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I am starting my PhD this September in the UK. And I am thinking about taking up a part-time job. But I am not sure if I should discuss with my supervisors and ask for their permission first?

The part-time job is from the same university, research-related, and in the same domain(but the technical skills will be different from my PhD). It takes 14 hours a week.

My PhD contract allows me to do 20 hours part-time job. So admin-wise, it won't be an issue.

I am considering taking that job because of 1)although I have a PhD stipend, the money is very little. Additional income would help a lot and 2) I worked a while before starting my PhD. I want to keep my previous job experience "alive" by doing this PhD. 3) the project management skills in this job will benefit me in the future.

I am not sure if I need to get approval from my PhD supervisors first.

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    What does your contract say?
    – TimRias
    Jul 7 at 13:02
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    You need to check the relevant rules and regulations. Where I was, the graduate program director had to approve any extra employment if a graduate student held a full research or teaching assistantship.
    – Ed V
    Jul 7 at 13:06
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    So you haven't started yet, but are already thinking about not being upfront with your supervisor? I suggest this is unlikely to end well.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 7 at 13:26

3 Answers 3

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You should discuss it with the supervisor, because it is a big thing and it wouldn't be a good idea to keep it secret. And be prepared that they might say that they think it is too much time per week.

You can then argue that it is in the same university and related to research (this is preferable to it being in some company that they know nothing about), you want to keep up your skills from work, and you are not sure yet whether you want to work in academia or industry after your PhD.

You could also say that you are in your 30s and the basic stipend is rather low. But this is not such a strong argument, and the supervisor might say that is what being a PhD student is like and other people manage to cope with that amount.

They might also say that you should do part-time teaching in your department instead. I think that is what most PhD students in the UK do to supplement their incomes, and the supervisor would definitely be comfortable with that idea, and it would be less than 14 hours a week.

Could you negotiate the other job to be slightly less than 14 hours, or could you do it at certain times of year such as in the vacations? Could you do the work in less than 14 hours even if that is the official amount of time? I think if you can be flexible or think of different ideas, it will be helpful.

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With the edit to the question, this seems like a matter of etiquette, rather than anything else. It also seems like a "part time PhD" if 20 hours external work is permitted.

If it were me (US) I'd appreciate knowing that you had other duties, but wouldn't object. In fact, knowing this might help me advise you better. It might also get me thinking about other alternatives that might serve us both well.

Given that, it is a matter of personality and your judgement of the reaction you might get. Do you want to hide this for some reason? Would revealing it affect your relationship? Can you integrate both things in some way? How intensive is the work needed for the doctorate? Is that your first priority?


Note that all of my own doctoral students were employed in regular jobs. We dealt with it and organized the program around that fact.

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    I am afraid my supervisors would be against it because of the time commitment and the career direction. This part-time job prepares me for an industrial job but my supervisor probably wants me to stay in academia. Moneywise, the minimum maintenance cost is 14k per year before inflation, but I only get 16k. And I am in my early 30s.
    – FewKey
    Jul 7 at 19:02
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The excellent answer by Buffy definitely also holds from the UK perspective. I would encourage you to discuss this with your advisor, specifically so they can help advise you better (at the very least, adjust the workload and expect results accordingly).

Additionally, you say you have not yet started a PhD programme, and will start in September. While the contract allows you to take up additional 20 hours of part-time jobs, you might want to discuss possible effects on your PhD. If your PhD is indeed a part of a regular 3- or 4-year UK PhD programme, it will likely be difficult to finish without dedicating to it full-time. As funding often can't be extended, taking up additional work may result in a lower quality PhD (finished in time) or a longer PhD (with a part of it potentially unfunded). Not trying to dissuade you, just saying there might be more factors to consider.

However, I also want to say that good advisors should discuss career options with you and offer you support in your choices. And while there might be some advisors applying undue pressure on their students to stay in academia, I have not actually met many (any?) of these. Most of my colleagues are fully aware that only a small percentage of all PhD students will end up getting a permanent academic job (or even taking up a research position within academia as their next job). A vast majority of PhD students end up working in industry; the PhD just opens the doors to a larger pool of positions in industry (one would hope, better paid).

I don't think aspiring to an industry position after your PhD should be a barrier to speaking to your advisor: they should be able to explain your (industry) options following a PhD better (maybe offer an opportunity for a collaboration with industry you have not previously considered?), and if they are not supportive of your plans for professional development and growth, it may be better to find out sooner rather than later.

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