Independent Research Coordinator and Consultant

Today’s post is by a PhD who had extensive work experience prior to starting grad school, which she leveraged into several relatively remunerative part-time jobs. She shares honestly about the effect her extra work had on her personally.

Name: Marika Morris

Institution: Carleton University

Department: Canadian Studies Ph.D.

1. What was your side job?

  • Research Coordinator, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), on a part-time basis
  • Research consultant – I produced research on contract for Health Canada which was an overview and analysis of gender-sensitive home and community care research, with policy implications. Part of that contract involved travel to be a keynote speaker at a conference on that issue.

2. How much did you earn?

About CAD $30,000 the first year of my Ph.D., not including academic funding. This was much less than I had earned the previous year full-time in the labor market.

3. How did you balance your job with your graduate work?

Not very well. It was very stressful, because I was also a teaching assistant at the university. I had to start on anti-anxiety medication. I eventually resigned my CRIAW job, and took on further research contracts only after my scholarship funds ran out.

4. Did your job complement your graduate work or advance your career?

Yes. Although my academic research was not on the same topic, the publication for Health Canada has been widely quoted and expanded my professional networks. The CRIAW job provided me with a sense of community which was lacking at the university, and both the Health Canada and CRIAW jobs provided me with a sense of accomplishment and value as a researcher. I had already been working as a researcher for 14 years before starting the Ph.D., but this experience did not seem to count for much with some professors.

5. How did you get started with your job?

I was already Research Coordinator at CRIAW when I reduced my hours to complete a Ph.D.. The Health Canada contract came from previous gender and home care research I had done.

6. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

Looking back, it’s amazing that I did not have a nervous breakdown. It was a mistake to take a full course load and have three part-time jobs. However, it was very interesting and valuable, and it would have been hard to give up any of those opportunities. It is very important to gain/maintain work experience outside academe.

Marika Morris has worked as a Senior Policy Research Advisor in the Government of Canada, as a Researcher/Legislative Assistant for two Canadian Members of Parliament, was Research Coordinator for the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and did a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Education, Western University. She now runs Marika Morris Consulting, which specializes in research, evaluation and training services. She is also an Adjunct Research Professor at the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Want more ideas on how to generate a side income? Check out our seven-part video series!

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