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Old 22.04.2010, 23:09
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PhD Salary

Hello, I am thinking about moving to Switzerland in September to start a PhD at the University of Zurich, but I have some reservations that I would like to iron out before I make my final decision and would be grateful for some advice!
1. I have been offered 3000 CHF / month - which I understand is low in comparison to the average salary in Switzerland, but I guess this is a similar level to PhD sponsorship in the UK (where I currently live). Is 3000 month enough to live on or will I be living on the bread line for the next three years? I am 27 years old and would like to be in a position to start saving money after spending all my existing savings on a masters!
2. A more specific question - would it be possible to top up my PhD salary with a part time job that is reasonably well paid? I am a qualified lawyer in the UK with experience in the public sector and human rights so would be interested in doing something related to this if at all possible.
3. What are the benefits of living in Zurich over London? I like the vibrancy of London and lots of my friends live here but after six years, I feel like I could be ready for a change!

Any tips/advice would be hugely appreciated!
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Old 22.04.2010, 23:29
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Re: PhD Salary

There is a place called struggle street and you will find yourself there on 3000 per month,. You could earn nearly 5000 a month flipping burgers. Life in Zürich can be vibrant, but with your income, you will be reduced to drinking beers from aldi down the lake whilst watching the gnomes zip by on their way to work. Fancy a cheap curry, there goes 25 chf, what about a quiet pint, theres another 8 chf.. it is possible but to live here on that income and save money... about other work in your field I have no idea
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Old 22.04.2010, 23:42
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Re: PhD Salary

Zurich is expensive, but so is Geneva, probably even more. In both cities I know PhD students who are very glad they came to do the program in Switzerland, valuing the quality education, change of scenery and other perks. I myself do PhD through distance studying so it allows me to work part time (is definitely harder without direct supervision), but I think if you come, settle yourself in, you might get lucky through some new friends, work colleagues or EF and jobs might come. Besides, Amnesty International has been busy posting how much work needs to be done, here, anyways...

About savings, I really do not know, does not seem too feasible to me if you actually want to socialize a lot, but people are different in their saving ways.

I think while you won't be a milionaire coming back home with a nice PhD degree from ZU, it will definitely not hurt your CV.
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Old 22.04.2010, 23:44
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Re: PhD Salary

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I know PhD students who are very glad they came to do the program in Switzerland, valuing the ... other perks.


Me too!
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Old 23.04.2010, 00:28
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Re: PhD Salary

It can be really difficult to save money with 3k/month,
Your biggest expense would be rent, I suggest try to find a studio,
this is Zurich, cheapest things may start from 600 chf - 800 chf...
you can check them out from www.homegate.ch
Food is extreme expensive compare to all european countries, you gotta be careful, especially dining out ...
But if you really care of saving, I am sure you can have an enough life...

Part time job would be perfect for you, but not sure if you are permitted to work whilst PhD..
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Old 23.04.2010, 00:31
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Re: PhD Salary

also reminded from my briton collegues with PhDs which makes me LOL

BS==> Bullshit
MSc==> More shit
PhD==> Piled high and Deep

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Old 23.04.2010, 00:43
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Re: PhD Salary

Advanteges over London

Definetely a safe city, everything very well organized, clean, quiet, high living quality, less traffic jam, in the middle of europe - very good connections to UK, schools are really well acredited, there are many expats etc....

Disadvantages;

sometime can be very Boring, local ppl more conservative, expensive, les

So if you really decided to make a change, why not go for it!!
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Old 23.04.2010, 01:56
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Re: PhD Salary

Just a thought, not based on comparative experience:
You may consider living in Basel, accommodation is MUCH more affordable than in Zurich + cheaper shopping in Germany. The drawback is commuting every day 1h each way, but this time can be used efficiently - trains in Switzerland are working/reading friendly. Plus you'll have the access to the social life/night life of 2 cities, both of them presenting advantages, which for your age is also essential
I guess that as a PhD you might have some tax exempt, otherwise taxes in Basel Stadt are not a good news. And then, I am still not completely clarified how is the residence permit functioning, whether you may register in Basel, while your reason of being in Switzerland is located in Zurich.

I've been in Basel for the last 10 months on a very modest income of Peace Researcher. It was a bit frustrating at times, but manageable. In terms of savings, well, you plan to start saving, so it may be a start

Have no experience in living in London though, cannot cope with the winds

PS: That is, I suppose there is a monthly/yearly ticket for commuting, which would be cheaper than buying tickets on a daily basis, otherwise all advantages mentioned above are void.

Does anybody know if SBB offers cheaper solutions for commuting BS-Zu?
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Old 23.04.2010, 03:27
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Re: PhD Salary

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You could earn nearly 5000 a month flipping burgers.
Really? Where? Most people I know doing that job are paid 20 swiss francs an hour, 40 hours a week - gives them 3200 a month before tax.

I would really love to know where I could earn 5000 a month just flipping burgers.

Simon
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Old 23.04.2010, 06:14
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Re: PhD Salary

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Really? Where? Most people I know doing that job are paid 20 swiss francs an hour, 40 hours a week - gives them 3200 a month before tax.

I would really love to know where I could earn 5000 a month just flipping burgers.

Simon

Me too!!! Where on earth can you earn a salary like that for flipping burgers? I think that sounds very hard to believe and not what I have been told. I was under the understanding that those type of non-skilled jobs would pay around 3000 per month.
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Old 23.04.2010, 08:34
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Re: PhD Salary

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Really? Where? Most people I know doing that job are paid 20 swiss francs an hour, 40 hours a week - gives them 3200 a month before tax.

I would really love to know where I could earn 5000 a month just flipping burgers.

Simon
Ah I have to admit this time I fudged the figures, whether it was the late night, whether it was too much fermented grape juice I cannot be sure... Needless to say, the OP will not have much change left from his 3000 a month.
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Old 23.04.2010, 09:24
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Re: PhD Salary

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also reminded from my briton collegues with PhDs which makes me LOL

BS==> Bullshit
MSc==> More shit
PhD==> Piled high and Deep


I thought PhD stood for ==> Pretty Huge D**k.

Awww damn! What am I don't here then, get me the resignation forms.
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Old 23.04.2010, 09:34
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Re: PhD Salary

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Hello, I am thinking about moving to Switzerland in September to start a PhD at the University of Zurich, but I have some reservations that I would like to iron out before I make my final decision and would be grateful for some advice!
1. I have been offered 3000 CHF / month - which I understand is low in comparison to the average salary in Switzerland, but I guess this is a similar level to PhD sponsorship in the UK (where I currently live). Is 3000 month enough to live on or will I be living on the bread line for the next three years? I am 27 years old and would like to be in a position to start saving money after spending all my existing savings on a masters!
2. A more specific question - would it be possible to top up my PhD salary with a part time job that is reasonably well paid? I am a qualified lawyer in the UK with experience in the public sector and human rights so would be interested in doing something related to this if at all possible.
3. What are the benefits of living in Zurich over London? I like the vibrancy of London and lots of my friends live here but after six years, I feel like I could be ready for a change!

Any tips/advice would be hugely appreciated!
PhD and postdoc salaries are federally regulated here, so there is really no chance of the amount changing (depending on where you live, it can be a little different)... Anyone who has gotten a PhD anywhere in the world knows that you are cheap labor for your boss. And you do it because you are interested in furthering your education and reaping the (much larger) benefits later.

That said, I have a friend who is doing his PhD here right now, pays 600/mo rent in a shared flat and literally travels every weekend. I mean, it is ridiculous how much fun he has and what he does with his 'measly' salary... So depending on how frugally you live, you can have a great time on that amount of money. And if you don't want to have a great time and just save money, you can do that too.
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Old 23.04.2010, 09:36
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Re: PhD Salary

IMHO if you want to do PhD you have to sacrifice a few yers of your life as I did and live on small amount of money which later will be rewarded with nice degree that adds to the CV. If you count on social life and friends it probably is gonna be worse than in the UK and with this kind of salary there will be very limited options nevermind saving extra money. If you have great career as a lawyer you should be able to make lot of money without the PhD but if you really like doing it, just go for it. Maybe other opportunities in form of part time job and lecturing will pan out.
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Old 23.04.2010, 09:46
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Re: PhD Salary

PhDs in Zurich earn anywhere from 3K-5k a month depending on the dept, uni, and year. The base salary is same, but you are paid anywhere from 60-100% (part to full time) depending on the agreement.

You can get by at the lower end no problem and you can live quite well at the upper end.

