Graduate School Advice Series: How To Earn A Second Income In Graduate School

how to generate second income in graduate school

“Sorry man but I’m broke.” Said the text from my fellow graduate student. One more of the countless rejections to go out for a drink and then maybe a movie.

This response has occurred not only once but on multiple occasions to the point where I stopped asking altogether. I haven’t been to the movies with my grad student friends in over a year. There goes down the drain your social life at graduate school.

My family calls and says, “When are you coming home?” My response is usually, “I’m sorry but I don’t have the money to pay for gas to come home.” They say, “Well don’t worry we’ll put money in your account.” The bottom line is: I’m sick of asking my parents for money to help get me through graduate school.

I get a call from my friend who lives in another state, “When are you going to take a vacation and come visit me?” My response: “I’m sorry but I don’t really get a spring break. And even if I did I couldn’t afford it.” “Oh” she says. “I’m going to tour Europe for two weeks. Have fun. Oh and when do you graduate?”

I haven’t bought a single item of clothing in over 6 months. I haven’t been on a real vacation in over 4 years. I rarely ever go out for dinner. I was ready to stop my internet and cable bill for 3 months just so I could catch up. Air conditioning in the summer? Forget it.

If my car breaks down, I have to put the repair bill on my credit card. My student loan company keeps mailing me statement letters with “optional” interest payments. Seems like a joke with what little money I have. I try to apply for a better interest rate on a credit card and the company asks me if I have a Savings Account. I laugh. “Sure I do.” In the back of my mind I know it only shows 3 numbers: 0.00.

After running into old friends several years later, they look at me and say, “Wow you shrunk!” I usually look down and say, “Yeah I haven’t been eating as much as I should.” I found out if I made 200 dollars less a month each month that I would qualify for food stamps! So you feel powerless. You feel like you’re stuck. You know you are going to be in your graduate program for the long haul. Maybe you get out in 5 years. Maybe it takes you 7 years. Either way time is going to go by.

A key concern is that maybe the financial stress prolongs your graduation time! Maybe you would be more motivated if it wasn’t so hard along the way. Maybe things would just be a whole lot easier than what they are now.

Unfortunately, you are going to make the same amount of money during your entire time in graduate school. If you live off a stipend, it maybe only goes up 500 dollars every year if you’re lucky. If you are living off student loans, that number that you borrow each year will only rise because of tuition inflation and higher cost of living.

You are going to be a poor graduate student … unless you make a change. Now.

Then it hit me. It doesn’t have to be this way. Even if I had an extra 100 dollars a month as second income in graduate school that would go a LONG way. Why is that so much to ask for?  That 100 may just get me an extra meal, allow me to enjoy more time with my friends, or even help me pay off my debts (particularly student loans and credit cards). And it would allow me to not have to ask my parents for money each month or even have the thought of working a second job on the weekends.

As broke as graduate or professional students are, why aren’t there any options? How come if this is such a huge problem that there isn’t more useful and legit information on how to overcome it? Is a second job really the only solution? Or is there a better way to earn a second income in graduate school?

Earning Online A Second Income In Graduate School

So how did I earn a second income in graduate school?

The short answer: I developed and implemented my own informational product (aka ebook) Generating a second income for the poor graduate student, and sold it online. I started an online Science Blog (I’ll get to this later). I learned as much as I could and I taught myself. I have just started and it is growing as you read.

In the end I am confident that I live more comfortably.

Having a second income in graduate school helps get me through the daily grind. It gives me an edge over my friends who just decided that “this is it and I just have to accept that things are the way that they are.”

I wanted to help others overcome a very specific and widespread problem, “The Lack of Income in Graduate School.” This was one of many of my online informational products. And in the end, I wrote this book to share with you what I learned.

My only hope is that graduate students can live a better life. I’m happy to say that it is possible to live a better life even during graduate school, and I’ll tell you first hand that you don’t have to live scraping the bottom of the barrel each month.

If you are sick of it all and are willing to put in a little time and work each week, then your chances of earning a second income in graduate school greatly increase. You see that first sale. You become motivated. You push through. You watch your sales increase. You look back and smile and thank God you were lucky enough to be the one who stumbled upon the knowledge and information that allowed you to live more comfortably. Have I got your attention? I hope so.

I am in my 5th year in a PhD program in Cellular and Molecular Pathology. Without support from my parents (at first) and a second income I have no doubt in my mind that I would not have made it this far.

In the United States alone in 2008, 488,000 Master’s degrees and 56,000 doctorates were awarded. Thousands of students enroll in graduate school each year and during that time they struggle. They accrue student loan debt and interest. They have high hopes of landing a better job. Maybe they are in for a bitter disappointment about careers in science. Some people even say a PhD is a waste of time.

The bottom line is that most people figure they will just get a good job after going to graduate school and this will allow them to dedicate their time 100% to their day job and not have to worry about a second income. Well, it never hurts to have a second income in graduate school no matter what situation you are in.

The problem with grad students is that they don’t seek out answers. They just “tough it out.” They don’t want to put in the extra time or effort into anything but their graduate studies. If you remain complacent, you will live complacent. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a solution that I’d like to share.

I can hear your brains thinking, “This will never work. It’s already been done. I’ve tried everything from blogging, to surveys, and falling into the trap of pyramid schemes.” I can understand, I would think the same.

Forget it, ALL OF IT. This is a NO fluff, and NO hype book that I wrote to specifically help graduate students to earn a second income in graduate school. You’ve been trying to filter through all of the other garbage methods out there on the internet with no luck. I feel your frustration.

What if I told you that you could earn money using social media (Facebook), blogging, sending out emails, or simply surfing the web? You’re busy with school. Time and money are scarce. You need a quick and reliable method that will yield you the best results within a reasonable amount of time.

I’m not promising you will get rich or make a living online. But I will promise that you have great potential to earn a second income in graduate school and live more comfortably, which will help get you through college or graduate school. So let’s dig a little deeper if this still seems vague.

Sell an Informational Product Online That Relates To Your Particular Situation and Helps Others Overcome A Problem

This is by far the best way to earn a second income. This is the best bang for the buck. It’s a slow crawl at first and takes a lot of patience and persistence. It takes hard work. But with anything, hard work is a given.

What is the one TRUE method to actually earn a second income while in grad school or college? I have yet to read one or find a method that is geared towards specifically towards graduate, professional, or college students.

The trick is to find something you are good at and teach others about it. Or in other words, find some problems you and others have and provide a solution based on your expertise.

So how does one create a product to help another OVERCOME A PROBLEM? And keep the originality? And not produce some cookie cutter website or product?

The answer is you create your own informational product (like an E-book, paid video tutorials, podcast). And you don’t have to be a writer for this to work. You can pay someone on Textbroker to write it for you (this is optional).

If it’s your problem and you are passionate enough about the topic, you should be able to write about it and create an informational product mostly on your own. But you have the option of using Textbroker.

Outsourcing Your Ebook?

You’re busy with school. Time and money are scarce. So you can outsource your article. You can spend little money having someone else writing it for you. Then you can edit it and give your personal touch to it. Or if you have the time as stated previously, write the book yourself.

Then it comes down to online Marketing Principles. You earn all your money back and more. It’s a no-brainer. The hard part is getting the traffic to your sales page/product and promoting your product. Once you get past this, the profits start rolling in. There really is no secret to it. It takes time and hard work as with anything.

Is Writing An Ebook Something Original?

Sure! You pick the product or idea that you want others to overcome that is UNIQUE to your situation. Graduate or professional students are constantly faced with problems that they must overcome. I help people to earn a second income in graduate school. Next Scientist shares digital hacks that help scientists to be better at their work. Find something you are passionate about.

Here you have some ideas to title your ebook:

You need to tell people your story. And yes if it is useful then people will pay you for it! Share your hardships. Your audience will listen. And you can sell your product and help others learn from your experience. Maybe it’s something you struggled with and now you look back at all you have learned and you can’t wait to share that information.

Not only are you creating a product to help yourself earn income and tell your story, you are helping others along the way. You help others with their struggles or hardships and in return you earn a second income in graduate school. It’s a win-win.

Writing a Science Blog For Idea Collection And Ebook Promotion

So let’s go another step further here and put another spin on it. Maybe you want an online angle.

The first thing you can do to build your credibility with your audience is to start a science blog. It is a great way to vent some steam, show off your personality, and help others learn about your situation.

A science blog also has a great potential for earning a second income in graduate school. Your blog itself can even become a product. Yes, you can compile and sell your entire blog as an E-book. Then all you have to do is utilize online marketing principles as outlined in my E-book. Either way, you cannot go wrong with a blog. It is full of creative writing and original content, and gives you the freedom to promote your product and help others overcome your problem.

The other advantage to a blog is once you build an audience and your credibility (maybe it starts with your friends first), they are more likely to buy. What this means is if they bought your first product and they found it useful and informative, they are more likely to buy a second product as well.

The hard part is the starting point. But if your idea or blog is good enough, you will hit the ground running. You may even find by accident what your idea or problem is later on down the road based on your feedback from your audience. If they like the idea of say for example, “How I Effectively Wrote My Thesis in 3 weeks,” then write about it!

I’ve also seen a lot of PhD’s who are out of work. Can you help them somehow?

Maybe they are misinformed about having to do a post-doc and not knowing their career options outside of academia. Or you might know the best way to help someone land an internship. Or network. Or effectively write a scientific journal/manuscript. Or maintain a healthy lifestyle/balance or deal with depression/anxiety. Or be successful in graduate school (maybe geared towards students at the beginning of a program or at the end when it becomes tough to finish).

If there weren’t hardships then the drop-out rate wouldn’t be nearly 50%! So how did the other 50% make it through? How did they effectively overcome the problem? I ultimately leave that answer and idea up to you.

The possibilities are endless, and a science blog gives you the ability to sample all flavors, write about all the topics, and get a feel for what people would like to read about or potentially buy from you.

Do you want more ideas to blog about? Check these great science blogs and think how you can do something similar.

If you want to know to start your own science blog and don’t know how, check our video tutorial “How To Set Up Your Own Science Blog And Grow Your Academic Footprint”.

Leveraging Social Media

Social media has also opened a whole new world that will support your Blog, Website, or Informational Product. Can you use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook to get your story across? You bet!

Let’s begin with Facebook.

It has Fan Pages that you can create. This gives you the option to connect your blog with your Facebook Fan Page and your website/sales page. You can share in Facebook (or in Twitter, or LinkedIn) the live RSS Feed from your blog. Like this you can keep these different media channels automagically updated.Your blog posts will be visible to audiences across the board.

What we are aiming is that over time your friends will tell their friends and it spreads like wildfire. Word of mouth.

In order for this to occur, you must have informative, useful and interesting information. This will all come from your blog and is probably the best starting point. Either way, you add information and learn as you go.

Once you have a product to sell you throw this in the mix, and tell others via your blog and social media sites, the Social Media Trinity. The market is endless because if you come out with a second product all you have to do is repeat the process.

The advantage is that the second time around it will be easier to sell because you already have an established audience, reputation, and credibility that you built over time.

It’s Up To You To Make It Happen

These is a sketch of the basic steps you can follow to earn online a second income in graduate school. We just want to get you started. If you are interested in detailed steps, I would refer you to the ebook.

My goal is to not overwhelm you but make you aware of your options. If you use Social Media or a Blog and play it to your strengths, you can watch your informational product sales grow. You’ll never know unless you try. We are all full of information and problems that we have overcome or are currently faced with, and just need to know how to effectively portray and sell it to others.

Ultimately the idea is up to you. The only thing right now holding you back is yourself. If you want to go and work the traditional ‘second’ job to earn income be my guest.

The whole point of this post is to make you aware of easier ways to earn a second income in graduate school. Dig deeper and you will not be disappointed. Only you can guarantee your success. So take charge now and never look back.

If you want to go the extra mile you can get all the info you need in the book Generating a second income for the poor graduate student.

Second Income in Graduate School

Thinking Of Applying to Graduate School? Check These Sample Letters For Graduate School

When applying to graduate school you are going to submit several letters. The goal is to give a good impression and get invited for an interview. You should adapt  to your needs a sample letter that has been successfully used.

[note color=”#efdcde”]Check our letters for graduate school, which include a statement of purpose for graduate school and a recommendation letter for graduate school. You can get the letters for graduate school here.[/note]

Additionally you can get sample letters you will need throughout graduate school, for instance when you are submitting your first scientific paper to a journal or when you are applying to a scientific conference.

Check the letters for graduate school here.

About Ryan Raver

Ryan is the author of the book Generating a second income for the poor graduate student, where he teaches graduate students how to make some extra money. He also blogs atThe Grad Student Way. You can follow him on Twitter (@GradStudentWay).


  1. So if I need to earn money, I should write and sell a book on how to earn money too?  Who’s going to buy my book, the other people that are writing books on how to earn money because they too need to earn money?

    This is the biggest load of BS.

    • NextScientist says:

      Hi Andy,

      I can image what you think: this is a Ponzi scheme or some similar stuff. 

