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Careers Service

Doing a PhD

What is a PhD?

PhD is short for Doctor of Philosophy; at some institutions it is abbreviated DPhil. There are professional doctorates such as the EngD for engineers and the EdD for educationalists. A DBA is Doctor of Business Administration. There are, in fact, a plethora of different types of PhDs. This guide from FindaPhD will help you find out more the types of PhD available and choose which one is right for you.

A traditional PhD takes 3-4 years of full-time study or 5-7 years part-time and it is a very different experience from a Masters or undergraduate degree. It is a self-directed research project that makes an original, if often modest, contribution to knowledge.

Is a PhD right for you, right now?

To help you decide:

1. Consider your motivations for doing a PhD

Some good motivations

  • Make a significant contribution to knowledge
  • Learn/discover something new
  • Self-improvement
  • Passionate about subject & research
  • Enjoy academic environment
  • Need it to have an academic career

Some not-so-good motivations

  • Want to extend visa
  • Put off making career decision
  • Avoid entering job market
  • Three more years of being a student
  • It will prove you are intelligent
  • Prestige
  • Increased income

2. Reflect on your responses to these questions:

  • Do you like working alone for long periods of time?
  • How do you feel about opening your work to general scrutiny?
  • How do you respond to constructive criticism? Failure?
  • Can you defend your point of view?
  • How do you cope with disappointment? Unplanned events?
  • Your project may be a small part of a larger endeavour – how will you ensure that you meet the aims of your research at the same time as contributing to achievement of the aims of the overall project?
  • How do you motivate yourself?

A PhD can be exciting, intellectually and creatively stimulating, exhilarating, fun, rewarding - but it's also hard work. These questions may seem a little on the pessimistic side, but it's best to go into a PhD with an accurate idea of what you are signing up for. You can find out more about what a PhD is on the FindaPhd website.

What next?

Find out more about applying for PhDs and funding on the University of Manchester Careers Service website: Further Study and Funding.


Talk to academic staff, research staff, TAs, & other PhDs you may know and find out more about what is expected of a PhD in your field, the lifestyle, working hours and other factors to help you decide.