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I'm a full time software engineer/dba right now. I have several years experience in the .NET stack.

I'm planning on going back to grad school in mathematics. I've been looking around and haven't really found any good part time jobs. In fact, there seems to be very few part time jobs listed on Dice or Craigslist in my area...

Is it unrealistic for me to think that I might be able to work my way through grad school by programming/doing dba work part-time? It's both about keeping my skill set sharp and paying the bills...I wouldn't want a long break in practical experience...

Anybody have any suggestions? Would it be better to emphasize my DBA skillset or my programming skillset? My hunch is that being a dba is more conducive to landing part time work than development...is that true?

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2 Answers 2

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Are you going for a Ph.D.? If so, please be aware that having a job on the side tends to prolong your time in grad school considerably. If you have already thought long and hard, and you have already made up your mind about doing it, then the best way to proceed is to save up some money and be able to live off the teaching assistanship stipend. Also try to look for a research assistanship on some project with funding, which is likely to lead to a thesis. I expect these are hard to come by in mathematics, but this is not unheard of. For instance, I did my Ph.D. in computer science, and I was on a joint project with the mathematics department for a while. I worked together with a math grad student, who did in fact base his thesis on that project, and got payed an RA stipend.

You should also consider looking for a job within the university, such as doing system administration or DBA for one of the departments. But again, keep in mind, that doing anything that is not related to your graduate work prolongs your stay there. I know people who took 9, 10, 13, or even 14 years to graduate. A big contributing factor is usually having a family and having to support it with a side job.

Also, I thought I would mention that you should think long and hard about what you are planning to do after you graduate. Tenure track faculty positions are scarce these days. And going back to being a software engineer after spending years in grad school may not feel so good.

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Honestly, I have several years experience. I've been looking at various jobs on campus; they're for people who don't have experience and pay horribly. I need to find a way to build a practice of sorts, where I have part time work getting software engineer wages--not cheap grad student labor... –  q303 Nov 27 '10 at 6:10
I am not doubting your experience. I was in the same boat when I went to grad school. One thing you can try to do is to get a 3 month full-time contract gig for the summer. I did that after my first year of grad school, but that was still during the boom years when times were good. Alternatively, if you can land a summer internship with Yahoo or Microsoft related to your research area, you will probably also get a decent wage. Also, do not discount a research assistanship. This is what is likely to result in a thesis topic, while at the same time keeping you from starving to death. –  Dima Nov 28 '10 at 0:11
I've heard contract work is going to be more plentiful in the current economy because companies do not want to commit to permanent people. I've thought about the summer option and saving money for the rest of the year. That might work... –  q303 Dec 2 '10 at 7:11
Just keep in mind that anything you do that is not related to your degree will prolong your stay in grad school. I thought I'd be done in 4 years, because I already had a master's coming in. It took me 7 years. –  Dima Dec 2 '10 at 15:27

I've probably got the terminology wrong but you probably want to look for professors that need graduate students for fellowships. The other way to go would be to look for open part-time positions with the University. Typically most (large anyway) universities have some jobs that are reserved for students. From what I remember it was also fairly common for tech companies that were colocated with (tech incubator) or just near universities to post openings for part-time developers. I do remember the competition for those positions was fairly strong though.

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