Summer RA position.

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megatron
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Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:36 pm

So I've been offered a summer RA position. I asked the professor to send me information about the position, the project, and the hours/pay. He explained that it will be full-time, and that he'll ask about pay and pass along the information. However, until he gets back to me, I'd like to ask about your experiences doing a summer RA prior to graduate coursework. What kind of pay did you receive (perhaps you might list this as a relative amount to a standard TA during the year)? Did you enjoy getting a headstart, or do you wish you had used the summer before graduate school as a way to wind down without worrying about school? Or did you wish you had taken a more lucrative job during the summer as a way to buffer out the low pay during the rest of the year?

Any comments, anecdotes, off-topic jokes, or insights are appreciated.

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twistor
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby twistor » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:15 pm

megatron wrote:Any comments, anecdotes, off-topic jokes, or insights are appreciated.


Off-topic joke:

A neutron goes into a bar and asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?"
The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."

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grae313
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby grae313 » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:16 pm

megatron wrote:So I've been offered a summer RA position. I asked the professor to send me information about the position, the project, and the hours/pay. He explained that it will be full-time, and that he'll ask about pay and pass along the information. However, until he gets back to me, I'd like to ask about your experiences doing a summer RA prior to graduate coursework. What kind of pay did you receive (perhaps you might list this as a relative amount to a standard TA during the year)? Did you enjoy getting a headstart, or do you wish you had used the summer before graduate school as a way to wind down without worrying about school? Or did you wish you had taken a more lucrative job during the summer as a way to buffer out the low pay during the rest of the year?

Any comments, anecdotes, off-topic jokes, or insights are appreciated.


If this is the professor who you think you might want to do your PhD research with, I would jump on the opportunity. Most student I talked to who started their research early finished their PhD early. They pay like any other pre-candidacy RA position--slightly better than a TA.

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dlenmn
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby dlenmn » Fri Apr 18, 2008 11:19 pm

megatron wrote:Any comments, anecdotes, off-topic jokes, or insights are appreciated.


What's the difference between a seal and a sealion?

One electron...

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twistor
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby twistor » Fri Apr 18, 2008 11:46 pm

Ha,
that's a good one.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sat Apr 19, 2008 12:52 am

grae313 wrote:
If this is the professor who you think you might want to do your PhD research with, I would jump on the opportunity. Most student I talked to who started their research early finished their PhD early. They pay like any other pre-candidacy RA position--slightly better than a TA.

This is my favorite professor, and indeed someone with whom I'd like to work in the future for my PhD. I have told him I'm interested in the offer, and that's when I asked for more information.
Regarding pay, I understand that the RA pays more than the TA, but my question stems from the summer/full-time distinction to the school year/half-time state. So is it based purely on salary, meaning that it won't matter if it's full or half-time, or will the pay double from the school year RA pay since the hours are doubled?

Typically I wouldn't be worried about pay, but this is the last summer I will be able to work another job, and so if I'm barely scraping by despite full-time work, it might be more advantageous to work the more lucrative job to establish a financial buffer zone for hard times. However, I don't actually believe this is the case (that the summer pay is simply the standard RA pay). But I wanted to get some comments since he won't be able to send information until next week.

Thanks for your input.
Last edited by megatron on Sat Apr 19, 2008 12:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sat Apr 19, 2008 12:54 am

twistor wrote:
megatron wrote:Any comments, anecdotes, off-topic jokes, or insights are appreciated.


Off-topic joke:

A neutron goes into a bar and asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?"
The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."

Now that you mention that joke, it's difficult not to wonder if girls hating each other at a party for wearing the same outfit is a result of exclusion.

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zxcv
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby zxcv » Sat Apr 19, 2008 1:52 am

megatron wrote:Now that you mention that joke, it's difficult not to wonder if girls hating each other at a party for wearing the same outfit is a result of exclusion.
You assert that women are fermions? I suppose that would make men bosons...

