The basics of studying for a PhD

PhD studying


The purpose of a PhD programme is to allow students to acquire expertise and knowledge on a specific subject. This can be attained through research, teaching, direct learning or by training on the job. Your final thesis will be assessed by a panel of academics and if approved, you will receive your Doctorate. This is the highest degree awarded by a university faculty or other approved educational organisation, so, as you can imagine, the standard is high.

It is imperative that anyone thinking about embarking on this journey, must be committed and go in with their eyes open. It takes time, money and dedication to be successful, so if you are considering a PhD, we’ve outlined the basics for you below.

Reasons to do a Doctoral Program

Ask yourself if this is the right path for you. If you just are not satisfied with the career you currently have, there are a lot of easier ways to retrain than a PhD. Where do you see yourself working and achieving your professional goals? What is your chosen field? If your motivation comes from improving your career options, and a love of academia, then getting this qualification just might be beneficial. You must have the drive, focus, and determination, as well as an end goal in mind; this will help you stay on track when the path gets tough. And it will.

What do you want to study?

When you apply for a PhD, you must have a thesis in mind and this must be approved by your potential supervisor. How can you contribute to this field? What is the subject that you a) want to be an expert in and b) can maintain a sustained interest in? You should know exactly what you want to do on the PhD programme of your choice, but don’t worry, you can always change track once you start your educational journey. In fact, it is not necessary to be fully knowledgeable on the topic you choose from the outset.

Handling the financial issues

It is a big commitment financially to pursue a doctoral degree. Fees can range from €3,000 – €10,000 + depending on your field per year, and most PhDs run longer than the minimum 3 years. Unless you have substantial savings, the chance that you complete the course without debt is low, even with the large number of scholarships and bursaries available. However, don’t forget that this could be a good investment in your future. After you have a place in the profession of your choice, you are most likely going to earn more than other graduates without a doctorate.

Will it improve my career?

This really just depends on what subject you have chosen. If you have decided what programme you want to do, then all you need to do is figure out how your research will aid the career you want in the long term. There are a few PhD courses, like law, where your next professional step is clear. Then there are PhD courses, such as 18th-century poetry, that have less power in changing your career path or improving your financial future. Although every course will still be beneficial, speaking from an intellectual mindset.

Application process: getting ready

If you are positive that you wish to undertake a PhD program, then you must think about the process you need to go through to apply. When choosing a doctoral course, be sure of your choice of programme and institution. Which university has the best resources for your field? Which has the most relevant historical catalog or the most papers published? Remember to do your research so you know for sure that the application you put in will be a successful one. Reach out to your potential supervisors; offer to buy them a coffee and pick their brain!

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