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Don't Go to Grad School

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Manton, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    The The Simpsons sucks? I agree wholeheartedly.
     
  2. deadly7

    deadly7 Senior member

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    You're not actually getting paid 26k/40k, are you? You still have to pay tuition, which takes a large chunk of that.
     
  3. Gibonius

    Gibonius Senior member

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    You are actually getting paid that amount of money. The average is in the $20k's; very few in the 40s.. I made $22k, and tuition was waived, never saw a bill. Your tuition will either be waived, or will be paid out of grants by your adviser (which actually makes grad students more expensive than postdocs, rather an odd dynamic tends to develop in those schools).

    It's not an awful deal in most of the sciences really, quality of life aside. You make a little less than the average person with a BS, but can get a PhD out of it. I have no debt and actually saved some money, and should be pretty far ahead of other people who stayed on the BS track unless they were spectacularly successful.
     
  4. JayJay

    JayJay Senior member

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    It's not uncommon in some fields to get a $30,000+ stipend and a tuition fee waiver for 4 years.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2011
  5. deadly7

    deadly7 Senior member

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    Solid info, thanks for clearing that up.
     
  6. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    In my 1st year of grad school the stipend was $22.5k (2003) and went up slightly every year. By the last year (2009) it was just a bit over $26k. Tuition was paid for by my doctoral advisor so I took home the entire stipend with virtually no taxes since the stipend was paid through grant monies. In addition because tuition was billed to me, I received a 1098T so that I could deduct the tuition expenses. Whether or not this was legal I'm not entirely sure but my accountant took the deduction anyway since being at such a low income level I wasn't at a high risk for being audited.

    Its quite funny, because of the tax and tuition situation, 1st year postdocs actually took less money home than grad students.

    I also stretched my monthly stipend pretty well since I could qualify for low income discounts on my utility bills (gas, water, electricity, etc).

    When I was making about $40k right before grad school as a research associate at a biotech company, my take home pay after taxes was roughly the same as my monthly grad student stipend so the decision to go back to school was a no brainer.
     
  7. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    I forgot to add, I didn't have a TA requirement for my program so my entire time was dedicated to research. I had classmates who voluntarily decided to TA and their doctoral advisors were nice/well off enough to let them pocket the quarterly TA income on top of their graduate student stipend.

    Of course on the flip side I had classmates in labs that were less well funded such that they had to TA courses just to reach the yearly minimum stipend.
     
  8. Floater156

    Floater156 Active Member

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    Why would you even think a MA in a general humanities would help your job prospects? I have an MPA and it has helped me greatly.
     
  9. imatlas

    imatlas Senior member

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    It's not unusual for public school teachers to have automatic pay increases pegged to earning a Masters, so there's at least one field where an MA in gen hum is helpful.
     
  10. HomerJ

    HomerJ Senior member

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    Stipends are taxable income.. and it would have been illegal for you to deduct tuition. At least that's my understanding.

    $26k seems generous. Depends on program, lab, etc obviously but most RA were receiving $22k or less, some TA were probably getting less than $20k.

    We had some foreign postdocs and their pay wasn't so bad because they were tax exempt for 2 years. No taxes here no taxes back home.

    There was a foreign grad student who cost more than an experienced postdoc because of his tuition. Thinking about it that way, grad students have a good deal. They can earn a Ph.D. with tuition and living expenses covered while quite frankly not contributing a whole lot yet requiring a lot of time for mentoring.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2011
  11. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    According to my CPA the taxable income was somewhat nebulous depending on the source of funds. If you received your stipend through university payroll you were taxed. If you had your own grant funding from either a federal instution (NIH, etc) or a private non-profit organization with tax exemption status it wasn't taxed. Social security and all the little bits were withheld from your paycheck but income tax wasn't.

    Yes, I believe deducting tuition you personally didn't pay out of pocket is technically illegal but since my advisor wasn't taking the deduction on her end, my CPA told me just to take it since it wouldn't be flagged for audit since the 1098T matched up with only one deduction. Everyone I knew took this deduction and no graduate student to date I know of has ever been audited.

    Foreign graduate students pay (or their advisors pay) out of state tuition fees at UC schools so they are particularly expensive.

