I started a full-time PhD last month, and as I am self-funded, I took a 50% job (18 hours a week, every morning from monday to friday) besides. I have trouble managing my time and I feel like I'm already late when it comes to my plan for the semester. I cannot work that much on my thesis during week-ends, or at least not at this stage, because the material that I do my research on is in an institute that is closed at that time. Plus, at the risk of sounding like I'm whining, I also want to precise that I have no particular interest in this part-time job, neither personally nor career-wise, which doesn't help with my motivation. I was also working besides my BA and MA, sometimes up to 80%, but somehow I never felt like it was hampering me in my studies as it does now.
I know that many students are in a similar situation, so I would be very grateful to have your advices and/or opinions: how can I make time for my PhD with a 50% job? Can I still carry my studies successfully if I struggle with this? And if I quit the job, will it be a failure?
That is a really tough situation. Full-time PhDs really are essentially full-time jobs. I would seriously struggle to juggle an extra 18 hours a week of paid work, it sounds exhausting - personally I do a couple of hours a week teaching plus prep; much more than that I think would have a serious quality-of-life impact. You're right, lots of people do it, but I certainly wouldn't judge anybody for sacking off the job to focus on the PhD.
I guess it comes down to whether you can continue to fund yourself adequately. What's the job? Does your university have internal opportunities like teaching or note-taking? Some people find these easier to fit around their studies, and they are often a little better-paid than other available part-time work.
I know exactly how you feel. My PhD is entirely self-funded also, so I felt the need to work alongside my course. However my job hours varied, although I was on a zero hour contract my shifts varied between 3-5 days a week. No matter how many days I did it was too much for me. I am now quite far into my course and I'm on probation, at risk of removal etc, because trying to work alongside the course resulted in me getting very far behind. I know this is probably not want you want to hear but, in my experience, having a job at all just didn't work for me. PhD's are very strenuous degrees, basically a full-time job as bongmaster5000 said.
Is there no way you can get financial support without the job? I know it isn't easy, but if you're already struggling to do both then I think you know it won't work out for you. The PhD needs your undivided attention, otherwise you will end up like me... struggling, barely hanging onto my position because I tried to do everything alongside it.
Maybe speak to your supervisors, or a student's union connected to the uni? They may know ways of receiving loans, financial support etc without physically having a job. At the end of the day you need to go with your own instinct, but hopefully you can learn from my own mistakes that it isn't easy.
Regarding the last point above - lots of universities will have student hardship funds or similar pots of money, designed to bail out students who are in dire financial straits (I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to - apologies if not). Unfortunately, these are difficult to access; they will require itemized receipts of all your expenses in order to determine how much/whether you need it. However, the main problem is that they will be conditional on your having planned your finances adequately, and having a reasonable expectation that you can complete your studies with the funds you've already got in place. Taking on a self-funded PhD without the cash in place to do so, without part-time work, won't be considered a valid reason for accessing that money. Plus, it tends to be a one-shot thing, a lump sum of a couple grand (maximum) to get you out of a financial pinch that would result in you dropping out otherwise. Not much use for funding a PhD.
Definitely do go and talk to the SU, though, to discuss your options.
Can you apply for external grants? That would probably be my first port of call in your shoes - even if it requires interrupting for a year so you can search for funding and maybe work to build up some savings in the meantime. There are also career development loans from certain banks, but again I'm not sure these would provide enough to cover multiple years of full-time PhD study and all the expenses it entails.
Maybe even bite the bullet and go part-time. Plenty of people do it and in certain countries (like Finland, off the top of my head) it's the norm to do it part-time and take up to 10 years to finish. You'll still be out quicker than that.
I've seen on a few uni websites that a part-time PhD can take up to 6 years, some uni's indicate 7 years. It may be possible to take even less time. I know one uni was advertising shortest registration for part-time PhD was 5 years. Direct entry PhD I would have thought and not MPhil first.
Part-time PhD fees are often 50% cost of full time.
Perhaps going part-time and aiming to complete in 5 or 6 years?
I think of this idea only now, tell me if it makes sense: sometimes there are companies who sponsor workers for their PhD. What about searching for a private sponsor after the beginning of a PhD, like "ehy guys, you work on this field and my research might be very useful to you. Do you want to hire/sponsor me?" So to work in the same field and using the working time on something close to your research interest?
Thank you very much for your answers, they do confirm what I was thinking about 18 hours being too much. I don't have to pay a tuition fee, so it's mostly the cost of living that requires me to work besides. However I think I have spared enough before the PhD to manage with less work-hours for a few months, and I'll apply for grants in-between. I'm reluctant to go part-time because I don't trust myself for working diligently if I do. I'll see if the student union or the student counsel can give me advice about this also.
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