Applying for RA positions instead of role requiring PhD...

posted
03-Jul-18, 13:34
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Any thoughts on doing this? Especially from people in social science / psychology.

Is it a possible way forward, or are people unlikely to hire you for an RA position that requires a BSc or Masters when you have (or are near to getting) a PhD? And even if you were hired, would it be a viable way forward? After all (my reasoning is) you'd be part of a research group and it could end up developing into a postdoc position. Anyone heard of anything like this happening?

Trying to navigate my options...

Thanks in advance!
posted
04-Jul-18, 14:00
edited about 7 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Are you worried about being seen as overqualified?
If so, I wouldn't overly worry. I know PhD qualified people who work in call centres and who work as analytical chemists sitting at the end of a machine matching spectra with printouts of expected products.
posted
04-Jul-18, 17:24
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
This really depends on the PI. I do know of a technician RA who got taken on as a PhD student, but I also know of one who hung around for years on this basis and it never materialised.

Personally, I think it's best avoided, unless it's a very short term position you are using as a stop gap.
posted
04-Jul-18, 19:17
edited about 59 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 week ago
There is someone (different department) at my uni who keeps bouncing between RA roles and her self-funded Ph.D. The department keeps getting grants for medium length research projects but can't justify a post-doc or someone full time. So she usually does 6-12 months of RA work to fund her research for 2-6 months full-time before the next RA role comes along. She seems to enjoy it and gets her name on soooo many papers.

So, I would say there is no stigma of doing RA work as long as you are good enough to show potential to do actual research.
posted
04-Jul-18, 19:50
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Thanks all for your insightful replies. I suppose my concern is - will it be seen as bad in some way when I try to apply for post docs later. Not sure what the fear is grounded in - possibly just the unknown. I don't want to do anything that will hinder my chances at getting a postdoc, and doing an RA role in the meantime seems more relevant than any other job I could come by.

pm133 - personally I am not worried about being overqualified for a particular role. My only concern would be that others might wonder why I was doing a role that didn't need a PhD or Masters when I do have both those qualifications. Or - could it be seen as a step backwards if I get a job I could have easily got 5 years ago when I finished my UG degree.

Further thoughts / comments welcomed.
posted
05-Jul-18, 10:22
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 1 week ago
From what I observed in the last few years in my institute, RA position was offerred to PhD graduates, generally by their former supervisor for a short term of up to 6 months while they are doing thesis corrections or looking for a postdoc position. Another scenario is when a PhD holder is coming back from maternity leave and needed something in the short term to bridge the gap before moving on to something more solid. I have also seen, although not as frequent, PhD holder who chose a RA/technician role because they became sick of chasing after grants and doing long hours at the bench on their own projects. In this case, it was a permanent career choice.

Personally, I do not like the idea of being hired as a RA with intention of moving up to a postdoc because that opens up the door to potential abuse. Picture this: You are a PI + you pay low rate for a RA who does postdoc level work for you. Why would you want to pay more if you can use the savings from the salary difference to do your project? Plus, this RA needs your letter of recommendation anyway, so you have absolute control. Nope, this idea does not sit well with me. But... these are just my thoughts and I leave it up to you.
posted
05-Jul-18, 19:12
edited about 20 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Thank you Tru - it is very useful to hear your view and be encouraged to think about it from the perspective of the potential PI. I'm going to give it more thought. I believe it would be a temporary move, and I would stand to gain from it (there are certain things I haven't got from my PhD that I wanted to get - and perhaps this is a way to go about it).

Hope all is well with you.
posted
05-Jul-18, 21:41
edited about 2 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Thanks for the clarification TQ.
I am not in academia now so I can't be sure what advice to give but I can try to put myself in your shoes and give you my thoughts on this if it helps.

Never in my entire career have I spent time worrying about how my job choices will be interpreted by others because I cannot control that. Everything has been about what work interests me personally and how that fashions my career path. My career profile developed from that approach. If at any time I found myself thinking about what potential employers would think about the reputation of the company I worked for, my job title, the uni I got my degree at or who I worked for during my PhD it would raise a massive red flag for me because not one of those things refers to my personal abilities. All of them are based on discriminatory nonsense. It's like the Russell Group discussion from a couple of weeks back. If I had to tick those sort of boxes to work for someone I would have to seriously question whether that was a game I would ever want to play. Why? Because I compromise myself, my choices and my freedom in an ultimately futile attempt to suit some vague idea of what other people want. When you start living your life to suit other people, by definition that would significantly hamper your progress and your personal happiness. I would see that my personal authenticity would be at stake.

As ever I am going to speak honestly here. I think you are at very real risk of making your decisions based on fear. That would be a real shame if true. You can't start your career in this way. You are good. Believe it and trust that others will come to see it too.
My advice for everyone is to focus on being the best at what you do. If you do that, none of the stuff you are worrying about will matter.

Hope that helps.
posted
05-Jul-18, 22:06
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Hi pm133, thanks for your message. Just to clarify further, it isn't a matter of minding what people think about me - trust me, I really don't. However, I do know that certain actions can be interpreted in certain ways by others - and I do not want to hamper my chances of success by doing something that might close doors instead of opening them. This is why I am trying to get a feel for what is what - and what might be a way to move forward in academia (where, for now at least, I would like to be).

