How to work while doing a PhD

Studying for a PhD is a big commitment and one that requires a lot of research. Studying for a PhD full time can take between 3-4 years, while part-time study may take 6-7 years.

Below are a few points you may find helpful to consider before starting your PhD.

Is funding for a PhD in the UK enough to live on?

If you have full funding for your PhD, your studentship should cover fees and living expenses and be tax-free. The stipend levels for students studying for a PhD in the UK are set by UK research councils for their own studentships, and these are then generally followed by Universities. They are set at a level that is intended for you to have enough to live on and not have to work while completing your PhD.

You can now apply for a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan in the UK, which may help cover costs of course fees and living expenses while studying for your PhD.

If you are currently looking for PhD Funding then you can apply to attend our annual PostgraduateStudentships PhD Funding Fair. This will give you the opportunity to meet leading Universities in the UK who have funding on offer. You will also get to chat to currently undertaking a PhD, attend talks on how to apply and find out what it’s really like to be a PhD student.

How much work is included in a Graduate Teaching Assistantship?

Some PhD studentships are called Graduate Teaching Assistantships. This means that you will be expected to teach for a certain number of hours in each academic year and this is part of the conditions of the studentship.

It is advisable to find out exactly how this works with the University advertising the opportunity. For example, it will be important to find out whether you will receive separate payments for teaching or if this will be included as part of the studentship. You may also want to find out how many hours of teaching will be required and how this relates to the completion of your PhD.

Some PhD studentships include training, which can be beneficial if you are considering an academic career in the future. Training as part of your studentship may have certain advantages as it can help provide you with some initial experience, but you may also find it difficult to do the work and the necessary study for a PhD at the same time.

Should I study my PhD full-time or part-time if I need to work?

If you need to work and study, it’s important to think about how you will manage it. This may depend on your subject, but generally a full-time PhD is regarded as a full-time commitment, so anything other than a supplementary job for a few hours per week may be difficult to do.

Some students start with a full-time PhD and then move to studying part-time, but you would need to discuss this with your University first. Planning to study part-time may take longer overall, but it may also give you the time to do your PhD and to make the money you need. If you do decide to study part-time you may already have a job that will allow you to have flexible hours. If you need to look for a job that will help you do your PhD, your university is likely to have temporary or part-time jobs that students can apply for on campus. Most universities have a database of these jobs for students, so you can find out in advance what the pay rates are and if that would be enough to cover your cost of living.

Universities also have a range of part-time jobs which may be administrative or involve working in labs. If you apply for one of these jobs, especially in your own department, it’s important to make sure you work out how you will manage this, so you know when you are working on your PhD and when you are working on your job.

What if I am an International Student?

If you are an international student in the UK there will be restrictions on how many hours you can work and other visa issues that may mean this is not a practical option.

Talking to your University about your options

Your university will always want you to succeed at your PhD, so if you are planning to work whilst studying it’s a good idea to talk to your department for further guidance.

Many students do study for a PhD and work for at least part of the time and complete their PhD successfully. If you look at the options beforehand, you can plan what works best for you, so you get the most from your PhD whilst working at the same time.

Read PhD student Padmini’s story about juggling a PhD with other commitments on PostgraduateStudentships.

Next Steps

Looking for PhD Funding?

Take a look at the current PhD opportunities on PostgraduateStudentships.

Meet leading UK Universities with funding on offer at our annual PhD Funding Fair in December.

Receive email updates of the latest PhD opportunities and funding as they are added to PostgraduateStudentships.

Tell us about your search for postgraduate study or ask us a question on our Think Postgrad Facebook page.

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