Here are the details for one of my schools so far:

At UChicago, my prospective adviser said that I should expect to have around a month off per year (probably 2 weeks in winter and 2 weeks in summer).

It's probably fairly reasonabl, though it came as a bit of a shock at first but that was because I was used to being an undergrad where I had at least 2 months off EVEN if I included courses during summer quarter.

I'm on a fellowship for my first two years, but I'll still be pushed to produce results (I'm basically being trusted to do a highly ambitious project).

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    Well, I suppose I take about 4 weeks or so per year, so that's pretty accurate. Feb 29, 2012 at 4:07
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    When it comes to the comparison, rather take as a reference a 'normal' job than undergraduate studies (it is unlikely that you 2+ months of holidays). However, often it is case-dependent and somehow flexible (see e.g. phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1459). Feb 29, 2012 at 9:00

3 Answers 3


The official answer depends on where you are located, and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. For instance, in Germany, graduate students are almost always employees of the government, and are therefore accorded vacation benefits commensurate to that (between 23 and 29 days per year, depending upon age). In contrast, the United States technically does not have any requirements on annual paid leave, so the answer in principle could be as little as zero, but normally is two weeks per year.

Unofficially, that's a matter to be worked out between you and your advisor. Some advisors will be willing to let you take days off here and there as needed, so long as they don't interfere with either your long-term progress or meeting your day-to-day responsibilities. Most advisors will be rightfully displeased if you ask to take two months of leave all at once, but most will not mind a three-day weekend here and there as needed.


aeismail's answer is very good. Just to extend it a little, you should not expect to take breaks with the undergraduate schedule; spring/summer/winter break does not apply to graduate students. Almost all (US) graduate students will take off the week of 12/25-1/1 or thereabouts. At the end of the day, it really depends on your advisor's dispositions towards your taking time off from lab.


I guess one can take 4 weeks off per year if they want to and can. But you hardly have the time to do so, especially if you are working in a wet lab. I probably took 2 weeks max per year, and that also not all at once (more like one of two days here and there to fit my experiment schedules).

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    Having this small amount of time off seems very unhealthy to me Nov 15, 2012 at 15:16
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    Unhealthy, but very common in the lab sciences.
    – Ben Norris
    Nov 15, 2012 at 15:35
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    This answer is very anecdotal… maybe you could expand it a bit, or link to external resources on the point you highlight (which is interesting)?
    – F'x
    Nov 15, 2012 at 15:41
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    What is a wet lab?
    – gerrit
    Mar 11, 2013 at 21:25

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