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Just to ask some advice regarding tutoring students while pursuing a PhD to supplement my income. Is this a good idea? Tutoring pays well in my country, and I am intending to teach twice a week(2 hours each), which would generate a side income equivalent to 30% of my stipend.

(Side info: I am researching Mathematics)

Thanks for your advice!

  • 2
    A good idea in what sense? Many people do it. – Kimball Jul 2 '15 at 6:56
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Of course, whether it is a good idea can only be known in hindsight. But many PhD students work as private tutors, so if it sounds interesting to you, you might as well try it.

Some things to consider:

  • It will probably take you some time to prepare for each lesson. And unless your students will come to your home or office, also account for travel time and expenses. Four hours of lessons per week may require significantly more than four hours of your time.

  • What will you do if your students are late to their lesson, or don't show up at all? What if they don't study for their lessons? What if they are late in paying you? What if they (or their parents) demand some different style of tutoring than you had planned? What if they demand that you just do their homework while they Facebook?

  • Consider the time it will take you to recruit students. Assume that they will quit unexpectedly, requiring you to find new students and lose income in the meantime. Do not count on your tutoring fees as steady income.

  • Ethical issues: if you are working as a teaching assistant or something similar, you cannot be a private tutor to students who are enrolled in your class. Check for other ethics or conflict of interest rules that your university may have. In particular, although your university office may seem like a convenient place to meet your private students, this may not be allowed.

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In Germany, most Ph.D. students (with university jobs) do exactly this: they are responsible for tutorials, seminars etc., selecting problems, working with the student TAs that actually hold the tutorials. This is all part of their university job. The workload is probably comparable to 4 hours a week workload. (People on actual stipends are not required to do so; some do, some don't.)

As to whether this is a good idea: we can't answer that question. It will depend on your stipend and your expenses, on how badly you need the money, on whether you could have meaningfully used that time to further your research or not (because you can't do full-power research all day long, and you might just as well include some planned lower-power time in your week), on how much quality of life tutoring gives you (or takes away from you) and so forth.

  • 1
    The question says the tutoring is "outside university", so this answer might not be totally fitting - on the other hand, I do not quite understand what is meant by that remark, either (does it even matter whether the tutoring is inside or outside of the university?), hence I still think this is a good answer. – O. R. Mapper Jul 3 '15 at 7:52
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Mostly you should try in my opinion do proper teaching to a class rather than private sessions, per hour you'll get better pay, and it could be more valuable on your resume eventually. Unless your PhD contract has some exclusivity clause, making time for teaching should be ok, just clear it with your advisors beforehand (I need money boss !).

Don't undervalue your skills, as PhD student you can already teach up to master level to a class, and should be practicing that skill. Teaching just one or two students is not the best use of your time at this level, imho.

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