Studying for a PhD

A PhD – or Doctor of Philosophy – is the next step up the academic ladder after a Taught Master’s programme. It is the ultimate mark of academic, educational and intellectual ability in which the student will be expected to completely master a narrow field of study and then extend that knowledge further.

Reasons to do a PhD

There are many reasons why you may want to do a PhD – here are just a few of them:

  1. Sense of achievement
    We all want to achieve something in our lives, and what better an achievement then receiving the academic accolade of being a Doctor? Gaining a PhD will make you a respected expert in a specialised field of knowledge.
  2. Learn something new
    There is almost nothing more fulfilling in life than learning something new, it certainly keeps the brain active and interested – and will give your life a real sense of purpose!
  3. Gain new skills
    While you are undertaking you Doctor of Philosophy, as well as learning more about your targeted field of study, you will also be gaining new skills – like thorough research skills and excellent communication skills, all of which will stand you in good stead when you go back into the jobs’ market.
  4. Career advancement
    Many PhD graduates continue working in the world of academia once their doctorate is complete – and this is undeniably a great area in which to work. But in this ever-competitive world, a PhD is also a great asset to other areas of employment, anywhere where knowledge is regarded as an asset, be it in the public sector, business, industry or government.
  5. Change your life
    Above all, studying for a PhD will be a life-changing experience for you. It will give you a whole new outlook and perspective on life – and as long as you are up to the challenge it will be a rewarding experience that will change your life for the better!

Length of a PhD

Determining the length of a PhD is in some ways like saying how long is a piece of string! That's to say, there is often an option to extend the length of time of your studies, should other life commitments get in the way. However, generally speaking a PhD will be between 3-5 years long, with an initial year spent in the classroom, followed by a further 2-4 years of supervised research. This culminates in the writing of a final research piece or thesis  of up to 100,000 words in length.

Considerations when opting to do a PhD

There are many things to consider before you take the plunge into the PhD world – this is a big commitment that will take up at least three years of your life – so it is important that you try and make sure it is the right decision.

Your main considerations should be:

  1. Can you afford it?
    The cost implications are not merely the tuition costs (in many cases studentships and scholarships are available to help PhD students), but you also have to factor in your living costs and the fact that you almost certainly won’t be earning money from a ‘proper job’ for at least three years. So it is a good idea to work out how you are going to fund your Doctor of Philosophy before you start – and don’t forget if you have already been accepted onto a PhD programme you can apply for one of our x13 £500 study bursaries .
  2. What qualifications do you need?
    In most cases a PhD student will have already demonstrated a high level of academic achievement and excellence, having gained an undergraduate degree and a Taught Master’s . However this is not always essential as your academic requirements could be dependent on your proposed area of study, so do check with your potential institution or research supervisor to see what academic credentials you need.
  3. Research proposal
    The key for successful entry and execution of a Doctor of Philosophy is an excellent research proposal coupled with a decent PhD supervisor to work alongside you and support you through your studies. So you need to ensure you have chosen an interesting and expandable area of study, and have found a suitable supervisor.

Choosing a university

Your choice of university will play an important part in the enjoyment and success of your PhD programme. It could well be that the nature of your proposed area of academic study will determine the institution that you study at, due to a corresponding specialised academic department or an already formed relationship with a potential PhD supervisor. Other considerations could be wanting to live in and get to know a new city or country – although if you are an international student make sure you check the visa requirements .

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