As in, it's certainly not a standard 8-5 job of 40-50 hours per week. Is it common (and expected) for them to sometimes put in 80 hours a week, and to occasionally put in 10 hours? (say, during times of personal crisis or of particularly intense coursework?)

2 Answers 2


I believe that most of the students are event-driven. That is, if they have an important deadline, meeting, exam, TA section (agghh...), then they spend more time to prepare and be ready for that event. Whereas after an important deadline, (or finals week, etc.) they allow themselves to be more relaxed and spend less time "working".

However it is quite strange to define how much time one spends on "research". Many people get very nice ideas just before the go to sleep, or while taking a shower... The mind is running 24/7.. Even though those people are not "in office" they do work on their research.

I agree also with the answer of Lars that it really depends on the student's personality and preferences. I've known students who really need their schedule to be well defined. They showed up to office daily at 9:00 and left at a fixed time (I guess that being married with kids kind of forces you to have a fixed schedule). So there are no fixed rules.


It depends on you. If you really want to, you could probably have quite regular working hours (except for the odd deadline). I would say that 80 hours a week is excessive and if your advisor expects you to do that, then you should think about changing your advisor/course.

  • 1
    unless of course the student wants to work that much, or work that much some of the time (not that I think this would be necessary or required)
    – Abe
    Mar 11, 2012 at 3:36
  • +1 to Abe, I know of many advisors who put it out very clearly that they want workaholic students. One particular professor from Cornell comes to mind. He has created a PDF for students interested working with him. He expects workaholic geniuses willing to work weekends. In return, he guarantees an excellent thesis and a good post-doc/professorship.
    – user107
    Mar 11, 2012 at 13:47

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