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- by Charlotte King
- In General, PHD
Posted Jan. 16, 2023
How Long Does It Take To Get A PhD (Doctorate)?
As with many things in life, how long it takes you to get a PhD depends mostly on you. Because doctorate degrees are flexible, the duration of study can vary. But if you work hard and are disciplined, how long will it take you to get a PhD
How long is a full-time PhD?
In most cases, PhD research involves full-time study. You should expect to dedicate around 35 hours per week to your work. However, in busy periods, such as writing up your thesis, you may need to work for considerably longer.
In the UK
In the UK, it usually takes three to four years of full-time study to gain a PhD. Time is spent carrying out research and collecting data towards a thesis. Your thesis can take a year to write and will offer an original contribution to your subject.Once you have completed your thesis you will usually have to undertake a PhD viva to present, explain and defend your research.
Most students begin a PhD after completing a relevant masters course. A masters degree will usually take around one year to complete if you are studying full time, or two to five years if you are studying part time. So from undergraduate to doctorate, you should expect it to take at least four years full time.
In Europe, the time it takes to gain a PhD can vary depending on the country and the subject of study. For example, in Germany, a PhD in a scientific subject might take two to three years full time, and a doctorate in the arts or humanities may take four to six years full time. In Norway, all PhDs usually take three years on a full-time basis. Most countries are similar to the UK, where you complete your PhD once you have done a relevant masters course.
In Norway, all PhDs usually take three years on a full-time basis – here is a great explanation from the University of Oslo. It can take up to six years to complete a PhD on a part-time basis, but this way of studying is unusual.
In the USA
The USA has a different university set up to the UK and Europe as most doctorate degrees are gained by going to Graduate School straight after you have completed your undergraduate degree. This means that the time it takes to gain your masters-level qualification is built into the time it takes to get your PhD. It is common for it to take four to five years to gain a Doctorate from the time you start Graduate School, but it can take up to eight years of full-time study. It depends on the institution and the type of PhD you choose.
Some institutions, like Franklin University, allow students to transfer credits and count professional work experience towards their doctorate degrees, so you could complete a PhD in as little as three years.
How long is a part-time PhD?
Studying for a PhD part time is a good way to accommodate other work or life commitments alongside your research. Typically, it takes twice as long as a full-time PhD and you will study for around 20 hours a week.
In the UK
Not many PhD students undertake their doctorate on a part-time basis, but those who do will have between five and seven years to complete their PhD.
Part-time PhDs are unusual in Europe. In Germany, you could expect a PhD to take four to eight years. France is similar to Germany, and it takes around three to four years for a full-time doctorate in the sciences, and four to five years for a doctorate degree in the arts and humanities. At the University of Oslo, it can take up to six years to complete a PhD on a part-time basis.
In the USA
Part-time and online PhDs are more common in the USA and these take anywhere from five to 10 years to complete.
How long is a distance learning PhD?
There are some doctorate degrees which are studied by distance learning. These online PhDs allow students to study at a location and time that suits their schedule. These tend to be part time only and usually take up to seven years to complete.
Entry requirements for a PhD
In the UK the vast majority of PhD candidates will begin a PhD after completing a relevant masters course. A masters degree will usually take around one year to complete if you are studying full time, or two to five years if you are studying part time. Once you've gained this qualification you can move onto the doctorate after you have excelled at your PhD interview.
Different countries in Europe have different traditions and regulations surrounding doctorate degrees. Most countries are similar to the UK, where you complete your PhD once you have done a relevant masters course.
Why does it take so long to complete a PhD?
Due to the complexity of the study and the amount of original research required, PhDs typically take longer to complete than other undergraduate degrees. It can take a long time to create a thesis, since you must make an original and noteworthy contribution to your field.
What is the deadline for finishing a PhD?
The deadline for submitting your PhD will be set by your university. In the UK, the deadline is defined by the last date on which you can submit your thesis. For most PhDs, the deadline is four years for full-time students and seven years for part-time students. It may be possible to extend the deadline up to four years, but this is at the discretion of the university.
Does funding impact the length of a PhD?
Generally, PhD funding providers will cover you for a set amount of time during the course of your PhD. Most students will aim to finish their PhD within the timeframe set by their funding provider to avoid incurring additional fees.
Self-funded students cover their own tuition fees and other related costs, therefore many self-funded students aim to complete their PhDs in the shortest time possible.
Read more about postgraduate tuition fees on our fees and funding information page.
Find your ideal PhD
Search for your ideal PhD or browse our collection of helpful PhD articles on Postgrad.
Going to pursue your PhD? Now choose your student accommodation with AmberStudent for the college of your choice. With great student accommodation options across the UK, USA, and Europe, you have a plethora of choices at your disposal with Amber.
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally published in April 2018, it now contains some updated information.
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Charlotte King June 28, 2019, 1:59 p.m.
Hi Elisha, A bachelors degree in counselling, social work, or child psychology is often a good start for a child counselling career, and most child counsellors are usually required to earn graduate degrees as well. So that would be a minimum of 4 years study.
Amoo Monsuru Olukayode Nov. 24, 2021, 2:44 a.m.
I want to study abroad in any UK country
Charlotte King Dec. 6, 2021, 9:37 p.m.
We have a comprehensive section on postgraduate study in the UK to help you make your decision > https://www.postgrad.com/study-in-uk/
I hope it helps.
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Elisha June 25, 2019, 9:49 p.m.
I’m Wanting to be a child therapist so what degree would I need for this and how long would I be at uni for Thankyou