Skip to main content
Careers and Enterprise

Considering a PhD

Undertaking a PhD can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it is important to understand the commitment and style of working that is required in order to make a decision about whether it is right for you.

What will a PhD involve?

Unlike an undergraduate or even postgraduate course where the aim is to take a certain number of modules, a PhD is about creating a piece of original, highly detailed research that will contribute to your field of expertise. This requires a huge amount of self-discipline, motivation and time management. A PhD usually takes 3-4 years to complete and sometimes longer, so patience and persistence are also important traits to possess. It can be quite a lonely experience working on such an extensive project on your own, so think about whether this fits with your preferred working style. If you value frequent interaction with colleagues, you may want to question whether this is the right option for you after all. 

Will a PhD help you?

Take time to investigate whether your PhD will improve your chances of getting into the career area you are looking to enter. Look at job adverts and speak to those working in the industry to find out whether a PhD is really valued by employers, so you have realistic expectations about whether or not your PhD will progress your career prospects. Many pursue a PhD with a view to becoming an academic, but the reality is that there are proportionally very few lectureship positions available compared to the number of PhD candidates.

Career development is not the only reason for doing a PhD. The academic achievement itself and the opportunity to gain specialist knowledge might be your sources of motivation instead. Either way, there are a huge number of transferable skills that you gain from undertaking a PhD which will be valuable to future employers. These include research skills, analytical and critical thinking skills, problem solving, time management, taking initiative and prioritisation, as well as any technical or subject specific knowledge that you acquire which could be of value in the industry.

Make the most of your time by taking part in additional work or projects outside of your research where you can further develop your skills and experience. This is also likely to be a welcome change to your area of research!

Investigate funding

Some PhDs will be funded, but others will require you to pay fees. Talk to the department you are looking to apply to about the funding that previous PhD students have been able to access. You might want to investigate any part time work opportunities either at the institution or somewhere you can commute to, so you can gain additional experience as well as additional income to help with your living costs.

Finding the right supervisor will have a huge impact on your PhD. Find out as much as you can about potential supervisors and their areas of expertise before applying for a PhD. University department websites will have staff profiles that are a useful start. They will also have details about their research areas and the PhD application process. Attending an open day is a valuable way to see the facilities for yourself, talk to current PhD students and supervisors, as well as see if the location