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I recently finished up my first year at a PhD program. Everything seemed to be going really smoothly. I chose a program that I absolutely love, I work with the professor I want to doing something that I really enjoy, and I managed to get summer funding. 

Despite this, it seems like I really screwed up and I'm not sure how to fix it. Before getting summer funding, I briefly talked to my PI about applying for summer jobs. I applied to a few and then forgot about it once I found out I would be funded for 20 hours over the summer. Right after the semester finished up, I ended up getting a position with a company. It was a research position and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain new skills and earn extra money (as it is impossible to live off of working 20 hours a week). I knew it would be a lot, but I didn't think much of it as people work multiple jobs all the time and I was assured that my schedule would be flexible (and it is very flexible for both jobs). I mentioned it in passing that I would be working with this company over the summer (and he even provided a recommendation). I have been working both jobs for over three weeks now. Today, my hours with the company came up with my PI somehow, so I told him, thinking nothing of it. When he found out that it was full time, he was clearly very angry.


I obviously screwed up by taking a full time position on top of my work with him without discussing it with him first. I really didn't mean to be deceitful. I wanted to do well and take as many opportunities as possible. I replied and apologized profusely. I said that I would remove myself from he company if I need to as well. I haven't heard back yet. I don't think anyone can give me some magic solution on how to fix this, but right now I am terrified that he is going to dismiss me from my position. 

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I know you don't want to give too many details, but some information is kinda crucial to answering your question. 


First off, this is going to be highly field dependent (STEM bench science, STEM non-bench science, Social Science, Humanities). It's also going to be quite dependent on what exactly the "funded for 20 hours" means. A lot of assistantships are only 20 hours, but are intended to fund you for more than that- others aren't. 


So- is it an RAship with your professor? Are you teaching?


Is the professor paying you from a grant, or is it coming from the department?


How did your professor originally respond to you saying you were applying for jobs?


Is working this other job slowing down progress on your dissertation, or your RAship?

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Hi Eigen, 


I am in a social science. I'm funded for 20 hours, and unlike during the normal semester, I track my hours. It's an RAship with my professor, and so it is funding through his project. As I'm in a social science, I don't need to be in a lab or anything. During the semester, I typically work from home anyway since I have access to everything I need. I don't think it affects my RAship or anything else that I need to be doing right now. I took it because I thought I could handle it (and I still do). Like I said, I track my hours, so it doesn't affect the time or effort I put into it. I just may do my work at odd times or on the weekend. When I need to get out early for a meeting, I do. 

Edited by alreadylost
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I think you need to find out your school's policy on outside work before you speak to your advisor again. You have to also make sure that in addition to ensuring you satisfy your advisor in terms of how many hours you do externally, you also meet your school's campus-wide policy.


At my current program, if you are working with an external company (even if it's just at Starbucks or at a restaurant), you have to report it to the school and file "conflict of commitment" paperwork. In my program, there are no explicit hourly limits on outside work but depending on the source of your funding, you need to make sure that 1) the school doesn't set limits on you, 2) the source of your funding doesn't set limits on you, and 3) your advisor is happy with how much outside work you're doing and that it does not create a conflict of commitment. 


The problem might not just be the number of hours, but more in the idea of a "no-compete" clause. When you are paid as a RA, the usual expectation is that graduate school is your full time commitment. Having another full time job might raise the question of whether or not you are able to maintain your full time commitment to your graduate degree progress. As Eigen says, the individual details here really matter. If you are literally only being paid as a RA to do 20 hours of work per week then in my opinion, you should be able to do whatever you want with the rest of your time. However, if it is something like "you are funded on a fellowship that supports your graduate degree progress and in return you work 20 hours per week for this professor", then I think you would be in a conflict of commitment if you have a full time job as well. 

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To elaborate, usually assistantships are higher than you'd normally be making as an "hourly" salary- they're made to support your education.


Accordingly, there's an unspoken expectation that you're taking the time not spent on the assistantship and putting it into your dissertation research.


Some schools have some leeway in this area- might be OK with you working part time. They can't determine whether you're working on "personal time".


That said, I don't know any that would be OK with a full time job on top of an assistantship- it won't leave you much time to focus on your dissertation.

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Thanks for the reply. I checked and there is no policy against it. I'm not working on my dissertation yet. I came in straight from my undergraduate degree. Typically students start thinking about their thesis in the summer after the first year, but I think a lot of students put it off until fall starts. So, as far as I am aware, we can do whatever we want the first summer. Obviously its a little different since I'm funded through the summer, so I completely understand why he would be angry. Luckily, he replied and it was not as bad as I expected. I just need to be sure I am available to meet whenever need be. 

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