Getting a foot in the door: writing your final thesis in cooperation with a company

FemmeCurieuse / photocase.de

The grand finale of any Bachelor’s or Master’s study program is the thesis. The classic route is to write this at the uni. But for anyone who likes to take a more practical approach, it is also possible to write your final thesis whilst working for a company. But only a few people choose to do this.

The traditional way: spending months writing your final thesis, which is then read and evaluated by your professor and the result ends up just lying in a drawer. But what if your final thesis not only ended your study program at university, but also opened the door to your new career?

Companies want students who have already gained some experience whilst studying. Whether this is through an internship or employment as a working student. But there is a third option: completing your final thesis in cooperation with a company. A successful practical thesis can open the door to your new career.

The company also benefits: the aspiring graduate invests a lot of work in their project, paying more attention to detail than an existing employee would be able to. That is why more and more companies are looking for employees who want to write their final thesis in the company.

Why? The advantages:

  1. Networking: It can be help students forge new contacts. And practical work is a great opportunity to really get to know a company. You can also make contacts that can play an important role in helping you kick start your career.
  2. Your résumé: A practical scientific thesis can be a huge advantage in your résumé. Students that finish uni having gained more than theoretical knowledge are highly sought after by employees. If you work on a practical project in a company, the company can see that you have gained practical experience outside of university.
  3. Wage: getting paid to do your final thesis? Why not? Most companies pay a small wage. So you can be sure that your practical work really pays off. 
  4. Project: By writing your thesis in a company, you can take on a project and this means that you will be given responsibility. And you also know that your scientific work has a practical use and is thus more valuable.

How does it work? Take time to research well beforehand

Copyright: simonthon.com / photocase.de

There are numerous job portals that specialize in final theses. But be aware: most of the jobs advertised are also for interns or work students. The University of Stuttgart’s job portal also features a number of offers for writing your thesis in a company. If you are lucky, the department where you want to write your thesis is has advertisements for companies where you can write your thesis on the bulletin board. But if you have to search on your own, ask your professors or other graduates what companies might come into question. It is definitely beneficial to work for a company that has already mentored students writing their final thesis. Lots of students write their thesis in a company where they previously worked as a work student or intern. If you’re lucky you might get an offer. But it is definitely worth asking your boss whether you might have the chance to write your thesis whilst working for the company.

Generally speaking, it is important to apply early. It can take a long time to find a company that suits your chosen subject and the topic of your thesis.

 

What you need to be aware of:

  1. Suddenly employed: as a student, you work for the company and write your thesis at the same time – when you try to do two important things at once it can happen that you don’t dedicate enough time to one of them. That’s why it is important to choose the right company. It has to suit your subject area and suit you.
  2. The servant of two masters: your work has to meet the expectations of your professor and your supervisor at work. The thesis concept, the approach you take and any changes to the main focus have to be discussed with all parties. Generally speaking, the company is most interested in the results of your Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis, whereas your professor is most concerned with ensuring that you take a scientific approach to writing your thesis. And that is something a lot of people forget: officially, the company has no influence on the topic and content of your thesis, the uni alone examines your work and decides the scientific criteria and formalities. Even if you are writing your thesis in cooperation while working for a company, don’t forget that your professor will be giving you the final grade.
  3. Confidential data:  the work you are doing often gives you access to confidential data that you will not be allowed to publish. For that reason, a company will usually choose not to publish the results of the research. This is usually not the case for those writing a thesis at the uni. The working contract will define whether you are only permitted limited access to data or if you are not allowed to use certain things in your thesis. It is important to clear this issue up beforehand so that your supervisor and professor agree with the topic and the requirements.

    Working in the university library.
    (Copyright: University of Stuttgart)

  4. In for the long haul: Writing your final thesis in cooperation with a company can take a long time. The company can make lots of demands – for example giving you tasks that have nothing to do with your thesis. And before you can really get started, you have to familiarize yourself with the company’s structures. Make sure you plan enough time for this.
  5. Topic: The best motivation is an honest interest in the subject, because at the end of the day, you will be spending a lot of time working on it. In a company it usually isn’t possible for you to independently choose your topic. Companies often offer subjects that are not compatible with exam regulations. It is important to clarify such issues with your professor at the uni before you get started.
  6. Money, money, money: Regardless of how much, or how little, money the company pays: a final thesis written in cooperation with a company counts as a training allowance. That means that your Bafög allowance will be reduced. Make an appointment at the office responsible for your BAföG grant and find out if the money you receive will have an effect on the amount of BAföG you get.

 

Conclusion

Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Read your work contract carefully so that you are aware of what the requirements are. All parties – the graduate, the uni and the company – can benefit from the collaboration, but only if they truly support the undertaking. And what happens after you have completed your thesis? You can find some inspiration here.

 

Feven

 

Works in the Department of University Communications at University of Stuttgart. She studied in Tübingen and Berlin and came to the realization that: “These are the good old days that we will long to return to in ten years.”

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