I think I can appreciate where you're coming from re not ticking others' boxes, but rather, living your own life. I tend to do this too. My caution here is because I want to meet my goals, and not because I am concerned about what others might think. Trying to figure out what is best for me is precisely what I am trying to do!

Thank you for your reply - explaining my position has helped me understand where I'm coming from myself a little more (:
posted
07-Jul-18, 00:09
edited about 4 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Hi pm133, thanks for your message. Just to clarify further, it isn't a matter of minding what people think about me - trust me, I really don't. However, I do know that certain actions can be interpreted in certain ways by others - and I do not want to hamper my chances of success by doing something that might close doors instead of opening them. This is why I am trying to get a feel for what is what - and what might be a way to move forward in academia (where, for now at least, I would like to be).

I think I can appreciate where you're coming from re not ticking others' boxes, but rather, living your own life. I tend to do this too. My caution here is because I want to meet my goals, and not because I am concerned about what others might think. Trying to figure out what is best for me is precisely what I am trying to do!

Thank you for your reply - explaining my position has helped me understand where I'm coming from myself a little more (:


Glad to have helped but I must be honest I am not sure what the difference is between the two ways of looking at this in your first paragraph. You are still talking about making career decisions based on how those decisions will be perceived. I might have misunderstood you though.
I am a bit hard core when it comes to this sort of thinking so if you have another way of viewing these types of situation you might ironically end up helping me react differently when this crops up in my own career.
posted
07-Jul-18, 09:52
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
Quote From pm133:

Glad to have helped but I must be honest I am not sure what the difference is between the two ways of looking at this in your first paragraph. You are still talking about making career decisions based on how those decisions will be perceived. I might have misunderstood you though.


There is a subtle difference. In general (and within reason), I do not give a hoot about how I am perceived by others. But when I have a goal in mind (i.e., in this scenario the goal is to get a postdoc), the means I choose to attain my goal have to work.

So - here I am considering finding an RA position that requires no postgrad quals as a means to eventually getting a postdoc.

If it is likely that this means to my goal might be perceived negatively and thus hinder my chances of eventually getting a postdoc, then I would take a different approach. My decision would not be driven by a fear of being perceived in a certain way. My decision would be driven by a pragmatic approach to attaining the goal (a postdoc).

Does this make sense?
posted
08-Jul-18, 03:54
edited about 3 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Yeah I think I understand where you are coming from. In other words, you are prepared to tolerate a certain amount of crap and/or are prepared to sacrifice a bit of independence of thought and action for the sake of the bigger picture of your career.

It is very subtle and you obviously don't need me to warn you of the potential pitfalls but I think I can see where you are coming from.

Unfortunately I don't know how to advise on your specific question. Also, I am a physical scientist so we live in pretty different worlds. I don't know how social science/psychology departments work.

Let us know what you find out.
posted
08-Jul-18, 08:29
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 week ago
More or less... I don't necessarily feel I'm sacrificing or having to tolerate anything. I hope that whatever I do next will be fulfilling and actually help my development as a researcher. Thanks for your input as always. I'll keep you posted.
posted
09-Jul-18, 14:25
Avatar for nuttynic39
posted about 6 days ago
not sure if my personal experience will aid in your decision-making, but just wanted to share my experience...

I am a full time phd student in social sciences (criminology), and going into my 2nd year i felt entirely overwhelmed at the prospect of having to conduct fieldwork and data analysis (having never done so before). I asked around at my university, to see if i could get some experience.. one of my supervisors was working on a project, and had a full-time RA employed, conducting the qualitative data analysis for her. So i shadowed the RA, learning how to conduct thematic analysis of interview transcripts. It was just voluntary, work experience, but invaluable to my personal development and learning. The RA left, and so on the next project, i was offered the RA position, but only on a paid, but temporary 6 month contract. I am just coming towards the end of this temporary contract, and have been assured that going forward there are likely to be other opportunities for RA work.

I will admit, a few months ago, i was actually considering dropping out of my phd, and applying for a full time position as a RA... imposter syndrome and all that, anxiety and worry that the phd was too big a feat for me, and i was quite content in simply assisting someone else's project. I talked this over with my supervisor and she basically said i would be silly to give up the phd, and there would be plenty of opportunities once i had finished, should i want to continue with RA work.

Seems to me like it doesn't really matter at what point you are in your academic career, if something interests you, then go for it.
posted
09-Jul-18, 14:53
edited about 50 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 6 days ago
Thanks for sharing this Nutty! It's great to hear everyone's experiences.

Just to add to my original post in case anyone else is going to reply:

I have a good bit of experience RA-ing from before my PhD, and I find it a pretty fulfilling role. Just to clarify though (because I think my original post might not have been that clear / to the point), my question really is: is doing an RA role that doesn't need a PhD (post PhD) likely to help or hinder someone looking for a post doc.

So far, I'm getting a picture that it won't help OR hinder, particularly.

Postgraduate
Forum

Copyright ©2018
All rights reserved

Postgraduate Forum

Masters Degrees

PhD Opportunities

PostgraduateForum is a trading name of FindAUniversity Ltd
FindAUniversity Ltd, 77 Sidney St, Sheffield, S1 4RG, UK. Tel +44 (0) 114 268 4940 Fax: +44 (0) 114 268 5766