Question of the Day

Jul 15 2016 Published by under Ponder

Did you have a side job as a graduate student or postdoc?
Or as faculty? 

55 responses so far

  • Dr Becca says:

    Is this a trap?

  • Dr24 says:

    Nope. Ultra privileged.

  • Another Assistant Prof says:

    I had a (pretty well paying) adjunct prof job at a local college, assisting with ~5 lab classes per semester. I got this gig through the most unbelievably lucky of circumstances and kept it throughout my last years as a student and throughout my postdoc. My grad school PI knew all about it and thought it was a great opportunity, but I never really told my postdoc mentor when I would disappear to do this. For all he knew, I was in the microscopy facility. When you're productive you can get away with these things!

  • Josh says:

    Yep. I taught MCAT prep for Kaplan as a grad student. This was the only way I could support my new family on a grad student's stipend.

  • drugmonkey says:


  • dr24 says:

    @Dr Becca, I always think everything is a trap. Which is why I'm still alive.

  • drugmonkey says:

    AAP- you stayed in same town?

  • Dave says:

    No way. I had a fellowship so got a tax free stipend that was pretty generous. In fact, I basically took a pay cut for my post-doc. My girlfriend at the time, who was in the same program, worked at a bar in the evenings.

  • Susan says:

    Grad school, high COL city: professional musician, grader, tutor.
    Postdoc, high COL city: copy editing for one of those journal services.
    As faculty my earnings are close to top 5% in a lower COL area and we are DINKs, so no extra gigs now.

  • Philapodia says:

    Is donating plasma and being a medical testing guinea pig considered a job?

  • BEN says:

    Not a side job exactly, but I was an instructor for Psych 100 for a couple years when I was a neuroscience grad student on an NRSA. At that time it was not against policy to collect teaching assistantship pay in addition to the NRSA stipend. I liked teaching and it was great experience, so I didn't feel like it was a burden although my advisor wasn't too happy about it since he thought that whenever I was awake I should be in the lab. As a single father of a teenager, the small amount of additional money was helpful too.

    By the way, the question sounds like you're asking about the hardships of grad school. Just to be clear, it never felt like a hardship to me. I felt incredibly lucky to be there. Sure, I was broke and I racked up some debt I probably shouldn't have, but I loved every day of grad school.

  • Another Assistant Prof says:

    DM - Yes, I stayed in the same place for grad school and postdoc.

  • Kate says:

    1) Standardized patient for medical student exams; 2) Human subject research (pain studies, nasal scrapings, diet studies, etc); 3) TA-ing- there was no teaching req. in my department so teaching paid extra.

    No time as postdoc because of parenthood, but landed an LRP grant which paid off a significant amount of school loans so considered "extra" income.

  • Joe says:

    No. Don't be ridiculous. And I am irked when students in my lab do it. Our grad program considered passing a rule against it a few years back. The rule didn't pass, and I think it was because we decided that it would be unenforceable and because we thought it might be a problem for students that liked to DJ or bartend an odd event.

  • poke says:

    No, no, and no.

  • lee says:

    Dr. Becca: I believe he typed it while impersonating Admiral Ackbar

  • Anka says:

    I taught at honors high school biology "at" an online charter school while in grad school. It worked well around my schedule and I got an extra ~3.5k/year. Which wasn't crazy money, but it helped. I was also married in grad school, and still am in my postdoc and even though he gets a crappy teacher salary (which is still more than my postdoc NRSA stipend) he can pick up summer work which supplements our household income by 4-5k/summer.

  • No. As a grad student, I had no dependents and could easily live on my stipend. I had an NRC postdoc, so I made over $60k still with no dependents. As faculty, who has time? Seriously, I was a staff scientist at National Lab before joining the TT, so I while I took a paycut, I started above what a fresh postdoc would get. My TT salary was plenty to live on even with the ProdigalKids.

  • Dr Becca says:

    Isn't it a no-no to have another job while on a federal fellowship?

