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Pros & cons of finishing early?

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I'm currently finishing my 2nd year in a PhD program. Most people take 5 years to finish. Though, I have seen people get out in 4, and on my department area website it outlines successful finish in 4, not 5. I am in a good position to finish in 4, but does that mean I should? 

I like my department and advisor, but I'm dying to get out of the geographic area. I'd have funding through the 5th year, but cost of living does not match up with what TAs are paid and it's been rough financially.

Since it could be advantageous to hang around a little extra time and recieve guidance from my advisor about postdocs and grants, and maybe finish up some projects, would it make sense to make it a goal to defend the dissertation in, say, January of 5th year? Has anyone done this? 

Yes, maybe thinking too far ahead. But that's just how I tend to do things! TIA for any thoughts you may have. 

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It makes sense to graduate early *as long as you have another (good!*) job lined up*. If that is a job in industry, your publication record won't matter much, so if you can get a job after your 4th year, I don't see why you wouldn't go ahead and take it. Your earning potential will grow and you'll get more relevant job experience, all net positives. On the other hand, if you're looking for a job in academia, experience and a publication track record will be key. You could go on the job market in your 4th year and see how you do; if you land a TT job or a good postdoc, you might choose to graduate early. But if not, the extra year will be very important for beefing up your publication record and getting yourself out there to good conferences, so it's probably smart to take that year. Maybe you could look into doing some/all of your writing from a remote location that you'd be more happy at, to both have your 5th year and also not suffer from a location you don't like. You should probably also consult with your advisor, who might have their own opinions about whether you could and should graduate early. 

* If you take a crappy job with lots of teaching, you won't be able to do much research/work on publications. That will hurt you on the job market in the future, even if locally you make more money than you would as a grad student. 

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Echoing fuzzylogician, I've heard one popular strategy among those who can finish early is to try to get a job and stay in grad school just until you can get a good job elsewhere. I do know people who delayed graduation as much as a year to weather out a bad job market.

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  • 3 months later...
On 4/16/2017 at 8:48 PM, VulpesZerda said:

I am in a good position to finish in 4, but does that mean I should? 

The ones you should ask this question are the members of your committee. Listen to the answer very carefully.

A classmate and erstwhile friend raced through the program while developing a "you can't tell me shit about history" attitude. He blew off multiple recommendations that he take a semester or two to revise his dissertation. He scoffed, ranted and raved. He did not relent. He did not revise. 

He got a PNG along with a Ph.D.

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