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby butsurigakusha » Sat Apr 19, 2008 2:06 am

yeah, that's why we all dress essentially the same at formal events.

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will
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby will » Sat Apr 19, 2008 3:10 am

Well, we are the force carriers.

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twistor
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby twistor » Sat Apr 19, 2008 11:04 am

And there's no limit to how many of us can fall into the lowest possible state.

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grae313
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby grae313 » Sat Apr 19, 2008 1:35 pm

megatron wrote:
grae313 wrote:
If this is the professor who you think you might want to do your PhD research with, I would jump on the opportunity. Most student I talked to who started their research early finished their PhD early. They pay like any other pre-candidacy RA position--slightly better than a TA.

This is my favorite professor, and indeed someone with whom I'd like to work in the future for my PhD. I have told him I'm interested in the offer, and that's when I asked for more information.
Regarding pay, I understand that the RA pays more than the TA, but my question stems from the summer/full-time distinction to the school year/half-time state. So is it based purely on salary, meaning that it won't matter if it's full or half-time, or will the pay double from the school year RA pay since the hours are doubled?

Typically I wouldn't be worried about pay, but this is the last summer I will be able to work another job, and so if I'm barely scraping by despite full-time work, it might be more advantageous to work the more lucrative job to establish a financial buffer zone for hard times. However, I don't actually believe this is the case (that the summer pay is simply the standard RA pay). But I wanted to get some comments since he won't be able to send information until next week.

Thanks for your input.


You make more working full time during the summer, I don't know if it's double though. But I wouldn't care. Don't worry about saving up money, get started on your research this summer. If you do a good job, your advisor will make sure you have the money you need to get through your PhD, and you'll be done way sooner. You gotta jump on the opportunities when they are offered to you, especially if the research group is popular and tough to get into, you shouldn't even be thinking about it, IMO.

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will
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby will » Sat Apr 19, 2008 1:48 pm

Compound that with the fact that it's exceedingly hard to get a summer job that is going to pay any more than an RA post. You're not going to be raking in cash over the summer, so you might as well make your graduate career a wee nip more productive.

bestbearblackbear
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby bestbearblackbear » Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:20 pm

Plus, if you think working a normal job is the right move solely to provide yourself with a financial buffer, you sorta assume that the financial issues you may potentially run into your first year wont exist in years after. That said, as long as you don’t want a mental break from physics go for the RA. If you do need a mental break, then you have a decision to make.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sat Apr 19, 2008 11:31 pm

will wrote:Compound that with the fact that it's exceedingly hard to get a summer job that is going to pay any more than an RA post. You're not going to be raking in cash over the summer, so you might as well make your graduate career a wee nip more productive.

If this were the case, the decision would have been much easier. However, in the summer I am usually an oilfield worker, where I typically make $1,900 per week (gross, not net). So, I actually could be "raking in cash," at least compared to some. But it wouldn't benefit my schooling at all, as so many of you have pointed out. The real cause for my anguish in this decision is that I didn't work last summer in order to study for the GRE. Since I had been in school the year before that, I hadn't worked in total for about 18 months (I didn't start working again until sometime after the GRE), but that didn't make any of my bills disappear. A stint of unemployment like that wreaks havoc on one's finances, and I really did not want to have to go through any period of eating Ramen as a staple of my diet again, if I even had that to eat.

For the other poster, the idea would be to use the money to buffer out excess costs (mostly emergency spending) spread out over 2 or 3 years, since by then the RA salary will have been boosted such that I wouldn't need it.

However, after hearing all your thoughts, and giving more of my own to the matter, I shouldn't exchange the benefits of academic productivity for what will still ultimately be short-term gains financially. By pursuing academics, I have already traded finances for intellectual yield, and there's no point in fighting that now.

