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life of a psychology grad student


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8 minutes ago, joshw4288 said:

Realistically you will find a lot of variability depending on your productivity during your working ours. I am a 3rd year social psych Ph.D. and work roughly 9:00AM-6:00PM plus a few hours each week on weeknights/weekends.

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Keep in mind as a clinical student you will be conducting research, taking far more courses than the experimental people, and doing practicum hours. The hours necessary for clinical are certainly greater, in my view, than the others areas of psychology.

Thanks @joshw4288. I'm going to be in a non-clinical experimental field like yourself, doing the standard designing experiments, gathering data, fitting data to models, writing papers, etc. Terms of my fellowship don't allow me to teach while I'm on it, so that's not something I'll be doing (although I can apply for an exception if I want to get teaching experience for no pay, I think... I have to read through the terms again).

I realize that my working hours and productivity will vary and will also depend on what I want out of my degree. My concern here is my PIs expectation of 60 hour weeks. I do not know whether and how my PI will (if they do) monitor this, but I'm more worried because it was put in very rigid terms and is an external constraint on me. I would have been fine with it or pursued a different path if the PIs had expressed this commitment requirement ahead of time. The sudden change of tone is a part of what bothers me. I am completely willing to work long hours, but I'm much more productive when I'm not being micromanaged. I am starting to get the feeling that the PIs and the grad students I interacted with told me what they thought I wanted to hear, though the work hour conversations were initiated by other interviewees or by the PIs and grad / former grad students themselves.

I've worked 60-80, even 100 hour weeks in industry before, so I know what it's like (and how it tends to ruin health and productivity if it's long-term / sustained... like you said sleep deprived, no-exercise zombie smashing computer keys).

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4 hours ago, hh0505 said:

Thanks @joshw4288. I'm going to be in a non-clinical experimental field like yourself, doing the standard designing experiments, gathering data, fitting data to models, writing papers, etc. Terms of my fellowship don't allow me to teach while I'm on it, so that's not something I'll be doing (although I can apply for an exception if I want to get teaching experience for no pay, I think... I have to read through the terms again).

I realize that my working hours and productivity will vary and will also depend on what I want out of my degree. My concern here is my PIs expectation of 60 hour weeks. I do not know whether and how my PI will (if they do) monitor this, but I'm more worried because it was put in very rigid terms and is an external constraint on me. I would have been fine with it or pursued a different path if the PIs had expressed this commitment requirement ahead of time. The sudden change of tone is a part of what bothers me. I am completely willing to work long hours, but I'm much more productive when I'm not being micromanaged. I am starting to get the feeling that the PIs and the grad students I interacted with told me what they thought I wanted to hear, though the work hour conversations were initiated by other interviewees or by the PIs and grad / former grad students themselves.

I've worked 60-80, even 100 hour weeks in industry before, so I know what it's like (and how it tends to ruin health and productivity if it's long-term / sustained... like you said sleep deprived, no-exercise zombie smashing computer keys).

I visited a school that had this kind of culture, where students must be in their offices from 9 to 5 and they would be checked up on by the profs. The students told me this themselves at the visiting day (usually not a good idea). Some said they come in for the daily check-in and then they leave afterwards.

This was highly concerning to me, and needless to say neither I nor any of the other people with acceptances to more than just that school chose it.

However, my supervisor right now mentioned that she likes us to be around and in residence most of the time. I didn't have a problem with it when it was phrased this way, and I generally have the flexibility to be out once in a while. It was a guideline, and not a command. In fact, it is so chill that I've gone back to my home city for a few days and she hasn't noticed, and sometimes we've chatted on the phone while I was hours away (in that city) during a weekday.

So if your situation seems like the first one I mentioned, I would personally be concerned. If your situation seems more like the second, it's personally worked well for me so far and I would recommend it.

However, the bigger issue is that you don't know what to believe, because you heard one thing one day and another thing the other day. And that kind of inconsistency is problematic.

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I was accepted into a competitive program and got some advice from a grad student defending this year when I was at recruitment weekend. There's a culture, especially at competitive schools, of one-upping each other regarding working hours. She said that anyone (at this particular school) who says they're working more than 40-50 hours regularly probably has poor time management and not to let it make me feel like I'm slacking. Her advice was similar to other folks' in this thread, that you should schedule your time and not mess around on Facebook, chatting, making half a dozen coffee runs, etc. Treat it like a job. Just show up at 8 or 9, do your work, and go home at a reasonable time. Someone with poor time management gets done in 12 hours what someone with good time management gets done in 8-10. It made me feel so much better because it stressed me out so much to imagine having good time management AND working 70 hours a week every week. My goal is to work daily from 9-5, doing as much of my class work and research during that time as possible, limit my outside the office hours to 5-10 per week, and get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. 

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6 hours ago, eternallyephemeral said:

I visited a school that had this kind of culture, where students must be in their offices from 9 to 5 and they would be checked up on by the profs. The students told me this themselves at the visiting day (usually not a good idea). Some said they come in for the daily check-in and then they leave afterwards.

This was highly concerning to me, and needless to say neither I nor any of the other people with acceptances to more than just that school chose it.

However, my supervisor right now mentioned that she likes us to be around and in residence most of the time. I didn't have a problem with it when it was phrased this way, and I generally have the flexibility to be out once in a while. It was a guideline, and not a command. In fact, it is so chill that I've gone back to my home city for a few days and she hasn't noticed, and sometimes we've chatted on the phone while I was hours away (in that city) during a weekday.

So if your situation seems like the first one I mentioned, I would personally be concerned. If your situation seems more like the second, it's personally worked well for me so far and I would recommend it.