    I believe the tuition fees for the foreign students are reduced after advancement to candidacy/qualification exams so the foreign kids were always pushed by their advisors to get it done as quickly as possible within their 1st or 2nd year of grad school. For state resident students like me it didn't really matter so I did my qualifications, midstream, and final thesis defense all within the last 6 months of grad school.
     
  12. AlexE

    AlexE Senior member

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    Going to grad school and getting an engineering PhD was an excellent decision in my case. It was rewarding both intellectually and economically. I would recommend it to anyone who is truly interested in his/her scientific field and (based on an honest self-assessment) has the talents, knowledge and perseverance required. However, stay away from grad school if you just wanna get your salary up.
     
  13. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    This just doesn't hang. Income is income, whether it be from a Fortune 50 or a grant from a non-profit. Also, who earns 26k and has their own CPA? And what CPA gives advice that is "technically illegal?"
     
  14. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    Shady Chinese CPAs?

    I know I can't be alone in my experience, but don't people get tax advice from their accountants/lawyers all the time that are somewhat in the nebulous grey area? I've had experience with fresh CPAs who like to do everything by the book and other experiences with 'seasoned" vets (esp with Big4 audit/IRS backgrounds) who will give the disclaimer that certain deductions are technically "not exactly legal" by the book but because of various factors or whatnot, aren't at high risk for being flagged for audit. The same CPA also provided a sliding scale for how much tax refund you'll get with each method of filing, statute of limitations for audit risk, as well as potential penalty in the off chance of an audit. With this package of given information, they then ask you how you feel about the associated risk and how you want to proceed.

    Basically all the private practice Chinese CPAs I've worked with provide this type of service and are highly recommended through the (somewhat insular) community. The ones that are rigid in their rule following, frankly their practices don't last very long since word spreads and us cheapasses will shun them (incidentally a few I know went back again to Big 4 corporate after they closed their own practices).
     
  15. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    In my experience, people that earn 26k do not hire former Big 4 CPAs to do their taxes. That's the major part of what doesn't hang. And the thought a person earning 26k has a host of deductions, let alone questionable ones, is odd. And then to have an audit risk assessment? On 26k? :laugh: Not buying it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
    2 people like this.
  16. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    How hard is it to pay an accountant $150 a year to file your taxes? I'm sure it would've been cheaper to go to H&R block but why wouldn't I use the same person that has been doing my family's various taxes for going on 2 decades?

    Granted it's not some joe schmoe who I just looked up in the yellow pages, though if you actually look in the Chinese yellow pages, most private practice accountants make it a major point to advertise their pedigree. Most of my friends who currently work big4 and hate their jobs are doing it for the resume/name recognition when they open their own practice).

    - I see your point though... most people (I'm guessing the majority of those making 26k) probably don't have a long standing relationship with their accountant.
     
  17. Piobaire

    Piobaire Senior member

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    I would be willing to bet 99% of people making 26k file an EZ form. Pays to have family connections. Btw, now you've gone from a CPA with a 20 year famiy connection from having experience with a host of CPAs, from fresh faces to seasoned pros.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
  18. HomerJ

    HomerJ Senior member

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    I don't know. Don't have an accountant or lawyer. But what we've been talking about is black and white.
     
  19. HgaleK

    HgaleK Senior member

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    ^If he comes from money or he went to business school, none of that is out of the question.

    I don't think anyone immediately gives out grey area advice. I'm sure you can request that they toe the line a bit, but it would be a terrible idea to just hand out advice that might get you in serious trouble. Probably illegal too...
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
  20. Jenaimarr

    Jenaimarr Senior member

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    Sort of yes and sort of yes.

    Family has run several types of businesses from small retail and restaurants back in the day to (currently) large semi-conductor manufacturing companies. Couple that with real estate holdings and various family trusts and our use of accountants has been pretty extensive.

    Sister is a tax cpa at a top 5 large local (turned down offers from IRS and KPMG), ex-gf was large local then PWC audit, several friends at other big4 (big5 back in the day) are/were in tax/audit.

    Wife is a b-school grad so we have tons of other friends in big4, and while I didn't attend b-school, during my science ph.d studies I worked closely with the bschool dept (I had an undergrad minor in management/accounting).

    I believe this somewhat qualifies my statement of experience with a litany of cpas from newbies to big4.
     

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