I am currently pursuing my master's in bio-medicine. I am taking classes, doing research, and working as a graduate assistant at the same time. So far it has turned out to be very time consuming. I can do the work just fine, but I am having trouble finding any time to spend with my family. I was originally planning to continue with a PhD in bio-medicine after graduating with my master's.


In your experience doing research in a bio-medical PhD program, were you required to spend all of your time working?

Is it possible/likely for me to enter a PhD program that allows me to treat it as a full-time or even overtime job?

Through undergraduate and now in my masters I spend pretty much all of my waking hours working, and I don't think I'm interested in another 4-5 years of this.

Edit: I am in the United States. My goal in getting a PhD is to teach at a university level, but I'm open to research or industry jobs as well.

  • 4
    If you're not interested in maintaining the same level of effort from your Master's, it's probably not advisable. (I know I shouldn't answer in the comments but that seems to be too short/opinionated/unreferenced to be a real answer ...)
    – Ben Bolker
    Sep 20, 2020 at 21:43
  • 1
    "Required effort" for a PhD is determined by your own goals, your supervisor's expectations, and regulations at the university or country level, and also, specifically for biomed, whether your work is more lab / clinical / analysis focused. Consider narrowing your question down to one of these aspects, otherwise it's too broad to be answerable.
    – juod
    Sep 21, 2020 at 1:34
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    Hello. I have been through such a PhD, still work in academia (love it btw) and interact with a lot of PhD students. Short answer is no: I don't know of any PhD in bio that does not consume the full time of a PhD student.
    – Jean-Yves
    Sep 21, 2020 at 7:33
  • 1
    were you required to spend all of your time working? This is quite unclear. Obviously nobody spends all their time working. So what are you asking? How many hours per week does a PhD usually require? At least that we can answer. I think most people here have completed an undergraduate program and postgraduate programs and I don't think many of them would say that any of those things required all of their waking hours. If you are putting in that level of effort now, it's likely only because you are driving yourself that hard and burning yourself out.
    – J...
    Sep 21, 2020 at 12:52
  • It's also important to consider that lab-based research does not really allow for a nice work-life balance unless you have a lab-manager to do the daily tasks (unlikely). You will need to go into the lab to take care of your cells/animals/whatever on the timeline that this requires.
    – BrianLang
    Sep 21, 2020 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


The answer is, of course, that it depends. If you're in the US the first two years are functionally two jobs - classes & candidacy, and research. I think most people end up working a lot. If you're continuing in the same program as your masters degree it will be less time consuming because you've already knocked off your course load, but it's not going to be much better than what you've already experienced.

It's also very PI dependant. Some PIs will be fine with something close to a 9-5. Others will expect an 80 hour a week workload. You should be careful with who you choose to work for. I would advise looking for associate or recently promoted full professors with children under the age of 15. Labs which are entirely international students are a red flag. There's no replacement for talking to current students in an informal capacity about work life balance. Spending $20 and a night at the department happy hour is an investment that will pay off when you pump people for information.

FWIW I did 60 hours a week through my PhD but got much better at time management and got that down to 40 a week for my postdoc. It is doable.

  • 9
    Efficiency is important, too. There are not many people that can work 80 hour weeks efficiently, but yet there are many who will try, and they produce no more than they would have if they had put in half the time but kept a better mental state.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 20, 2020 at 23:52
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    Why do you advise to search for young/junior professors with children under the age of 15 and advise against labs with only international students? Sep 21, 2020 at 12:35
  • 1
    You want to stack the deck with supervisors who understand work-life balance. People with younger kids tend to be the best bet. It's not a perfect predictor but nothing is - all you can do is play the odds.
    – user128815
    Sep 21, 2020 at 19:23

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