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What Is A PhD Student? A Definition

What is a PhD studentWhen many of us started our undergraduate degrees we may have had plans to keep going with a masters
and then on to a hallowed PhD, but very few of us actually end up as a PhD student.

All PhD students are conducting some sort of research and many of them will be also teaching and assisting in their departments. Very few PhDs are completed on a part-time basis, so most PhD students are studying on a full-time basis. PhD students have often been getting ready to embark on their doctoral studies for a very long time. While many of them may have taken up paid research positions, but this is not always the case so searching for funding is an on going activity for some PhD students. 

Here we take a look at many of the factors that make up what a PhD student actually is...

They're quite mature...

PhD students are all mature students, as they have already completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees already. Most PhD students will have done a masters in preparation for starting a PhD, this is often an MPhil or a Masters by Research. All of this previous study means that PhD students have strong study skills and have spent time building academic qualifications in the lead up to their PhD. Many students go straight through an undergraduate and masters level to a PhD, but many other students have already started working,
and their PhD is a way to grow an already established career. 


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PhD students are always researching

PhDs are all research degrees and most students who are embarking on a PhD have already completed some form of research. The research comes in many forms, such as scientific, sociological, archaeological, medical or historical and this research guided by their PhD supervisor. This is one of the most important relationships during a PhD as it is their guidance that shapes a PhD student's thesis

Many PhD students are teaching

Many PhD students will supplement their income by teaching or working as assistants in their department or work at the university. In some institutions it is expected that PhD students will do this and in other universities it is an optional extra that is not required. Teaching responsibilities may include assisting with lectures or tutorials and helping with undergraduate supervision. 

They are mostly full-time students 

This can be one of the big attractions for some undergraduates when they see PhD students still living a student lifestyle. However, most PhD students would not think that their lifestyles are something to aim for and the academic work they need to do does take up most of their time. The vast majority of PhD students are full-time and part-time PhD students find it difficult to maintain their studies over the six to eight years it may take to complete their research. They are, however, often very passionate about their studies. 

Some of them are getting paid to study

PhD students select their topic for research in one of two ways. They might decide on their research topic and then find a PhD supervisor or they may apply for one of the many advertised research positions. Searching for a supervisor can be a difficult route, especially if you change institutions between your masters and your PhD. Using the network of contacts you have built up during your previous studies or career is the key to finding a supervisor. The advantage of the second route is that the funding for the research is already in place and the student will receive a stipend as well. 

PhD students do worry about funding

Getting funding in place is a major worry for a large proportion of PhD students and it is often the case that many students start their PhDs without full funding in place. This is often why students might start on a part-time basis. PhD funding can come from a huge range of sources including the government, grants and scholarships and most students begin their search with their university department.

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