    Anyway, yes. I tended bar through most of grad school and taught LSAT prep during my postdoc.

    It occurred to me that becoming a PI was the first time since the 90s that I officially only had one job.

  • Sam says:

    Yes, adjunct to teach one class a semester (3 hours one day a week) at a city college nearby. I did it for the money, which was substantial for me at the time, and for teaching experience.

  • Former Technician says:

    As a grad student, I worked backoffice retail. As a technician, I worked in multiple part-time gigs, retail, teaching, mystery shopper etc...

    When I taught for DeVry, you could teach with a master's degree and 10 years experience. I taught mostly evening classes because my scheduler/supervisor didn't like to teach in the evenings. I still teach, but only as a volunteer or for fundraisers.

    Mystery shopping was great until I realized that i was putting in much more time than I was being paid for. I took my hubby to all kinds of restaurants and bought unusual items in the supermarkets. The downside was the length of the report in comparison to the pay. Way below minimum wage.

  • drugmonkey says:

    No Uber drivers?

  • jmz4 says:

    Wasn't allowed to by university policy. Pretty sure it is NIH policy as well. Made the odd buck TAing or grading, though.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I seem to remember my grad program prohibited outside jobs. Could TA at that University only.

  • Boehninglab says:

    I valet parked all though grad school on weekend nights. I had to get permission of the program. This was the only way I could live relatively close to school.

  • LadyScientist says:

    Funny, I just learned about MD fellows at my institution getting bumped to Assistant Professor for their third year of fellowship on an NIH training grant (which I thought was against NIH policy for fellows?). The idea is to encourage them to stay in research by giving them a better salary during their last year of fellowship, when they can devote 80% time to research. This doesn't happen to PhDs on the same training grant, and, unlike the MDs on that training grant, they aren't guaranteed any sort of faculty position after finishing their time on the training grant. Makes me wonder why the school is willing to pony up so much cash for MD fellows' salaries (many of whom don't have that much training in the lab) in the name of research, but is so reluctant to do the same for PhDs, who often have much better training/experience in research?

  • e. smith says:

    Yes, As a graduate student, I taught Biology to pre-university students at an International Liceo. It was a lot of fun!

  • LadyScientist says:

    Oh, and this is relatively new policy for the MD fellows on that training grant, started 2 years ago, due to a new division chief's inspiration. New division chief is also an MD.

  • This guy says:

    Yes. Genomics consulting for local pharma companies. I kept it mum from my institutional superiors.

  • anon says:

    I tutored in grad school, but nothing else since. And I didn't even do it for the $ - I was the in-house tutor for a dorm of female STEM majors, and I took the job because I like teaching and thought it was a good cause. But my program had notoriously good pay and benefits.

  • Ass(ociate) Prof says:

    My first year of graduate school wasn't funded by a TA, RA or anything else. I just found someone to be a temporary advisor for admission, enrolled in a couple of classes and figured I'd get to know people and join a lab. Thus, I worked Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 hour days as a commercial carpenter (framer, specifically). I found a great lab at the beginning of the second semester, but didn't have a research assistantship until the first summer. So spring semester was M-W-F in classes and lab, plus a little TAship, T-R carpentry. Winter and spring break were also periods of long days on job sites.

    What is telling about opportunity cost of academia is during that first year of graduate school, I was offered a carpentry job at a pay rate I didn't see until the end of my postdoc.

  • Ola says:

    As a grad student in Europe, the stipend was less than shit, so everyone worked. Bartending, restaurant bussing, security guard, telemarketer, fixing computers, wrenching bikes, all of it on weekends. Also over there the stipends run out fast (used to be 3 years but nowadays usually 4), so students write up the thesis on their own dime, because PIs like to wring as much lab-time as possible out of the stipend-supported period. As a post-doc' I was single and living in a cheap town so didn't need to supplement income. As a faculty my institution has very strict moonlighting rules, even for unpaid volunteering, so anything outside is a no no.