However, the bigger issue is that you don't know what to believe, because you heard one thing one day and another thing the other day. And that kind of inconsistency is problematic.

Like you said, the issue for me is that I don't know what to believe because I was told one thing during the "honeymoon" (recruiting) phase (a culture more like the second situation you mentioned), but then heard another thing after accepting the offer (a very much rigid situation like the first, except with even more of an hours requirement--assuming one were to spend 10 hours a day at the lab, that would require M-F plus either a full day on the weekend or half days in the lab on both Sat/Sun). The inconsistency is what really worries me. I'm no stranger to managing my time efficiently and working in a disciplined manner--I worked in private industry for a number of years and I'm far removed from more free-wheeling student days.

The expectation is also a bit worrisome because I don't think the PI is expecting or taking into account exaggeration and inefficiencies in the 60 hours a week every week expectation. 

I guess since I'm already locked in, I should stop worrying and just show up and work the way I was planning on working, while taking care of myself both socially and physically to make sure I am in the best possible situation to succeed, and let my results speak for themselves. If there's a problem with that, that's outside of my control.

Thanks @eternallyephemeral and @dormcat for your helpful comments. 

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1 hour ago, hh0505 said:

Like you said, the issue for me is that I don't know what to believe because I was told one thing during the "honeymoon" (recruiting) phase (a culture more like the second situation you mentioned), but then heard another thing after accepting the offer (a very much rigid situation like the first, except with even more of an hours requirement--assuming one were to spend 10 hours a day at the lab, that would require M-F plus either a full day on the weekend or half days in the lab on both Sat/Sun). The inconsistency is what really worries me. I'm no stranger to managing my time efficiently and working in a disciplined manner--I worked in private industry for a number of years and I'm far removed from more free-wheeling student days.

The expectation is also a bit worrisome because I don't think the PI is expecting or taking into account exaggeration and inefficiencies in the 60 hours a week every week expectation. 

I guess since I'm already locked in, I should stop worrying and just show up and work the way I was planning on working, while taking care of myself both socially and physically to make sure I am in the best possible situation to succeed, and let my results speak for themselves. If there's a problem with that, that's outside of my control.

Thanks @eternallyephemeral and @dormcat for your helpful comments. 

I understand. If you are locked in, and you still want to go for the other reasons, I would show them how they are wrong by doing a great job but not by overextending yourself.

I've faced various things like this (and so have my colleagues) in the past. Sometimes, as undergrads, we were told that we couldn't work in multiple labs at once because we needed to be around for a certain number of hours or that we would never be able to handle the workload. I've never followed these rules or guidelines - I'm working, in school, and collaborating across multiple schools/faculties. Obviously these people were wrong about me, as they are likely wrong about you.

You know yourself better than other people do, so as long as you deliver, you will likely be able to relax this requirement or make a case for removing it.

 

Alternatively, if these people are busy then it's impossible for them to need you at any time, 60 hours a week. They have their own things to do. Even though my supervisor likes to stop by my office, obviously she doesn't have time to hound me all the time. I don't stick around worrying that she'll visit and expect me to be there at 7pm, or 8am. And you shouldn't either in my opinion.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 10/11/2015 at 1:04 PM, clinicalapplicant said:

So I want to clarify a few things as someone who recently started a PhD in a Clinical Psychology program. 

I do not work from 8AM to 6PM Monday to Friday and all weekend. In fact, I don't know anyone who actually works those hours straight. 

Yeah, I totally agree. I am finishing my first year in a research-focused Clinical Psych PhD program. I worked in the private sector before beginning my program and I try to treat school basically like a job: work ~8-4 every week day and mostly not work otherwise. The difference is that there is less consistency in grad school. If we have a big grant or paper deadline, I might work more than 40 hours. If there is a lull in work, I may work less than 40 in a given week. I study trauma, and my research group and mentor us a feminist lens-- which may contribute to the fact that they prioritize and model for me the importance of having a life outside of school/work. For example, I have had several older students and even a faculty member basically say you can get away with skimming reading for classes, perhaps only reading things that are particularly relevent to your research area. This obviously shaves off significant work. Most days I am able to arrive home by 5 and make dinner and hang out with my partner. Right now I don't do hardly any work on the weekend. 

In general, I feel WAYYYY more chill in grad school than I did in undergrad. I worked a part time (20 hr/week) job through school, and was probably doing too many extracurricular activities. I've definitely since honed my ability to say no to things!

I say this with the caveat that I am in my first year. From what I've observed in older students, my program's work distribution progresses as I describe below. I'm not sure if this is relevent, but it helps me to realize how I'll have to spread my time.

  • First year: focus on getting acclimated; doing well-ish in your classes (2/term); banging out your master's project; doing work in your mentor's lab; your 20-hour per week job (RA or TA)-- this often ends up being less than 20 hours; and minimal clinical training mostly starting with ~6 hours per week at the VERY tail end of the year
  • Second year: finish your master's, keep doing your 20-hour per week job; take on more clinical work the full year (~6-9 hours per week; we begin in our neuropsych clinic this year); continue classes (2/term)
  • Third year: do lots of research & try to publish; keep doing classes (2/term); transition to having more therapy clients (6-9 hours per week); plan for dissertation and/or apply for fellowships
  • Fourth year: big thing is externship (~20 hours at a local hospital/VA/community clinic); possibly take a few straggler classes but probably done with classes; full steam ahead on dissertation planning / begin IRB applications & data collection; we DO NOT have to do comps at my school; continue working in mentor's lab
  • Fifth year: DISSERTATION!!!; continue working in mentor's lab depending on whether you get a fellowship; apply to internships; possibly continue externship to get more clinical hours; continue publishing. 

I've probably left something out, but that's the gist!

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