At a crossroads- Do the PhD or not?


Hello everyone.

I'm back again with yet another decision I'm supposed to make now and I'm stuck. Let me give you'll some context.

I'm at the end of my Masters degree. I'm doing well and my masters thesis is turning out to be better than we expected. Long story short, my supervisor has now taken a keen interest in me and has offered to give me a post as his research assistant, in the event that I do decide to do my PhD (which he's keen on!). He made it very clear that he wants to be my PhD supervisor too.

The problem now is, THE MONEY. Where am I supposed to get it from?

I'm an international student in Australia and the fees are ridiculously expensive, and let's not even begin to talk about the other expenses.

I do not want to rely on my parents too much, because they've already done enough. I have the option of working for a few years and coming back to do the PhD, but my supervisor fears I'll move on and won't look back. I can also work and do my PhD part-time. But I'm most keen to start and finish the PhD, and not stretch it too far, for my own sake.

I'm scared to take a loan, because of the outstanding debt I'd be into after that, for a long, long time.

I'm hopeful and excited to do the PhD, but I need practical steps moving forward now.

Has anyone ever been in this, or a similar predicament, where finances was a hurdle? If so, how did you overcome it? Any advice will help multi-fold!

Many thanks,


Hi, TheNerdyWorkoholic,

You have not spoken about your intended career path. If you are intending to be in academia, I suggest you do a PhD. If not, you are better off getting a job first as you will find the work experience very helpful to pursue a career in industry.

If you decide to pursue a PhD, work as a RA for a year and apply for the internal PhD scholarship. As a MRes student from the same uni you want to do your PhD in, you stand a good chance of getting a PhD full scholarship. Alternatively, you could use your Master to apply for permanent residency (PR) while you work as a RA, if you intend to stay long and contribute to the Aus economy. With the PR you should be able to pay domestic fee and get loan help, etc. You will also be able to apply for many scholarships opportunities for domestic students.

Think carefully. I wish you the very best.


Hi Tru,

Thank you for your response.

To answer your question, yes, I'm keen on being in academia, hence the intention to do the PhD, in the first place.

Your suggestions are insightful. However, I have a question: I work as an RA for a year, before I apply for my PhD? Because as far as I know, I can be an RA and earn as a result, only when enrolled into the PhD course. Anyone else has insights on this?

Thanks nonetheless, I will bring this up with my supervisor at our next meeting and see what happens.


Because as far as I know, I can be an RA and earn as a result, only when enrolled into the PhD course. Anyone else has insights on this?

Being a RA and doing a PhD (hence a student) are two different matters. I am not sure why u have to be enrolled to work. It does't make sense.


I was told that role of RA is primarily given to PhD students, instead of others, just as a matter of giving those students the experience they need. Non-PhD students can also stand a chance, but are not the first priority.


This might differ in different countries. In the UK, a research assistant post is usually for someone without a PhD. It's like a technician. Then research associate is for someone with a PhD - it's a first postdoc. Sometimes people work full or pt as a research assistant and do a PhD full or pt but this is fairly rare.


Talk to your potential supervisors about securing funds. They might suggest some options for you - such as funding bodies or part-time teaching.


Thank you ToL and Tudor_Queen for your inputs! I have spoken to my supervisor and we have come up with a sure way to circumvent the situation. So, hoping for the best now.