      The idea is that if you can teach somebody something that they might be willing to pay for, you can write a book and earn some extra cash. 

      Ryan started with the topic “making money in grad school”. You can find other examples like How To Tame Your PhD (Thesis Whisperer Books), a book that the people at Thesis Whisperer put together because they are experts on how to survive a PhD. 
      It’s also what Marc Kuchner did with his book Marketing for Scientists.

      You can also think of alternative methods of making money, like we do here in Next Scientist with affiliate links (the links of the books above are affiliate links) or by selling a statement of purpose for graduate school.


    • Gradstudentway says:

      Hey Andy,

      Obviously not everyone is going to be writing about how to earn a second income for grad students because then we’d have a lot of the same. If you read the whole article above (or even the Ebook), the hardest part is coming up with the idea. But there is a section called “Is Writing An Ebook Original?” which gives you a few examples. My next Ebook (to be released in 2013) is “The Dire Need To Network While In Grad School And How To Effectively Do It: Utilizing Today’s Social Media, Landing A Good Job, and Building Important Professional Relationships.” So I write the Ebook and just reapply all the online marketing techniques as outlined in my first Ebook. That’s the MAIN POINT of the Ebook. To teach you how to use resources at your fingertips to effectively market it online. Not teach you how to write some cookie-cutter method, product, website, or Ebook just to make money off others. I didn’t sales pitch any of my friends- I sent them the Ebook for free because I want to help others overcome their problem (lack of income). YOU come up with the idea.

      From there, I teach you how to sell it. That’s it. And it is completely up to you how much time/money you want to invest up front. I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise lol until you actually read the Ebook. I picked “How To Generate A Second Income For Graduate Students” as my first Ebook because it is an untapped market and my idea was original. Go on google and type in
      ‘second income graduate’ or ‘second income college’, you’ll see my site on the first page. If people want to write another Ebook with my same idea, then I can’t stop them. However, any idea that you come up with.. My Ebook teaches you how to bring in traffic and will get you ranked on the first page of Google. But your idea should be original and should help others overcome a problem while in graduate school (or whatever stage in your career).

      These are words from someone else who actually read the Ebook and gave it an honest review (instead of being cynical right off the bat):

      “After reading this ebook, I not only found out WHY I need to make money but also how to do it! When first going through this book, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a get rich quick (and make me rich in the process) scheme from the author, but it turned out to be quite an informative read and I am glad that I stumbled upon it. Really the author makes it apparent that this is not a scheme because none of the money-making techniques would go to the author, but to you from other online sources.”

      • Jeremy Clarkson says:

        I think I completely agree with Andy’s views here. I am not really sold on the idea of writing ebooks unless I have very strong content and I am extremely knowledgable on the subject I am writing about. So, suppose I buy your book even though all the content is very vague. Doing that will give you 5 bucks and there goes my 5$ footlong for the week. Even though you repeatedly say that this book is ‘no fluff’ and ‘no hype’, I truly find that hard to believe.

        I am a graduate student too and I don’t think I need career advice from a fellow grad student. I would rather hedge my bets on somebody who is established in his/her career. Not to mention, in this day and age you can get everything from the internet by reading free articles by expert  science writers who know what they are talking about.

        I think I went into research knowing what I was getting into and also knowing how much I would be paid as a grad student. I was thinking this through before setting out on a 6 year endeavor. If the money wasn’t enough for my survival or as you put it ‘not enough to put food on my table’, I would have taken a different route to get where I want to be in life. If I realized that I made a mistake by joining grad school, I would be smart enough to leave the grad program as soon as possible.  I had a friend who left grad school and is now happily employed and is doing what he likes.There is no shame in quitting when you realise a certain career path is not for you.

        Here’s my 2 cents of honest advice to you. Realize that you do not go into any career thinking about money, but for the satisfaction of work. If i was you, I would rather spend my energy and resources on making my life what I want it to be. You are clearly unhappy in graduate school and you are spreading propaganda on your website to bring down other graduate students who might be genuinely interested in doing scientific research, which again is the main reason why you should be in grad school in the first place. No one forced you to go to grad school and no one is forcing you to stay in grad school. There is no guarantee that a PhD will get you more money and happiness down the road. So personally, you should focus on the next step rather than constantly complaining about your current situation. Honestly, people who DO NOT want to be in grad school should quit and make way for students who would really benefit from the research training. Take this for what its worth. I am wrapping this up so that I can go and grab 5$ toasted footlong with extra cheese.


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