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How Do PhD Students Make Money Whilst Studying

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A recent article published in the Guardian states the following: “PhD students told to consider selling Avon products to make ends meet“.

The article continues by saying: “Postgraduates chosen for their “excellent potential” to become future leaders in environmental science and sustainable business should consider selling Avon products, pet-sitting, and joining clinical trials to cope with the cost of living crisis”

The truth is, most PhD students face this dilemma at one point or another: the stipend they receive – if they get one at all – isn’t enough to get by, especially in the inflationary environment we live in today. Not only that but in many cases, PhDs aren’t even allowed to work over a certain amount of hours every week because to do so would interfere with completing the course on time.

Given the current state of the world, what we need now more than ever is to promote and empower researchers. Having said that, here are the ways you as a PhD student can increase your income whilst pursuing your studies.

1. PhD Stipend

A stipend is a non-repayable grant provided to doctoral students to help support their studies. This is usually in the form of a Tax-Free scholarship, meaning no tax needs to be taken off that. The stipend is used to cover living costs such as rent, food, bills, and basic travel, the only expectation of receiving a stipend will be that you maintain continuous progress within your degree.

For example in the UK, PhD students can receive a stipend which varies between £15,000 and £18,000 per annum.

2. Industry internship

An internship is a short-term work experience offered by companies and other organizations for people — commonly students, but not always — to get an entry-level exposure to a particular industry or field. This is usually a great opportunity to get business exposure and see how you can utilize your research knowledge to bring value to the private industry. In many cases universities themselves sponsor internships (i.e. Internship projects for PhD students at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden). One key suggestion here is that you look for paid-only internships. It is quite often that companies will try to hire interns without paying them in exchange for learning and experience, however, we strongly suggest you always look for projects where you do get compensated.

3. Teaching at your university

Quite often PhD students teach or have demonstration hours during their doctorate as a way of earning money and gaining experience at their home university or research center. Some of the main responsibilities for PhDs include leading undergraduate seminars, grading assessments and providing laboratory demonstration or supervision. In some cases PhD candidates can also work as Teaching Assistants (TAs) taking on a more administrative role being in charge of planning, giving classes, sending emails and grading. Our suggestion is that you ask your supervisors for teaching hours, they will at least know who to redirect you to.

4. Teaching privately

Working as a private tutor is another way you can increase your revenue. In many cases students, parents, and private individuals want support whilst studying and preparing for exams. This is usually a good opportunity for you, as a researcher in a given topic, to use your niche and look for customers wanting to pay you for tutoring them. Some of the platforms that might help you do it include:

  • GoStudent – link
  • UniversityTutor – link
  • Spires – link
  • Apprentus – link

5. Competitions & Prize money

Although many PhD students undermind such revenue opportunities, there are quite often university competitions, startup hackathons, and events where it is possible to win prize money. In many cases, private companies who either want to recruit, universities who want to engage with their students, or startup organizers who want to bring together people to tackle existing challenges, offer cash prizes to attract more participants. This is a great opportunity to not only meet people but also have fun whilst doing it. Here’s a list of competitions that might be interesting for you to have a look at: Student competitions

6. Part-time work

A part-time job is no surprise. However, the opportunity often lies in doing something that is completely different from what you currently do whilst pursuing your PhD. This is a great way to be creative, engage with people, or even work on your sales skills. If you’d like a part-time job, feel free to email us at: team@oa.mg

7. Content creation work & personal branding

Content creation is the foundation of all modern digital marketing efforts. It includes the process of conducting research, generating ideas, crafting those ideas into high-value pieces of information, and then promoting them to a target audience. Digital content can take many forms, including web pages, blogs, infographics, videos, and social media posts.

This is a great opportunity for you to work on your personal branding, where you consciously and intentionally make an effort to create and influence public perception of you as an individual, elevating your credibility. This can take many shapes and forms that can lead you to generate income, some of which include:

    • Youtube – Ads and Channel membership

By creating videos and posting content on YouTube, you can create an audience and grow it to the point where you can make money from YouTube Ads and Channel Memberships. Here’s a more in-detail post by Google on how you can monetize from Youtube: How to Earn Money on Youtube

    • Affiliate marketing

This is the process by which you earn a commission for marketing another person’s or company’s products. You as a PhD can simply search for a product you enjoy using, then promote that product and earn a part of the profit from each sale the company makes. A good place to start might be to look at the different tools you use in your daily life as a researcher and see which ones you can promote and earn a commission on.

    • Sponsorships

This involves a business relationship between two parties, where the sponsor provides support in the form of funding, resources, or services to the beneficiary. The beneficiary, in return, promotes the sponsor’s products. A great distribution channel for this type of revenue stream is TikTok and Instagram. If you can create a following in any given niche, companies will approach you to see how they can advertise their products through you.

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8. Consulting, sell your knowledge to companies who need it

Consulting companies look for subject-matter experts who can bring value to their portfolio of services. Look for companies in the private sector that are offering services in your field of research. This might be a good opportunity for you to work with them and sell your hours. If you are brave you can also start your own consulting gig where you invite companies to hire you for a number of hours.

Here’s a great video by Ciara Feely, a PhD student in Dublin who shares the story of her different income streams as a PhD:

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