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What Exactly is a PhD, and Why Should You Pursue One?

What is a PhD?

A PhD is an abbreviation for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, sometimes known as a ‘doctorate’ in the United Kingdom. It is the greatest level of education that a student can obtain. A Doctor of Philosophy is recognized as a DPhil at several universities, including Oxford University. It differs from professional doctorates like the Engineering Doctorate (EngD).

  • Entry requirements

A bachelor’s degree is required at the very least, and many will additionally require a master’s degree (such as an MA, MSc, or MRes). Some scholarships will be awarded on a 1+3 basis, which means that one year of master’s financing will be combined with three years of PhD support.

  • How to apply for a PhD

Prospective students are normally required to submit a research proposal to the department in which they intend to study. Some departments will advise students to first explore their ideas with an academic who works in that discipline. The proposal will detail what they aim to study in their research, how it links to existing research in their field, and what methods they intend to employ to conduct their research. Some PhDs, particularly in the sciences, are offered as studentships with more prescriptive research goals.

  • How long is the course?

A PhD normally lasts three years, or at least any available financing does. Students may be able to take additional time to finish their thesis, although this is normally at their own expense. It can take up to seven years for part-time, self-funded students.

  • What’s involved

A PhD often culminates in a dissertation of 80,000-100,000 words based on research conducted during the course of their studies. The study must be original, with the goal of creating new information or theories in their field of expertise, or building on current knowledge or theories. Many departments accept candidates on an MPhil level at first, then elevate them to PhD status after a year or two, assuming sufficient progress. Students who are not completing work acceptable for the level can instead submit a shorter thesis and receive an MPhil.

There is limited instruction; students are expected to work autonomously, with the assistance of their department and a supervisor. Depending on the subject, there may be seminars to attend and/or lab work to perform. Students will aim to get scholarly articles published and present their work at conferences during their studies in order to gain feedback on their dissertation proposals.

  • New Route PhD

The New Route PhD, which was introduced in 2001, is a four-year program that integrates teaching aspects, such as professional and transferable skills, with the student’s research. Hundreds of PhD students are currently studying a wide range of areas at a partnership of UK universities.

  • Career prospects for PhD Students

PhD graduates who go on to work in academia typically begin with postdoctoral research, followed by a fellowship or lectureship.Other job prospects will depend on the field of study for the PhD – commercial research is a choice for some, and many can apply their expert knowledge and research abilities in business and finance.

Why do a PhD?

If you are thinking about doing one, make sure you do it with a reason. Do one because you want to, understand why you want to, and have a clear concept of where it could lead.How would pursuing a PhD help you reach your goals in the future?

Reasons to do a PhD.

  1. It will benefit your career. No one expects you to have a complete career plan when you begin a PhD, but having some ideas of where you want to go can be beneficial. However, keep in mind that you may not immediately reap the benefits of a PhD.
  2. You want to be a subject matter expert in a specific area. You will be if you complete a PhD. No one, not your supervisor, not your external examiner at the end of your PhD, no one knows more about the subject than you do.
  3. You want to accomplish something. You want to work hard and show that you care about your subject, as well as how much time and effort you put in and how motivated you are.
  4. One of the numerous abilities you’ll be able to exhibit to employers after completing a PhD is your capacity to motivate yourself, which is useful when entering a competitive employment market.

Reasons not to do a PhD.

  1. Don’t do it simply because your degree research project supervisor asked whether you wanted to collaborate on one. If you want to do one and it’s in a field that interests you, go for it. If you hadn’t considered performing one before they asked, and you’re not sure why you want to, make sure you figure that out before saying yes.
  2. Don’t do it because you have nothing else to do. Many people pursue a PhD because they don’t know what else to do and believe it will offer them more time to figure it out. A PhD requires at least 3-4 years of your life and a lot of hard work, so make sure you understand why before you start one.
  3. And do it because YOU WANT TO, not because your family or others expect you to, or because your family or friends are doing or have done something similar. Make your own choice, not someone else’s.

Why Should YOU Do A PhD?

It is your decision to commit to a substantial amount of time and energy, and it must be approached cheerfully and enthusiastically, but also realistically about the benefits and drawbacks of conducting original research.

Who does a PhD?

A conventional perspective of PhDs is that of the “perpetual student,” or someone who remains on after earning an undergraduate and/or master’s degree to pursue a PhD. Some of you reading this will fall into the category of individuals who progress through the stages of higher education in this order (though this does not necessarily make you a “perpetual student”!). The PhD population today is highly diverse, and it is not completely made up of 21 to 25-year-olds who have spent the most of their life in educational environments.

Others may be considering a return to study to change careers or to advance professionally within an existing employment. Some of you may be thinking about traveling to the UK to study on your own or with the help of an organization in your native country. Whatever your position, it is critical that you recognize and comprehend why you are making this commitment and what it implies.

Let us now turn our attention to the reasons why YOU should pursue a PhD. Positive reasons can be broadly classified as follows:

You WANT to or You NEED to

When some academic colleagues were asked to suggest reasons why someone should pursue a PhD, all of them used the term “passion” in their responses. This is having a genuine interest in your subject and a specific aspect of it that you wish to research deeper. My colleagues also made some intriguing observations on the realities of deciding to pursue a PhD even when you are passionate about it.

Some have commented on the importance of doing the correct PhD for you rather than just any PhD, and I believe it is critical that you take this seriously since it can be harmful to compromise too much and embark on research that you are not interested in simply because it will lead to a PhD.

Academic peers also urged you to think about where your PhD might take you. Do you wish to pursue a career in academia or apply for jobs in industry or other organizations where a PhD is required or will help you operate at a higher level? Interestingly, Vitae’s research on PhD students’ job plans indicated that less than one-third had definite career ideas even in the final phases of their PhD.

This figure is troubling since it may imply that PhD students miss out on possibilities to broaden their experience. You don’t need to have a specific career plan in place before you start your PhD, but completing study on where it might lead you is beneficial. Those who are already working and considering a PhD as part of their professional development, or those who are considering a PhD as part of a career transition into academics, should look forward and ensure that their future ambitions are reasonable and possible.

A decision to pursue a PhD comprises the same procedures as any other career decision; you must learn as much as possible about what a PhD entails. Along with thinking about where your interests lay and where they can lead, you should look into things like:

  • The working environment and how you will adapt to any differences with your current situation
  • Working with a supervisor
  • What funding is available and what it covers, i.e. fees only or fees and living costs?
  • Most importantly what behaviours, skills and experiences YOU have that will make you a successful and productive researcher.

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