So, I'm applying for jobs as an instructor/lecturer. They explicitly only require a master's degree, which I have, in addition to some valuable industry experience. It's plausible that I could get one of these jobs.

If I get one of the jobs, I would be hoping to potentially stay in academia for longer, so logically it would help me to have the PhD I currently lack. Ideally, I'd like to pursue my PhD part-time while working as an instructor. My thought is that this would give me the opportunity to eventually get a professor position, later in my career, once I complete the PhD.

My questions:

  • Is this something that universities are okay with their instructors doing?
  • Or is it not okay for someone to be teaching undergrads while simultaneously doing graduate research?
  • If I wanted to do this, would it be more appropriate to pursue the PhD at the same institution as or a different institution from the one that I'd be working at?

Some additional helpful info:

  • All of the schools that I'm applying at have part-time PhD programs, so I have no reason to believe that the part-time study schedule is an issue.
  • I'm not in the U.S., so the specific rules of American academia don't necessarily apply. For example, here, we rarely have grad students teach classes.
  • Why do you want to delete the question? Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 9:46
  • 3
    I'm going to assume that something wrong happened, and I rolled back to the previous version. If you still want to delete, you can use the "delete" function. If there is something wrong, please post a message on the meta!
    – user102
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:16
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    This isn't how one deletes a question (it leaves a junk question on the main page, with the original text in the edit history if anyone cares). If you want to delete it, click on "delete" instead. However, I don't see a good reason to delete it: you are anonymous, and there doesn't seem to be anything problematic or sensitive in the question anyway. It may be of interest to other people, and several members of the community have put effort into writing answers, so I don't think you should delete it unless there's a good reason I'm overlooking. But in any case this is not how to delete it. Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 2:57
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    I've clicked on delete, but it won't allow me to delete. This is absurd for a social site to not allow you to delete your own post.
    – user499
    Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 3:45
  • @jsmith54: Sorry about suggesting that - I wasn't thinking about the rules for deleting questions (the system won't let people delete questions up upvoted answers). See blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/01/adventures-in-delclusionism. Commented Jun 23, 2012 at 4:08

2 Answers 2


Most universities are fine with having PhD students working as instructors/lecturer/teaching assistant at the same time, and it's actually quite common. I have personally been teaching at undergrads level while doing my PhD, and most of my friend who did a PhD were in the same situation.

However, it depends on the amount of hours you are spending a week with teaching: if it's taking all of your time, you might not be able to do research in good conditions, and it might be hard to find a professor that would agree to supervise you if you're not available to work on your PhD. Basically, if you combine a part-time teaching/part-time PhD, that should be fine, but if you combine a full-time teaching with a part-time PhD, that might not reasonable.

Concerning where you should apply for the PhD, in general, you can do it in a different university than the one where you're teaching. However, in some cases, it might be more interesting to do it at the same place because you might not have to pay the tuition fees.

  • I don't think it will be a problem that you are primarily a "teacher". I remember of several high school teachers that were in the PhD program of the university where I was also a PhD student (in TCS). Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 14:42

Following up on Charles's answer, I think the situation depends strongly on what discipline you are in.

Working as an instructor or lecturer as a primary instructor in a course suggests to me that you are working in the humanities; in general, such positions do not exist in the sciences and engineering (with the exception of courses taught by "visiting" or "adjunct" industrial lecturers, who may have work experience but not the normal Ph.D.).

In contrast, in the humanities, it is, as Charles said, quite common for people with master's degrees to teach courses, although again it is, in my experience, more common for them to teach "seminar"-style courses, rather than large lectures.

It may or may not be the case that the instructor of such a course is enrolled in the department to study for a Ph.D.; it depends on the specific policies of the department, and you should ask if this possible at the time of application.

(These are my observations on what is "standard"; of course, there are exceptions to every rule!)

  • @jsmith54: Then the only problem will be if the university doing the hiring is looking for someone with active experience. This would be something to clarify if you are asked for an interview, though.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 16:50

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