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How to Choose the Right PhD For You

Completing a PhD is a fantastic achievement – it provides a unique opportunity for you to make a valuable contribution to society as well as your chosen field.

Supported by expert academic advisors, this exciting challenge will see you develop new skills, further your knowledge, meet new people and carve a new niche for yourself.

But what is a PhD and how do you choose the right one for you? Selecting the right PhD is crucial to your success, so if you’re looking to become a research guru then here are a few tips to help you figure out which path you should take.

What is a PhD?

A PhD, or a Doctorate of Philosophy is the highest level of degree for a student, which involves independent and original research and results in a thesis or dissertation. PhD's are typically follows a master's degree, however some universities will allow students to move on to a PhD straight from their Bachelors degree.

How to Choose a PhD

Identify Your Interests

Doing a PhD is a big undertaking, so it’s important to choose a topic that you’re passionate about and highly motivated to complete.

If a subject genuinely fascinates you and provides you with plenty of inspiration for coming up with a distinct research question, a PhD is likely to be the next logical step.

Be specific when searching for PhD programmes online and remember to use broad as well as narrow terms – this will give you a wider range of results.

Part-Time or Full-Time?

Before choosing a course, it’s important to consider just how much time you’re able to invest in studying? Are you hoping to work alongside your PhD? Can you dedicate long hours to writing up your thesis? Are extra-curricular activities important to you? How much will your family and loved ones be affected?

Consider the answers to these questions when making your selection, as your PhD will have to fit in with your lifestyle – the last thing you want is a house full of frustrated people when you’re up late working or spending time in the library.

It’s also worth noting that many universities are more likely to offer scholarships with their full-time offerings, so take that into account if funding is a deciding factor.

Research Other Programmes

You may already know which subject you’d like to pursue for your PhD, but don’t forget to cast your net wide and look at what else is out there.

By comparing and contrasting programmes in other subjects, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and you can find out whether a particular university presents opportunities that are unavailable in other institutions.

What’s more, you’ll be able to assess whether a programme is likely to challenge you enough and provide you with the right methodologies for your research.

Get to Know Your Supervisors

Finding out as much information as you can about your potential supervisors can be beneficial to your success.

Throughout your PhD your supervisor will become your mentor, your friend and the one to spur you on when things don’t go your way, so you’re more likely to develop a strong thesis if you’ve done some background research.

By taking the time to look up different supervisors at each university and find out if they’re well respected in their field with good connections, you’ll be better informed to choose the right PhD.

Think About Your Wallet - How Much Does a PhD Cost?

As much as it’s great to follow your interests and pursue higher education, the reality is it’s going to come at a cost – at least for a short while.

UK and EU students can end up paying as much as £15,000 a year when you combine tuition fees, living costs and research expenditures.

Consider how you’re going to fund your research. Will it be self-funded or are you hoping to apply for a scholarship?

If it’s the latter, remember that it can be competitive to find a scholarship and spaces are often limited, so start your PhD search early and find out what funding options are available to you on each programme.

What Uni?

As with your undergraduate studies, be prepared to do some initial research on different universities to find out if they’d suit you.

Look at their websites, see what other students are saying, consider their location (are they easily accessible from your accommodation?) and note what facilities are available.

And don’t forget to check universities’ rankings and their entry requirements – it’s good to come up with a university shortlist based on your own preferences but you’ll need to make sure you meet their standards too.

Take Some Time Out

If you’ve followed all these tips and you’re still feeling uncertain about which PhD to choose, consider giving yourself a break from education and instead spend some time building up experience in a related area. 

There’s no rush to do it all now, so why not be proactive and secure yourself some research-based work experience in a non-academic field?

Attend conferences, focus on your CV, speak to other PhD students and think outside the box for a while – when you do eventually decide to knuckle down it’ll be extremely rewarding, so it’s okay to hold fire until you’re totally sure.  


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