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Turning down Oxford (and scholarship) for a job...?


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Hey there, 


I am a month away from beginning a DPhil at Oxford in International Development. This will also be fully funded by a Clarendon scholarship. A really great opportunity, no doubt about it. 


However, the other day I got a job offer. It's not a ton of money, but it is a great opportunity to work on some of the things I'd be studying first hand and it does seem to offer the possibility to advance fairly quickly. 


So the dilemma: an Oxford-Clarendon DPhil, which, as an incredible academic and personal challenge is a dream come true in many ways, or a promising job, which offers solid work experience in a related field and a steady salary to boot. 


What would you do? 


Oh, I have until Monday to decide. No big deal...

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I disagree, it would not be "completely moronic" to turn down oxford: being a grad student isn't glamorous. Even the highest prestige places dont have 100% matriculation rates, and he sounds interested in the job.


The fact that he's given weight to should say that much.


You are going to get biased opinions here: this is a graduate school website. The real question is: do you see yourself going to graduate school in the future even if you take this job. If the answer is yes, then you should probably just go to oxford, since its one of the best schools in the world. But if the answer is maybe, the answer becomes a bit more muddled. 


Can you see yourself happy without this Job?


Can you see yourself happy without going to graduate school?


The question isn't Oxford or job, the real question should be graduate school or job.


I hope that this helps you think about it. 

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being a grad student isn't glamorous.


Why are you bringing up glamor? Nor is this:


"However, the other day I got a job offer. It's not a ton of money,but it is a great opportunity to work on some of the things I'd be studying first hand and it does seem to offer the possibility to advance fairly quickly."


I'd say getting a PhD from Oxford is pretty freaking glamorous.

Edited by Chiki
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I agree with GeoDUDE! Without more information, it would really be hard to pick grad school or job. I also agree with GeoDUDE! when he says to consider it as "grad school or job", not "Oxford PhD or job".


The choice can depend on a lot of things. If you know, with reasonable certainty, that you will want to go to grad school in the future or that your goals involve graduate school training (i.e. in some fields, you might get good work without a PhD but you really need a PhD to advance), then I think you should definitely pick grad school over the job.


However, if you know that your main goal is to get the kind of job you have just been offered, and you were just planning on grad school to achieve that goal, then you should take the job and bypass grad school. That is, if you can see yourself achieving your career goals without ever needing a PhD, then take the job! There's no real glamour in a Oxford PhD--once you have a job in your field, it's all about what you are doing now, not where you came from. So, if this job will grant you everything you need to fulfill your career goals, don't bother with grad school.


To summarize: If this job doesn't offer everything you want and you know that you will need a PhD eventually to achieve what you want, then go for the PhD now. In this case, it would be easier to delay finding a job that meets your interests than to find a great fit PhD program. However, if you were just applying for PhD positions since you were not able to find a job that meets your goals before now and this job now meets your goals, then don't get a PhD just for the sake of the PhD/education/knowledge (learn on your own time instead).


Finally, some scholarships/admission offers allow you to defer for a year or two and enroll later. So, maybe check if this is possible and try out the job for a year or so and see if you want to stay / go back to school.



(Edit: Also, in response to Chiki--yes, the OP mentioned the job doesn't pay "a ton of money" but the later comments about a steady income indicate that the job would pay more than the Clarendon scholarship. I looked up the scholarship, it pays all tuition and fees but the living expense is only 13,726 GBP which is only 25,000 CAD or 23,000 USD. Minimum wage in Canada, $11/hr in Ontario, would be 22,000 CAD per year, so it's very likely that the OP will make more than the stipend at Oxford, even without considering the UK's high cost of living!)

Edited by TakeruK
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And a PhD from OXFORD. Is a small amount of extra money really this big of a deal to you guys? That PhD could help him get better jobs in the future.


Well that was the point of my post exactly. If the PhD could help the OP get the job he/she wants in the future, then go for the PhD. However, if a PhD is not needed for the type of jobs he/she wants in the future (after all, the current job offer on the table doesn't seem to need a PhD) then just go for the job. There is no point getting a PhD just for the sake of getting a PhD. 

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I agree with the TakeruK's post, take the job if you know that you will not need to or want to get a PhD in the future if you have your dream job. But I also wanted to point out that promises or hints that one can be promoted are not the same as having a written contract.


If funding issues arise at your place of employment, or someone with more seniority (or a friend or family member of the boss, etc) wants the position you want to be promoted to, are there any chances you will not advance to the position that you want within a reasonable time frame? I would hate for you to turn down school and find out that you were promised a promotion and it was an empty promise.


Keep us posted. I hope that whatever you decide, the right answer will be clear to you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello again, 


Thanks so much to everyone for their responses. 


The decision is Oxford. As many of you brought up, having a clear idea of why I am doing a PhD was critical. In many ways getting a good job offer really helped bring this to a boil in terms of weighing pros and cons, life plans, relationship issues, financial security, etc. At the end of it, thankfully, the decision to go to Oxford over the job was fairly clear and I doubt that I'll be second guessing myself (at least not for a little while). Moreover, as one of the posters brought up, the job offer may have been less promising than I initially thought; vague assurances over duties, pay, promotion by someone who had not been there very long raised the possibility of getting disappointed in a big way. 


Anyways, thanks again for your responses. Let me know if you're going through something similar. Hopefully now I could give some perspective!





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  • 3 weeks later...

Congratulations!  I really hope you enjoy Oxford!


And just because this was kind of bugging me...I just wanted to add more generally (for anyone searching this later) that the prestige of a university and/or the offer of funding should NOT be the major thing that makes the decision FOR you.  By which I mean, "because it's Oxford!" is not a good reason to go or stay to/at a PhD program if you are unhappy and/or not sure if that's a step you want to make.  It turned out being the best thing for the OP, which is amazing!


But this could also apply to any U.S. university too - "because it's Harvard/Stanford/Michigan/Berkeley/wherever!"  I had this struggle too, when trying to decide whether or not to quit.   It's totally amazing to get admitted to a prestigious university with funding to afford it, but it's still a 5-7+ year program that will require a lot of sweat and tears from you, and it might be completely unnecessary given your life goals.  So I urge anyone else who stumbles across this and are reading the responses to try, as much as possible, to remove the prestige of your university and of any funding sources from the equation and think about this personally and professionally - do you need to do this PhD to get the jobs that you want?  And will you enjoy the means as much or almost as much as the ends?  In other words, are you okay with the idea of toiling for 5-7 years for the degree and then not getting a tenure-track professor job or a prestigious national lab job?

Edited by juilletmercredi
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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, you will só enjoy Oxford. I have lived and studied there for a year and it was simply spectacular! I've never lived in a more beautiful or fun place than Oxford. And those libraries... The Radford, the round one in the little plaza. Go check it out!!! 


Oh, and obviously, go punting and see if you can jump bridges while doing so. ;)

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