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Pros and Cons of Graduating with PhD Early

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I'm a third year stats PhD student.  My advisor is retiring as soon as I graduate and I'm getting married in June 2021. My fiance doesn't have a lot of job prospects where I attend school. After discussions with my advisor we think it's possible I can graduate in four years even though my program requires 96 credit hours and the average graduation time is five years. It is not unprecedented to graduate in four years but it is rare. I have the advantage that I picked my area of specialization as an undergrad and knew what I wanted my dissertation to look like as a first year.  I am not interested in academia, but I should still be able to have a handful of publications in applied stats journals, conference preceedings, and some publications in journals in my field of application.  My goal is to become a statistical consultant working in the field of political science and public opinion.  By the time I graduate I would have spent three years collaborating with a political science research group doing the exact same work I want to do post-graduation. My disseration would probably not win awards but would include multiple in depth projects presenting new methodological solutions to problems that are common. One thing that makes me a little hesitant is that I graduated undergrad a year early and would be 25 when I got my PhD if all goes according to plan.   Graduating early is the best solution for my advisor who wants to retire soon and for my future husband's career. But what I am struggling with is if this is the best solution for me. Does a fifth year as a PhD student add future value for a career or would I be better off graduating early.

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If you are not interested in academia, then I don't see any reason not to graduate in four years if you can. The main advantages of taking a fifth (or sixth) year are:

- more time to find a job

- more time to get more publications on your CV. 

If you aren't interested in academia, then the second point is really moot. However, for those on this forum potentially interested in academic positions: if you have a good postdoc lined up in your fourth year, then I would still recommend finishing up more quickly, even if you don't have as many publications. The main consideration for taking an extra year is whether or not you will be much more competitive on the job market with that extra year. For example, I completed my PhD in four years, and by the time I graduated, I had only one publication and two papers submitted. However, I knew that if I stayed at my program a fifth year, I wouldn't have been able to make my CV significantly stronger, so I just graduated and went immediately to the postdoc.

Meanwhile, one of my classmates could have also graduated in four years just like me, but he stayed for the fifth year so he could get an Annals of Statistics paper accepted and on his CV. This ultimately put him in a much stronger position in the academic job market and he was able to get a TT job at a very good department. So in my classmate's case, it was definitely advantageous to take the fifth year to ensure his CV was stronger.

Edited by Stat Assistant Professor
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