Anyone care to offer their opinion on this potential job?

I was tempted to put this in the job seekers thread we got going, but I figured it might not get enough views.

I have a very good shot at getting a position at my old alma mater (my undergraduate, not graduate) as a research assistant in a biology lab. It actually seems like interesting research, and (in theory) as an added bonus I’ll be easily able to finish my master’s (on the assumption that one of my benefits is free tuition…I’ve never known any university job to not include that (aside from work study/TAing,) but you never know.)

However, by itself it IS a dead-end job. There is obviously no promotion potential, since the only person above me is a professor, and I don’t imagine the salary to be too outstanding.

That being said, since I know lots of dopers have worked in university labs, what can I expect my average salary to be? I’m guessing it will be in the $30,000-$33,000/year range (it’s in upstate NY, if that means anything), but I can also imagine it being a few thousand below that. While not great, it’s enough that I can easily pay all my bills, including student loans, and still have disposable income (the area has a very cheap cost of living.) I would probably also take a part-time weekend job, most likely waiting tables, since I’m doing that now.

Secondly, would it be bad form to take the job for the sole purpose of getting my master’s? The research does seem interesting, but it isn’t in something I personally want to get into. I would do the job only for as long as it takes my to get my master’s and then find a better job. I might feel bad taking a job with the knowledge I’ll quit in just a few years, but on the other hand, this guy knows my resume and education, and can probably surmise that I want to finish my master’s, and see this as a perfect chance to do that. And besides, it’s not that hard to find a research assistant.

And lastly, I don’t want to get myself into a situation where I accept this one, only to get offered something better. I’ve stopped applying to other jobs now, and probably won’t until the interview process is over, but there are still a couple dozen resumes I’ve submitted that I might hear back from.

So…good idea? Bad idea?

In this economy, I’d grab it – esp. if you get free tuition. (Confirm that before you accept.) At your age – I gather you’re in your 20s? – no one expects you to stay in a job for more than a few years anyway.

It’s a research assistant job. No one expects you to make a career out of it. In fact, after a few years, if I was your supervisor, I would expect you to move on.

In addition to asking about the free tuition, find out if the class schedules are compatible with your work hours. Universities are often but not always flexible to let employees attend classes. It would be a shame to take the job and then have your boss say he needs you in the lab during the time the classes are offered. This situation actually happened to me when I was working on my masters, prompting me to leave that job.

Also, full-time job+grad school+part-time job sounds like a lot to take on. If you could limit the part-time work to summers that might be a good thing. Everyone will tend to be more supportive if they see you focused on your job and school.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a job like that as a way of getting a foot into graduate school. Technician positions in university labs have high turnover; the professor is probably accostomed to high-achieving technicians moving on.

I’ve worked in university labs for about 10 years, starting off as a test tube washer and moving up to post-doctoral fellow. Life in the lab hinges on the mix of people in the lab. As a research assistant, grad students will be leaning on you to do stuff that they really should be doing. Post-docs will boss you around and treat you like you know nothing. Initially you will worry that you’ve screwed up someone’s research, and you will keep yourself awake at night wondering about all the mistakes you’ve made. It really helps having labmates who are cool and understanding. I’ve found that the professor is the one who sets the tone, so I would find out as much about him as possible. Professors who throw real-live temper tantrums are not uncommon in my experience.

As far as pay goes, it will probably suck. Entry-level technicians earned about $20,000 at my last job (down in Miami). No benefits and no tuition waiver (though the professor was notorious for offering that as an incentive to prospective employees. Be sure to get promises in writing!) I wouldn’t expect to keep regular 9-to-5 hours. Depending on what you will be doing, you may have experiments to tend to in the late hours of the night or field work that keeps you outdoors all day. If the lab has animals, it will be you who will have to come in during the holidays to feed them. But the upside is that academic settings tend to be flexible when it comes to work schedules. Personally I miss be able to come in at work at 9:30.

I say go for it, if it feels right.

I’m confused. Why would you want to take this job doing research and then work even more to get a MS on the side? Why not just apply to be a master’s student?

It sounds like you might be assuming that graduate students in the sciences typically pay for their own educations. We don’t. Usually the way it works is that a professor pays our tuition and a stipend out of his/her research funds. So, there is a fairly good opportunity to get a “graduate student researcher” appointment, potentially in the same lab. In my opinion, there’s no reason to hide the fact that you’d like to get a master’s. You should just tell the professor, and see if he can accommodate you. Or if it’s too late to apply to grad school, take the job and apply next semester!

I don’t understand this at all. As long as your employment contract doesn’t contain an explicit term and consequences for either party violating that term, you’re free to leave when you want (and your employer’s free to fire you when they want).

Take it and never look back.

Well, for one, graduate stipends are notoriously small…odds are, well below what I would be getting as an actual research assistant. And while lots of graduate students do get scholarships and stipends, my year and a half at a different school told me that’s not always the case, and now I’m many more thousands in debt thanks to student loans.

And I’m certainly not planning to hide the fact I will pursue a master’s from my employer. If he mentions free tuition/classes as one of the benefits, I’ll be very upfront that I plan on taking advantage of that.

Also…I already applied to grad school here and was declined. :frowning: To be fair, when I did that, I had two Fs on my graduate transcript from my old grad school, which are now gone. However, I still can’t apply because while my Fs are gone, I owe the college about $3000 and they won’t send my transcript to anyone till I pay it.

So I can get the job, pay off the money I owe to old grad school, and re-apply next fall (and with what I’m sure to be a glowing recommendation from this professor, I will have good chances.)

And even if I could get in, I wouldn’t want this prof as my advisor, because he’s in a different department (he’s biology, I’m biomedical engineering.)

So in the long run, I think that if actually offered the job, I’ll take it. If nothing else, I have several friends still in the area that will be fun to hang out with again. :stuck_out_tongue:

Think this through. My last job was for a state university and free tuition (but not fees—make sure you look into that) was a benefit we offered. It was well known that that was a draw for positions we had open, but the people who came in and said, “I want the free tuition” were quite a turn-off. Of course, it doesn’t sound like that’s how you’d approach it, but just to be sure…If it were me, I would smile and nod when told about that benefit, but not make a big deal of it.

I agree with lorene. It’s one thing for your professor to suspect that you will leave in a year or so. It’s another thing for you to confirm it to him.

If he asks what your intentions are, I would mention that you have grad school in your sights, but don’t make it sound like you’re going to bail as soon as you get started. Nor should you ask him about tuition when you interview. You don’t want to come across as an opportunistic parasite. I would ask, however, how flexible scheduling is (just in case you do have to get a second job, but again don’t tell him about this plan).

Good research assistants are valuable, so I wouldn’t be so cavalier about this job. I know my last boss was quite selective when it came to candidates. Think about it. He’s going to be trusting his life research to you. He will want to know that you are committed to his work and aren’t just looking for a paycheck.

Well, then. Sounds like you have a good plan to me. Sorry you had such a rough time in your last semester.

Just one more addition…you should do some checking to see if the university will allow you to enroll as a master’s student while working a full-time job. A few universities specifically prohibit this, or will make you get a special dispensation, so you might want to do a quick check.

Well, I talked with the guy yesterday, and I don’t think it went very well. I should know by the end of the week if he wants to bring me in for a face-to-face but my hopes aren’t high.