I have a few irons in the fire as far as jobs go. I have one offer so far and am waiting to hear on a few others. I am working hard to finish up my PhD, but might not have it completely finished by the time the Fall semester starts. That being said, I am optimistic about finishing and have heard encouraging things to that extent from my adviser and other faculty members. How should I broach this subject with schools after I get the job offer? I want to be honest and up front that there is a non-zero chance that I will not finish before the position starts, but I don't want people to second-guess me when I might finish on time. And all of these positions are adjunct/lecturer positions if that matters. I also didn't get a masters on the way to my (eventual) PhD. So when and how should I bring up this subject at least for the school I got the offer for?

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    Honest and upfront is the way to go. Something as simple as "what happens if I do not finish on time" should cover it. – StrongBad Apr 27 '16 at 2:04
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    For industry jobs, finishing writing up after starting work is not uncommon (but hard - you do a full day's work in an unfmailiar job, then go home a work some more). I've seen it happen in postdoc researcher situations as well. Whether that would be an option in the jobs you're going for is another matter. – Chris H Apr 27 '16 at 9:06
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    Generally, folks who hire PhDs understand that the grad students are, shall we say, optimistic. Certainly anybody who has hired for a post-doc position has seen the schedule slip. Industry may be a little less understanding. Put, as StrongBad says, keep in close touch. – Jon Custer Apr 27 '16 at 13:48
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    At my university, at least, there is a clause for the hiring contracts that stipulate that, in the event you don't finish your PhD, you're hired into a position (I forget the title) that basically gives you a year to finish up and then you continue on the tenure track as if you had completed it on time, or you're gone. – user0721090601 Apr 27 '16 at 14:02

If this were a full-time tenure-track position, the answer would likely be different, because in many fields (particularly STEM fields) you'd probably be able to request a "gap year" that you could use to finish up your work and do a short postdoc stint somewhere before beginning your full-time position.

However, as a lecturer or instructor, you don't have nearly enough leverage. You may ask if it's possible to start the position if, for instance, the thesis has been submitted but not defended by your planned start date. But I would get in touch with them as quickly as possible and ask what would be the latest you could get your degree before starting. Then, if you feel you can't make that deadline, try to negotiate (but be aware that it might not work!).

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