    Best "side job" I ever witnessed was an undergrad' friend whose daddy was in the fossil fuels trading business and gave him free reign on the desk in the evenings to make some "extra pocket money". Last time we met, he'd just bought an island.

  • Luminiferous Aether says:

    Never needed a second job to get by comfortably. Had a partially tax-exempt fellowship for part of grad school, so got a decent stipend. But I still TA'd a couple of semesters for the experience and got paid for some of it. Had an above-average-paying postdoc in an average COL town, but I also occasionally freelanced for a biotech company and earned a few extra $$. Got married during postdoc and the missus works full-time too, so we've been DINKs for a few years. Now as faculty, I make the highest wage I ever have, but it's funny that you mentioned Uber DM, because more than once I have had the itch to become an Uber driver on the side just for the experience/fun of it (until I get mugged), if/when I have time.

    After all this, I might sound quite privileged, but there has also been a healthy dose of luck, good financial decision making (usually), and the willingness to take up various opportunities when they presented themselves, that contributed to this outcome.

  • meshugena313 says:

    i'm a lucky privileged sucker - got married early in grad school while my wife was in law school, definitely easier to live on the law firm salary than just the meager stipend, especially in the big city.

    No idea how I would have survived without the spouse... the stipend doesn't get very far in my town. And hell, would I have been able to go through postdocville and the relatively modest faculty salary with our brood of 3 minions if my spouse wasn't bringing home the bacon (even having left the law firm life years ago)?

  • Tessa says:

    So far I haven't needed one, but then again I'm doing my PhD in one of the European countries where the grad student wages are fairly generous - I get roughly 80% of the national mean income (or 90% of the national median) and most of it comes from a tax-free fellowship.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Median US * household* income is $52K. A pair of grad students exceed that.

  • eeke says:

    I was a foreigner in grad school, wasn't allowed to work as an employee. Other students did have jobs or working spouses who could support them. I didn't eat. At least one person I knew went homeless and slept in a tent. Not kidding about that.

  • Draino says:

    No side job, just frugal living and a wife who worked in bookstores and coffee shops to help support us. By the time I hit postdoc we had two kids, lived in Manhattan (subsidized housing, but still Manhattan), and my pay was all we had to live on. If my wife had worked we would have had to pay for daycare, which made no sense at all. We held our breaths and pulled through. Glad it's over.

    It helped that neither of us had debt of any kind.

  • Crystal Voodoo says:

    No during grad school; yes for postdoc. It was the only way I could get experience for an alternative career. It took me a while before I told my PI about it. What I find astounding is the number of Assistant Professors applying for contract work at my company. I always wonder if they are in a 'seeing the writing on the wall' situation and are looking for a way out.

  • Morgan Price says:

    No, but for one summer while I was in grad school, I got a well paying industry job instead of staying at university and doing research. I don't think my advisor was too happy about this.

  • Khat says:

    @LadyScientist, while I don't know the details at your institution, the institution I trained at had a similar program. The justification was that the clinical billings by the MD fellows (which went to the Department and Dean) more than paid for the bump in salary that accompanied the promotion. The guaranteed position after fellowship was "dependent on funding", so while you had a position, if you didn't have grant money the position very rapidly approached 100% clinical work. (Again, with the clinical income paying your salary.)

    This was a number of years ago, but the thinking may well be similar at your place.

  • EPJ says:

    I started grad school in the middle of the school year while working full time, so I was with a group that was ahead of me in grad courses. After that intense time I decided to quit work and do full time grad school.

    The need for money to pay previous student debt and to contribute to the household and driving expenses, the good grade I got, and my honest application to the money available 'qualified' me for tuition and book assistance, without having to divorce as mentioned during my inquiry.

    I made the best of it, my project was a new one, and the basis for three other grad student's thesis. PD was different.

  • GM says:

    Yes, back when the grad school stipend in the UK was around 10k USD (tax free!), I did bits on the side. Then I lived off my savings and my partner when the funding ran out in my 4th year and I wasn't eligible for unemployment benefit. Things are better there now.

