How long does a PhD take?
In the UK most PhD programmes last for three years. Students are expected to submit a thesis within 12 months of the end of the programme (and preferably within the three year period). There are an increasing number of programmes, such as the New Route PhD scheme or the Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD scheme, which incorporate a number of taught modules into the programme which increases the length to 4 years.
How much will it cost me?
This depends on where you are from, where you want to study and whether or not you qualify for funding. If you are a UK student, with appropriate qualifications (see below) then you should be able to apply for one of the many funded projects on this site. Funding in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is often more complicated than in the sciences and engineering - see our article on PhD Study in the Arts & Humanities for more information. If you are an international student wishing to study in the UK or a UK student wishing to study abroad then visit our Funding section now to see whether you are eligible for any scholarships.
Can I fund myself?
You can fund yourself and, if you are not a home student, you may need to do just that (at least partially). Whilst self funding can make it easier to find a supervisor, you'll still need to prove to them that you are capable of completing the PhD successfully. A new section on Self Funding will be added to FindAPhD in the near future.
What qualifications do I need?
The normal prerequisite for a UK research council PhD studentship is a 2(i) degree or a 2(ii) plus an appropriate Masters degree. A small number of studentships are funded by charitable trusts or by the host university which can have less rigid qualification criteria. The other possibility is a job as a Graduate Research Assistant, where you can register for a part time PhD (it may still only take three years). Keep checking back in the New Projects section of FindAPhD for the latest opportunities.
If you decide that a Masters degree would be a good first step then you should be prepared not only to support yourself during the course, but also to pay full course fees. A very small number of grants are available for Masters degrees; you will need to check this on a course-by-course basis. In certain circumstances your Local Education Authority may provide some support. Before accepting a place on a Masters course, make sure that it would qualify you for the types of PhD you're looking for. See our sister site FindAMasters.com to see what Masters courses are on offer.
Students whose first language is not English will need a recognised English language qualification. See our English Language Qualifications article for more information.
Is my qualification equivalent to a 2(i) degree?
Because of the wide variety of qualifications from each country it can be difficult to find out if your qualification is considered to be equivalent to a 2(i) degree. To give you a rough idea a British 2(i) degree (referred to as an 'Upper Second Class Honours Degree' or a 'Two-One') is the second highest mark available for a British Honours Degree.
Where the US/Canadian marking scheme is used, a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 is usually required.
The British Council in your home country will be able to help you. Before you apply you could try asking your former course tutors or alternatively you can visit The National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom. They will give informal advice free of charge. An official 'letter of comparability', which will be accepted by employers, costs £30 (+VAT), but should not be necessary for most universities, who will assess you themselves.
It is generally the case that international students are required to have a Masters level qualification as well as a 2(i) equivalent qualification.
How do I choose a research project?
Primarily you should look for a project which interests you. It is generally considered better to study for a PhD in a different university from the one where you did your first degree, as it will expose you to a different set of academic influences. However it is not uncommon for people to stay in the same place, either because of family commitments or because of the quality of projects on offer.
To decide whether or not to accept a place you should look at a number of factors:
What happens at a PhD interview?
It's not really for us to say what you might be asked. PhD interviews vary tremendously depending on the supervisor concerned. It is likely however that you will be asked about your third year project or any other research experience you may have.
If you have been given details of any particular references then make sure you do your best to read them. If you've not been given this info, then use the web to find relevant papers (particularly those by your potential supervisor). You are not likely to be examined on these things, but the supervisor will be looking to see that you were at least interested enough to read them.
The other question you are likely to be asked is why you want to do a PhD in general, and this PhD in particular. You should think about the answers to these questions before you go to the interview. Many people apply for a PhDs because they can't think of anything else to do. A good supervisor will try to avoid these people.
Finally, remember to find out as much as you can while you're there. Try to speak to PhD students working in your potential new lab/Department and see if you like the atmosphere. Don't be afraid to ask the PhD students about the quality of supervision. Three years is a long time to be stuck with a bad supervisor or to work in an unfriendly environment.
What's it like to do a PhD?
The million-dollar question. Past and present PhD students can fill you with tales of dread and delight. Use the menu above (right) to expore the PhD Study pages, and take a look at the articles in our "PhD Life" section for a sideways look at the next three years of your life!
our "PhD Life" section for a sideways look at the next three years of your life!