Still, I found it helpful to have your opinions, so thanks again. I'll notify my professor of my intent to join his group. While he hasn't yet specified which project it will be, I'm pretty sure it's KATRIN.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby butsurigakusha » Sat Apr 19, 2008 11:50 pm

It looks like you have already made your decision, but to be honest, now that you mention how much money you would be making, I would take the job and rake in money. That's just my preference though.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:12 am

butsurigakusha wrote:It looks like you have already made your decision, but to be honest, now that you mention how much money you would be making, I would take the job and rake in money. That's just my preference though.

And therein is the trouble. On the other hand, I don't particularly like working 84 hours per week, every week. And especially not on an isolated platform. So even if I did do that, I'd probably only work for 2 months out of the total summer. I think I'm just going to take the RA and view it as an unusual opportunity to advance my degree.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby butsurigakusha » Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:19 am

Oh, I didn't realize you had the job from hell. I guess it should have been obvious that you won't make $1900 a week with the cushy jobs I normally get in the summer. I take back my previous statement. I wouldn't choose the job.

At my school, there are a lot of companies that recruit for summer sales, selling security systems, pest control, satellite, etc. Sales reps typically make >25k over the summer, and I have always been tempted to do it. But then the thought of going door to door 60 hours a week dissuades me.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:51 am

butsurigakusha wrote:Oh, I didn't realize you had the job from hell. I guess it should have been obvious that you won't make $1900 a week with the cushy jobs I normally get in the summer. I take back my previous statement. I wouldn't choose the job.


As I mentioned, I work as a laborer in the oilfields (of Alaska; I suppose that gives away my identity to anyone trawling). I spend several weeks working 12 hours per day, every day. The upside is that they feed you very well on the platforms (lobster and prime rib for dinner is not unusual), and you get to do work that you'd ordinarily never get to do or see. Plus you get to ride in a helicopter! The downside is that it's quite dangerous, and the atmosphere of living with roughnecks can get a little old. They're Fox News types, and as you can imagine, there aren't a lot of physics types aboard, so there isn't any intellectual growth to speak about. I'm convinced that my experiences there have greatly helped me in a laboratory, though, since nearly no undergraduates knew how to fabricate anything in a machine shop.

butsurigakusha wrote:At my school, there are a lot of companies that recruit for summer sales, selling security systems, pest control, satellite, etc. Sales reps typically make >25k over the summer, and I have always been tempted to do it. But then the thought of going door to door 60 hours a week dissuades me.

I almost got roped into something like that while my money was drying up. I went to a "seminar" about the job, and quickly figured out that it was a door-to-door pyramid scheme to sell Cutco knives. Needless to say, I left before paying the deposit on the knife kit. I since took a job making hydroacoustic tags used to track fish populations for research firms. But it doesn't pay a whole lot, so that's why I've been looking toward this summer.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby butsurigakusha » Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:22 am

Ah, Cutco, I have experience with them too. Was it Vector Marketing? Did they show the demo where they cut the penny?

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:03 am

butsurigakusha wrote:Ah, Cutco, I have experience with them too. Was it Vector Marketing? Did they show the demo where they cut the penny?

You know it. I nearly felt bad leaving and not saying anything to all the undergrads who were left thinking they were sitting on a goldmine. But then I figured that these things have a way of working themselves out.

megatron
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby megatron » Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:23 pm

So I heard back and the pay is only that of a 50% RA, not 80% as the professor first thought. The pay is just under 1700 per month, or about what I would make in one week back home. Would you still say this is worth it, grae?

hpharty
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby hpharty » Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:30 pm

I had a pretty well paying warehouse job for a while, doing hard assembly line style labor. I would take the research job any day over going back to that. I think though that this is a very personal thing, weather you choose money over some other benefit (here it seems to be experience and networking).

Hands down I would take the research job. I saw the first post in the thread and knew this was the correct answer, at least for me.

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grae313
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Re: Summer RA position.

Postby grae313 » Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:58 pm

I would take the research job. You want to be a scientist, right? Not an oilfield laborer? But I agree it is a personal decision and mine would be based on my values and my ambitions to get my degree as soon as possible.




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