  • chall says:

    Grad school - worked as a TA to supplement. Only at that uni though, other things were frowned upon.
    Post-doc; not allowed to moonlight unless cleared with PI/mentor and reported to HR.
    Not faculty now, only "in research" 😉

  • LadyScientist says:

    @Khat: I was under the impression that the MD fellows were only supposed to be in clinic 20% of the time (with 80% protected time for research). Does that really justify such a huge difference in pay and a promotion?

    Also, a more philosophical question: why isn't the research produced by PhDs on the same training grant as valued as to merit a promotion and increase in pay? They may not be spending 20% of their time in clinic, but surely their research and time should have greater value commensurate with experience.

  • LadyScientist says:

    I mean, I can't see why the division can't just hold off on the promotion until after the fellow has completed training on the T32, and then promote immediately after. As I see the current situation, it smacks of favoritism.

    Also, back in the day when I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship grant by another, non-NIH grant-funding body, although I'd already negotiated a junior faculty position at my institution at the time, the grant-funding agency stipulated that I could not take the postdoctoral fellowship award if I was promoted to faculty. So, I took the award (and a pay increase), and waited 2 years for the award to run out, before getting the promotion in title. I was under the impression that NIH T32 fellows were similarly not supposed to be faculty while completing their training on the grant, or am I wrong?

  • EPJ says:

    @Lady Scientist, Khat
    maybe the situation with preferences for promotion and higher pay is based on the higher cost for MD education (debt) and what comes next with practicing (license and insurance), or a way to make that situation sustainable. That would mean a shift toward emphasis and leadership in clinical aspects of public health and away from basic aspects of science in medicine.
    I wonder about the overall 'landscape' for MDs and MD-PhDs, and if awards or research work just happens after residence or other parts of the school and training, I mean beyond lab rotations as requisite for class work.

    Not all TAs are paid, but it is required for coursework, and that looks like a money balancing situation.

    Natl debt still remains for everyone, >150k/person, and that would include the newborn. So it is important to do something about it.

  • LadyScientist says:

    @EPJ: regarding the debt issue, that shouldn't be a problem. First of all, we're talking about one measly remaining year of fellowship salary for the MD, for whom, until 2 years ago for this division, it was not feasible to be promoted during training. Second of all, if the MD or MD/PhD researcher is committed to research, the NIH has loan repayment programs (actually, MD/PhD's often have most, if not all, of their med school tuition covered by their dual-degree programs, so they typically don't shoulder the same debt load as MDs, unless they pursue their MDs separately from their PhDs). In fact, many hospitals also offer clinicians loan repayment as part of their compensation package when hiring MDs. Third of all: I'm tired of hearing about MDs whine about debt load and insurance costs. If they practice at a hospital that is part of an academic institution, the cost of insurance is covered by their department/division. They also make much better pay than their PhD colleagues in the same division, anyway, which should help them to pay off any loans that they incur in med school faster, even if they don't qualify for NIH loan repayment. Not sure if they can also negotiate loan repayment in their compensation package at academic institutions....

    Also, I think this goes against NIH policy for T32 fellowships. In essence, the institution is using training funds to defray the cost of someone's faculty salary, who hasn't even completed training yet.

    For this year, I've noticed that, although the third-year MD fellows on this particular T32 have already been promoted to Assistant Professor (it's updated in their profiles in our institution's the email directory), that information hasn't been updated in their online webpage profiles for my institution. I wonder if HR is being purposefully slow to update online profile information for these folks?

  • EPJ says:

    @Lady Scientist, well, you seem to know well what you are talking about in terms of mechanisms of debt repayment, insurance coverage, and salary coverage. But if all that is covered for them, then:

    -what exactly is the problem for MDs and MD-PhDs?
    -Is it the time spent training before higher income is achieved?
    -Is it the type of practice done, or that they have no viable alternatives?
    -Yeah, most PhDs have it bad.