You should note that your tax rate is very low. At the upper end it's 5.5 %, so at the lower end, it will be <4% I would think. Take that into account. If you live in a shared place, you will have plenty money left to party and travel. Even if you live in your own place, you'll be fine, as long as you don't eat out too often.

To be honest, I'd ignore most of the comments above; they don't apply to doing a PhD in CH, where you are paid well compared to other countries and are considered an employee of the uni. However, the Prof does wield a lot of power over you compared to other systems in that the relationship can be terminated at his discretion. Some depts do run phd committees but this is not often the case.

Zurich vs London is a matter that I think you already know: big, fun city vs quieter life. However, note that are many PhDs from all over the world due to the quality of many depts, esp at ETH.
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Old 23.04.2010, 10:02
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Re: PhD Salary

My husband just began his PhD at ETH and the starting salary is a little less than 3000/month after taxes. It increases on a slide scale as you move up in the program, I believe. We are both living off that salary as I have not found a job yet. We dont go out much at all but do small things every weekend. We also found a 2 room apartment close to ETH for less than half of our month's salary. But if you rent a room in a shared apartment, you will find you have a lot more extra money. They are easier to find and get and I would definitely recommend it for a single person since it is also a great way to make friends. I think compared to London, Zurich is more outdoors friendly with many bike/walking paths through the hills and with the mountains so close, I think it would be a great change. Plus, plane tickets to London are pretty cheap if you ever miss it.
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Old 23.04.2010, 10:19
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Re: PhD Salary

I am also English and doing a PhD here in Switz, my salary is chf 39,600 gross. i am surving, but i live in neuchatel not zurich (£££!) where my rent and bills are about 750chf per month. i do have a part time job to supplement and think i would struggle without it. as it is, i don't go out much and most of my time is spent on a bike, which is pretty much cost free )

it depends on how much you spend. but in my view you need to be realistic, it takes time and investment to set up a new life - friends, sports or whatever you are into. the first months you may find you are travelling home from time to time whilst you settle.

Without the extra income, i think you would find it hard to save. The things i noticed particularly are the cost of food and drink. Just a coffee here at the uni is 3.80chf (and it's tiny!), a reasonable bottle of wine is hard to buy for less than 15chf. Which brings me to my next question... i have a Swiss friend here who is a lawyer. He is trained in the Neuchatel canton law, which is of course different to the law in any other canton. because (if i understand it correctly, you may know more since this is your field) each Swiss canton legislation is unique he can't practice in any other canton (without retraining). You may face similar problems if trained in a whole other country?

All that said, it's a stunning place. You may find that student life in Zurich is well worth the potential £sacrifices. It's very hard to know how it 'feels' until you live the life here. Have you made contact with any students from the University? You could try the Erasmus co-ordinator, they might be able to put you in touch with someone who could relate to your questions.

Good luck!
Lysandra
ps one cost saving i made is that i can get exemption from medical insurance as a student (non permanent resident) using my E111 (now called European health card)
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Old 23.04.2010, 11:24
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Re: PhD Salary

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Ah I have to admit this time I fudged the figures, whether it was the late night, whether it was too much fermented grape juice I cannot be sure... Needless to say, the OP will not have much change left from his 3000 a month.
LOL, I agree with you, 3000 will allow you to survive, not much else!
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Old 23.04.2010, 11:37
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Re: PhD Salary

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LOL, I agree with you, 3000 will allow you to survive, not much else!
Not saving and surviving are two very different things. Surviving to me means just scraping by. And that is just not true for 3k/month in zurich. You could definitley enjoy beers on Fri and Sat, could travel once in a while and enjoy the occasional meal out. You would not have to skimp on groceries, etc.

I lived very well off 4k/month and know many people who do just fine off 3k/month as PhD students in Zurich.
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Old 23.04.2010, 11:42
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Re: PhD Salary

Starting PhD salary isn't easy to live on, but it totally possible, you just have to be creative and smart about it.

Zurich CAN actually be a very cheap place to live in. It really comes down to how 'elegant' of a lifestyle you want to live.

How bad you want that Dr. title vs. living the nice clothes-car-sweetapartment lifestyle.

Flatsharing will definitely be your first option--unless you're really lucky with finding a nice cheap pad.

If you cancel eating out to less than once a week (average) you will have the most savings there.

The rest of your costs are easily decided by wants/needs comparison.

Good luck in whatever your decision is.
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