Part Time PhD – Thoughts and Realities

Doing a Part Time PhD – Thoughts and Realities

“I would do a science or engineering job for free if my bills could be paid for.”

This is one of my heartfelt and honest sayings that I truly believe in, and hopefully an eye-opener for the following article to come:

As a Part time PhD researcher there are a lot of things to consider and there are pros and cons of this lifestyle.

Firstly, here are my “pros”

  1. Funding your own tuition and research means you get to choose your own work hours and essentially your own project scope and theme. When a PhD is full time and is a funded position, it is often for a very specific topic, one that may not be entirely to your interest or skill set.  Having the freedom to do this (and of course a very supportive supervisor) certainly helps for motivation and commitment to your project.  The psychology here is that “as it is my own project, I am investing a lot of my own emotion and thoughts into it, and therefore it really belongs to me.”
  2. Funding – whilst the tuition costs are half the full time costs, it is obviously cheaper per year. Whilst this effectively means you potentially take twice as long (6 years) to complete your PhD, it also means that your weekly expected hours are much more reduced.  It is my understanding that approximately 16-20 hours a week are expected of a part time PhD researcher – much easier to fit your life style around and if you are feeling particularly enthused, you can pump in a lot more hours of work!  To compliment your lifestyle, you can look into ways of making money from home.
  3. Having a smaller “hours” minimum dedicated to your research allows you to take up a full time job to compliment your income. Depending on your profession, you could either do related jobs (in my case I am an engineer, so I set up my own engineering consultancy business) or pick and choose contract work / recruitment agency jobs as you like.  There is something exciting about turning up for a recruitment based job for a week or two and being “incognito” and just getting your head down and doing the work.  It also breaks up the time a bit whilst making money!
  4. Doing a full time job whilst you study, especially if its related to your own profession, adds that all important “experience” factor to your CV – and you can combine what you learn in the workplace to your research, and vice versa. In my opinion, that is effectively doubling your learning rate!
  5. Doing a PhD part time also means you can theoretically have more papers published. Therefore, if you are already having your work peer reviewed by experts in the field, when it comes to your viva / end of submission, you have technically proved already you have contributed to your area of expertise, increasing your chances of being awarded that all important Doctorate!

So, what about the cons?  Again, these are my opinions but the downsides are:

  1. 6 years or more is a long time to invest – you really have to ask yourself is this something I can commit to for so long? Will I get bored?
  2. Will somebody beat me to my idea and research, no longer making my idea novel?
  3. With tuition fees being high at the time of writing this, you are looking at about £3500 a year – therefore £21,000 for a PhD. Can you justify spending that much to add a few letters to your name, but be an expert in your area?
  4. Being highly qualified (a Doctorate is the highest degree you can earn) *WILL* eliminate a lot of job opportunities for you – purely because there is a consensus that you are over qualified for many roles and you may be over looked or outright ignored in any applications. Can you handle this?

So, you have to ask yourself WHY you want to even do a research degree in the first place.  Do you just want the honour to being called “Doctor…” or are your motivations much deeper?  That is something you have to ask yourself.  Personally, my motivations for doing research are as follows:

  • I love learning about engineering and science and promote it as much as I can and enjoy sharing ideas and discussing theories. It is my absolute passion and I will repeat my initial saying at the start of this article:

 “I would do a science or engineering job for free if my bills could be paid for.”

  • I enjoy attending conferences (or webinars if able to reduce travel expenses!) as they are a fantastic opportunity to network and be kept up to date with the latest ideas. This also opens the doors in the future for collaboration or even potential research funding and grants!
  • Research is a wonderful opportunity in that it is something you could do in many years to come. There will always be new things to learn and ultimately I would like to end up lecturing at a university and being one of those old, eccentric professors that often gets funny looks, but when they speak, you can’t help but be enthralled and to have people think “damn, he knows what he is on about.”  Maybe Doctor Gandalf could be a great nickname if I grow a beard?
  • Lots of people contribute to the world in different ways. Some are heroes, some do charity work and are great philanthropists.  For me, if I could come up with an invention or idea that helps the human race in some way, I would feel that is a wonderful achievement and my larger goal in life.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on PhD studies – are you currently a researcher yourself?  Do you disagree with my opinions?  Do you want to know more about doing a Doctoral degree?  Whatever you would like to say, I look forward to your comments and if you have any personal questions feel free to message!!

Log In

Social Icons