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Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2016 11:09 am
by GGS
I work in big pharma here in NJ as a scientist in bioprocess development. I have an MS in biochemistry and have been at this position for the past two years. I feel I need a PhD to move forward in R&D. We have a contract in place with a lab here in the local university and I could find a project that could work as my PhD thesis (hence industry relevant topic). I don;t want to leave my job so I am in the process of working out the details since my manager is on board but can you guys comment on how doable this will be and how much time committment I will need from my end. I have a 1yr old at home so I want to think very carefully before jumping in. I have a couple of publications and all so I am not "afraid" of the science but more worried of time.

Re: Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2016 9:06 pm
by Rich Lemert
The key for something like this is finding a project that someone at the university is willing to sign-off on that's also of interest to your employer. That way they're more likely to give you the time to devote to the project. If it's who I think it is, they are probably used to this type of arrangement. The school may require you spend a year "in residence" (most programs I know of do), but with the right agreements in place I don't see this requiring any greater time commitment than if you went into the PhD program full-time.

Re: Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2016 9:13 pm
by GGS
Thanks Rich. I appreciate your input. It is nice to hear some positive points rather than just people saying otherwise.

Re: Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 7:49 am
by PG
If the Company has experience in running this typ of programs there is no reason for why it shouldnt work and I would look at it as an excellent opportunity. IF they are willing to put you through a PhD program while being employed by the Company they clearly see you as a candidate that they are willing to put efforts into.

Also if the Company doesnt have experience it can be done successfully but requires a plan and I would advice to have documentation describing the arrangement and what is expected from the two parties. Personally I joined a startup during my PhD studies. THe arrangement in that case was that I would work full time for the startup for a while and then get the opportunity to go back and finish my PhD on Company time. This worked out nicely despite me being the first employee except for the founders which obviously meant that the Company did not have any experience of any type of previous arrangements.

Re: Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:07 am
by Cory
Like pension plans and gold watches for retirement with a company, sponsored education is a rare thing.

I know two people who did this but it required a huge commitment - in each case the employer and university each wanted their pound of flesh essentially requiring the candidates to double up their schedules. That meant full time 9-5 hours at the company followed up with 6pm - 11pm weekday hours and 8 hour days over the weekends at the university to meet the full time academic requirements. Add into this mix, the need for flexibility to take academic classes for the first 1 - 2 years and you can see how daunting it can be.

For both of the people who I knew who succeeded in this endevor, they were absolutely driven and willing to keep themselves very tightly focused. Bill told me that he was able to become astonishingly productive because there was no other way to make it. He also said that because much of his work was after hours he could use typically shared analytical and preparative instrumentation at his leisure making it possible for him to run twice as many experiments as his colleagues. He finished a productive chemistry PhD in 4 years which was about a year faster than the department average.

You can do it- just make sure you are fully aware of the competing interests that could give you headaches and be willing to personally meet the challenge.


Re: Doing PhD while working in industry

PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2016 9:16 pm
by GGS
Thanks Cory :)