Changing subject of interest after gaining a PhD


Hi all!

I'm in a confusing situation and wondered if anyone else has felt the same. Basically, I'm currently enrolled on a funded PhD course in History at my university. However, during my Masters (MPhil) course, I started to get really interested in Criminology – as a result, my thesis was sort of a fusion of the two, or 'historical criminology'. I had already applied for my PhD in History by this point and thought that I wouldn't be accepted onto a PhD in Criminology (plus I didn't want to turn down funding!). I'm starting to really regret this decision, but I know that I'd probably have to do an MSc in Criminology if I want to do a PhD later down the line.

Is it too late to change after doing a PhD? Would it possible to do the History thesis and then start working in Criminology after this, or is that something which universities frown upon?

Many thanks for any help!! :)


I think your big problem would be credibility. If you haven't studied criminology, you would be limited in what you could teach, and it's a social science unlike history, and if you haven't had social sciences research methods training, you'd struggle to publish in their journals / get research funding etc. You'd be better staying with history but trying to build interdisciplinary links where you can, rather than swapping discipline area entirely.


I dont know anything about either history or criminology, but, as bewildered said, its all about methodology. Are the methodologies of the two disciplines compatible? Is the particular topic that you want to study one that lends itself to this 'history of criminology' approach that you mention? What do you want to find out, and how do you think you can gather the data to prove your hypothesis?


When you say 'working in criminology' do you mean as an academic or as a practitioner of some sort?

I don't imagine that it would be possible to work in academia in that field without some kind of proven research/study experience (your MPhil may or may not suffice), but access to some kind of practical training may ease your path into a practice-based role.

Be aware that the odds of anyone getting an academic job in most fields is very very slim, so bear that in mind if you're really determined to pursue that career and take an unusual route.


Looks like a tough situation.

Don't think it can be an easy task to change your field after PHD.


Hi graceelizabeth92, I'd be really interested to hear if you've found any more about the possibility of doing this...