    Also, I really was referring to the way the money comes to be, that kind of permanent and increasing debt (natl debt), the type that comes from the activities of the whole population and that is passed on through generations. If you think about that, you realize that you can have all administration neatly tugged, but if that source goes to a big negative value all that effort is meaningless. There's no "fuel" to run it, then what?

  • LadyScientist says:

    @EPJ: there is no problem for MDs or MD/PhDs. The many I know like to complain about all of the time that they spend training, but at the end of it all, they have a high, stable income. When I was in grad school and during my postdoc, I used to hear my MD/PhD colleagues whine about the extra time that it took them to get their PhDs, but the degree gives them a boost when it comes to hiring, even if they don't go into research. Their applications will be prioritized by the top academic institutions when they apply for residencies, even if their board scores aren't terribly high, just because they have the PhD. And, they get tuition coverage and a stipend to boost throughout their entire MD and PhD degree programs. They get excellent research training that a lot of MDs don't have, so, if they love research so much, why are they complaining? In fact, the research experience helps them with private practice, as the PhD can be marketed, too (example I know: MD/PhD who uses his dual degree to recruit wealthy patients to his dermatology practice in Hollywood - he never cared about research, just that the PhD could be used in advertising).

    The problem is really with how PhDs in biomedicine are treated by academic institutions. There's no appreciation for their specialization or training unless they bring in funding. Schools look at PhDs in biomedicine exclusively as money-makers, and if you can't bring in grants, your career is over, regardless of how much training and experience you bring to the table. Some folks can compensate by teaching, but grants are the only thing that get you tenure. Academic careers have become unsustainable for many PhDs, where the capitalist notion of "survival of the fittest" in its most cruel form dictates who stays and who goes.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Schools look at PhDs in biomedicine exclusively as money-makers, and if you can't bring in grants, your career is over, regardless of how much training and experience you bring to the table. Some folks can compensate by teaching, but grants are the only thing that get you tenure.

    No duh? I am not seeing your problem with clinical faculty. They bring in a lot of cash, predictably. They can pay for themselves from day one by shifting to clinical hours. They are not replaceable with adjuncts the way teaching hour profs are.

  • EPJ says:

    So, basically there has been a declaration of extinction for PhDs and even MDs due to lack of money generation capacity? and the newest fittest are MD-PhDs? they can do both activities by just a tad longer of schooling time?

    Just kidding, I really think the three degrees are different in what they grow and yield, with the hybrid degree likely better at administration since it has gone through both experiences.

    Everyone wants to bring in grants from early on, but some people find blocks alone the path, even after grants are received, so that means the next round is not achievable because the appearance of lack of fitness. And since the same 'motif' is used in multiple ways to attain a goal you can actually deduced that that strategy shares an origin. So people spend all this time figuring out things different from science and health, so it ends up being just a contest.

    Sometimes it looks like what is needed is irrelevant or not welcomed. That's PD and on it goes the fitted corset. hahaha...

  • LadyScientist says:

    @DM: I don't have a "problem" with clinical faculty, at all. I think that you misread my posts. The problem that I have is with promoting folks to assistant professor while they are still on a T32 and can't be attendings - they're not fully certified. Nor have they completed their research training at that point - they are still in training.

    It's totally fine by me if MDs want to be clinical faculty, or even research faculty (however they want to bring in money). I was just explaining the differences to EPJ, who doesn't seem aware of the situation for most MDs.

    What I do see in medicine - which is problematic - are a lot of exceptions being made for MDs at all stages of their careers - exceptions that aren't made for PhDs who actually may be bringing in funding, too. The same standards don't hold. Not to mention the income differential, which is huge.

    Then again, my institution recently got busted by the AAMC for lack of transparency with regard to promotions (among other things). We didn't lose accreditation, but we're still a long way from achieving optimal transparency.

  • LadyScientist says:

    Sorry, "got busted by the LCME" - which is sponsored by both the AAMC and AMA.

  • JS says:

    No official job, but I did lawn work & maintenance for my landlady for a deal on rent, some paid research studies, and a little translating work.

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