I've applied to a number of PhD programs for admission in fall 2016, but I've also just been offered a decent job in industry starting in mid-january. Would it be unethical to take the job then leave if I get accepted into one of my priority schools for a PhD? If this happened, I'd be leaving the company after about 7 months. I also plan on returning to industry upon completion of my PhD, but if I get a good offer to enter in fall 2016 it would make no sense to turn it down.

I did mention to the company that I was planning on doing a PhD at some point but didn't say when exactly.

To compound things, I'm currently going through a bit of financial hardship (just graduated) and the job market here is awful... so if I reject this job, it could take a while to find another. In addition, it doesn't make sense to me to reject a job for a PhD that I haven't even received a decision on yet! Just concerned how such a move would affect my reputation etc if I wanted to move back into industry at some point after completion of my studies.

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

  • Why not talk to the company about your goals of doing the Ph.D.? They may be able to help you with it - for example, you work for them for several years, they help put you through grad school with a far-better-than-average stipend/salary. In any event - if "taking a job" involves signing a contract, you need to ask a lawyer for help.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 18:17
  • What are your career goals? Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 19:55
  • I like the idea of a career in academia, but am fully aware of how difficult this will be to establish.. therefore, if I can't gain a tenure position after phd and postdoc, I'll switch my focus towards a career in the private sector doing research
    – jd52
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 20:20
  • 2
    This seems like a more appropriate question for Workplace.SE
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 4:45
  • I don't think I would consider it unethical. It's certainly no worse than what many employers would do to their employees. Commented Dec 19, 2015 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


It might depend on the place where you live, so this answer might not be helpful but it is worth a try.

Here (SE EU) PhD program lasts 3 years. It is for people who spend full time doing their PhD,usually working at the same time on project financed by the faculty or help their faculty in the role of professor's assistant. They get regular salary and are employees of faculty where they attend PhD program. There is, however, PhD program, that lasts 5 years, which is for the people who work full time elsewhere, for instance in industry.

Go to the school where you applied for PhD program and ask if they have program for people who work full time outside academia.

Also,talk to the company that wants to hire you,tell them about your academic aspirations. I did the same thing. They offered me to cover the cost of PhD, and in return i have to work for the company for x years. I'm full time employee,do my 40-50 h a week, and at the same time, i do my PhD ( this variant has classes in the evenings etc).

If you can't have both, be honest with the company. Tell them that you submitted papers for fall 2016 and that getting PhD is your priority. If they still want to hire you,great. If not, too bad, but you were honest. You don't want to burn bridges in the industry.

Hope it helps and best of luck

  • Doing a PhD while working full time is a terrible, terrible idea. Due to the lack of time and energy, both your work and your research will suffer. You will end up with a sub-par PhD and a sub-par work experience; assuming you don't burn out in the process.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 8:54
  • 1
    It depends. My phd and work are interconnected. Most of research i do is based on projects I do for the company so they go hand in hand,to a degree. Same for the most of others who work and do phd. Also,se europe. As in Balkans. It's a bit more relaxed here. But it does take away lots of time,energy and it is sacrifice you have to take if you want to do it both. Pay check for phd candidates who work on projects and facultys are cca 600-700 euros a month so good luck living with it. As i said,situational based on where the author lives.
    – Nissser
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 10:39

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