Does Cornell allow graduate students to accept contract or consulting work a few hours per week?

Date: February 2021


Dear Deans,

It’s my understanding that professors are able to contract out or do consulting work a certain number of hours a week. I know grad students at other schools who are also able to contract or consult a few hours a week. In the interest of getting some industry experience, is this something Cornell has considered allowing?


Diversifying Grad Student


Hi Diversifying Grad Student,

Students may accept outside employment, including consulting or contract work, but there are a few important conditions that must be met.  Graduate School and University policies allow students to accept reasonable opportunities for gaining professional experience, and earning some extra income, without inadvertently falling out of compliance with tax or visa rules, and minimizing any potential “conflicts of commitment.”

Graduate School students are limited to accepting no more than 20 hours per week of employment and/or assistantship duties.  The 20 hour limit is established by policy for all full-time students and is a matter of law for international students on most forms of student visas.  Since most TA and RA assistantships are 15 hour per week appointments (on average), TAs and RAs would be able to take on an additional 5 hours/week of employment or consulting work.  By policy, students on Cornell fellowships or GRA appointments may accept up to 8 hours per week of employment of consulting work.  You’ll find more information here:

International students (those on F1 or J1 visas) should check with the office of Global Learning before accepting any outside employment.  Off-campus employment is often non permitted outside of structured CPT or OPT arrangements.  It’s also important to discuss with your special committee chair or PI, since some opportunities might create a conflict of interest or lead to intellectual property conflicts. It’s best to consider those details well in advance. 

The “conflict of commitment” that I referenced above refers to the expectation that is created when a full-time student accepts funding from Cornell.  All funding offers are made with the hope and expectation that you’ll be able to immerse yourself in your studies and make steady efficient progress towards your degree.  Finishing a PhD dissertation takes tremendous focus so be aware that employment or distractions can have a real impact on the time it takes to finish.  It’s usually best to hold off on consulting and contracting until after you have your diploma framed and hanging on your wall!



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration