing his diploma with the best possible grade.

Unfortunately the institute does not have a lot of resources so he is being paid from a project fund for 3 years for a part time job.

He needs the full time to work on his PhD thesis, however, so works half the time for free.

This and his friends starting to work in the industry for considerably more money made him feel left behind, questioning his choices and that he is being taken advantage of.

The project that is funding him is capped at 3 years, so he doesn't think he could work part time to supplement his income.

Are there any ways, scholarships for example, for these kinds of situations, or does my friend simply need to reconsider his choices and quit his PhD to go into industry as well.

The field is aero-space engineering.

  • I have been in a similar situation and have worked on the side for two startups during my PhD. The university needs to know about it, they can refuse to have you do it, but in my case those were funded by people from university so it was fine. Of course that does not make you big money and does take time. – skymningen May 1 '19 at 16:04
  1. Finish the PhD quickly. People with PhDs are paid more than people without PhDs. Becoming a PhD faster will get you to higher pay faster. You will also keep that pay for longer, because you will work more years of your life if you finish your education sooner. (note: correlation between education and pay does not always imply causation; also in certain disciplines the pay is terrible both with and without a PhD)
  2. Quitting the PhD to go into industry is a good choice if making money in the short term is the goal.
  3. Switch to a university which provides decent funding. This works best if you are early in your PhD.
  4. Apply for outside fellowships. However, keep in mind none of these pay that great.
  5. Working a job unrelated to the PhD while enrolled will make the PhD take longer, delaying the time when you are paid more. Do not do this if you can avoid it.
  • 2
    I think you've covered everything except for 6. Industry internships or part-time jobs related to the PhD topic. Not sure if that's common in aerospace, but it's certainly an option in some fields. – Anyon Apr 29 '19 at 12:05
  • Could you explain in more detail, what outside fellowships are? Also: Is there a mechanism to switch universities, while keeping your PhD, or do you simply mean to start over somewhere else? – Minix Apr 29 '19 at 12:09
  • Minix, the answers to those questions depend on your individual situation. Different countries have very different rules. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 29 '19 at 13:09
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    @Anyon I can't speak for the whole industry, but in the little corner of aerospace I can influence (in the US), I search out many PhD interns for a semester or two at a time. Early on, the work may not be directly related to their thesis. But as they get closer to finishing, I will only take in people whose thesis is aligned with things I need done. I don't want to delay people from graduating (when I can then hire them full time). – tpg2114 Apr 30 '19 at 0:16

Your friend could find freelance work. Here's an example. Cactus is a company that provides scholarly services (such as editing papers) and they promise clients that their editors have advanced degrees. Your friend will probably qualify. Warning: this kind of work isn't going to be trivial, and your friend is not going to get paid unless he puts in the work.

If your friend is questioning his life choices and envious of his peers who are earning more money in industry, quitting the PhD and joining them is the obvious option.


If your friend is in an industry oriented research lab, why not take summer internships? I paid my way through PhD by taking summer internships in industries related to my field, paid way more than academia (and had a host who tried to get me to question my academic life and join him on the dark side of industry...). Does the university offer teaching positions? This is a relatively easy way of making extra income while bolstering your academic CV.


Anon Phys had great ideas (especially 1).

I will add one tactical $$ idea: military reserve service (try for some quick officer program). It is a pretty nominal time commitment. The extra income will not replace a stipend but when added onto a stipend makes a big difference in disposable income. It also interfaces pretty well with grad school in terms of time and flexibility (one weekend a month and 2 week stint some time during the year, usually summer).

In the US (and most countries), schools/employers "have to let you do it", so there is less possible conflict versus moonlighting. It can also be a nice mind break (especially the 2 weeks) versus your school, lab group petty politics, etc. And probably some self esteem.

  • 5
    I just thought I'd mention: from a German perspective, this whole idea is absolutely ludicrous. – Maeher Apr 29 '19 at 19:17
  • There's a pretty substantial initial training period (boot camp), is there not? And of course, if there is a war or other reason for reserve callup, the time commitment will become ... less nominal. – Nate Eldredge Apr 29 '19 at 20:18
  • You have to be OK with the callup possibility. Some are, some aren't. – guest Apr 29 '19 at 20:39
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    As I understand is, Reserveoffiziere are also not paid in the Bundeswehr. They're merely compensated for lost income. So besides being ridiculous, this idea is also counterproductive, especially when you're already under time constraints. – Maeher Apr 29 '19 at 21:05
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    In fairness, I added the country tag, after this answer was provided. So the German perspective could not have been considered by @guest. – Minix Apr 30 '19 at 8:52

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