Research Assistant workload


Hi all,

I wondered if anyone could give me an idea of the workload of a research assistant (social sciences, if that makes a difference)? I am in my final PhD year and want to apply for a 35 hours/week RA position that will start before I finish writing up. Is it likely that the post will actually BE 35 hours a week? Or is it more likely that there'll be "homework" or extra hours stuff?

I know it's impossible to generalise, but I'd like to have some sort of rough idea whether I'll be able to devote my evenings to the PhD or not. I know academia is no respecter of work/life balance, but maybe an RA job is better than e.g. a TA?

I'd be grateful for any advice...



I recently just got my PhD (biological sciences). My 3 years were up in Sept 2011 and I got given a reasearch assistant position in Oct 2011 within the same group...all I can say is it was tough! No way was mine 35 hours/week. Some evenings were spent preparing presentations/reports for the assistant job, EVERY weekend was spent writing my thesis and any weekeday evening I had. My supervisor had no concept of how long things took and I can honestly say I've never been under so much pressure. I finallly submitted my thesis in June 2012, vivaed in July 2012 - passed.

In my honest opinion - if you can afford it financially, take writing up status, spend 2-3 months full time and get your thesis submitted. If finances are an issue then apply for the RA position. If it's in the same uni as you're doing your PhD in it may even help keep your mind focused on writing.

I'm sorry if this post has been a bit of a bummer, but I'm not going to lie, it was tough...the one saving grace is that it's not'll be a few months where you may have to kiss goodbye to your social life and just keep your head down and work. It's not impossible! :-)

Hope it all works out for you!


My husband was a postdoc research assistant for many years, and more recently a research fellow. From the very beginning it was a 9-5 job for him. Some other people in his group worked other hours, for example all-nighters, or coming in late and leaving late. But they generally worked the same hours, like a full-time job.

My husband's job was in the sciences. I worked as a part-time research assistant for a year, in humanities, 20 hours a week, and again it was fixed hours, though I was flexible in how I worked them. So I would work full Mondays, Wednesday afternoons, and full Fridays. I needed the days in between to rest/recover due to my MS-like illness. My boss (also my PhD supervisor) was happy so long as I put in the time needed, and, most importantly of all, got the work done. That job bridged my taught PG Masters and PhD, both part-time and studied alongside it.


Two quite different experiences there - which I suppose is the answer I expected!!

Thank you both for your replies. I have some thinking to do about finances, I think... :-)


Yeah, I think it depends on the supervisor really. I work as an RA now (I'm doing my PhD at the same time) and I just work 9-5 Monday to Friday. I don't work outside of this and I am on track to complete my PhD on time (at the moment) and have not been pressured to do more work or anything.

Sometimes I work longer hours, but this tends to be because I faffed around during the day on the internet or something and so I feel I'm making the time up. This doesn't happen very often though. I have NEVER worked a weekend and I take ALL of my 31 days off (plus bank holidays!) each year.

If you know the supervisor involved then that may give you some clue as to what they expect.