Getting back into study after break having child?


I have a 2:1 in Natural Sciences from Cambridge, and I have a few years experience of doing academic research . Prior to having my daughter I was applying for PhDs, but I am not sure of the best route back into it now. She is 18 months old and I really want to move in the right direction. Would a part time masters be a better first step? I know I'm not going to get a PhD straight off with the time gap now.

Just wondered if a) there are any parents out there doing PhDs/Masters who could advise me how they made it work and b) any one based in same ish sector and what they would do!

We are preparing to move, as there are no opportunities where we currently live, so my partner would be working and I would be trying to look after our daughter as much as possible whilst studying.

any advice really appreciated :)


Are you thinking of doing the PhD full time, or part time? To what extent would you need strict working hours?

You might want to think about what kind of discipline to specialise in, to allow for flexibility. Cell biology projects, for example, are demanding throughout the week and fairly inflexible, whereas bioinformatics has potential for a lot more flexibility to it.


A gap between degree and PhD isn't necessarily a deal breaker, it will depend (as always) on whether they like you enough during the interview to give you the PhD.


Hi, thanks for your replies and apologies for the delay in responding, we've been away!

HazyJane, I am open to either full or part time but I am not clear on how you manage one or the other? Does it just depend on the supervisor or is it linked to funding, etc? I think flexibility wise we could accommodate many arrangements, but being able to work in the evenings in lieu of time in, say, the afternoon would be helpful.

Treeoflife, would you advise contacting my old supervisors? The last time I was actively involved in research was 2009, so quite a while now! Th s is why I. Felt that a masters would give me more recent contacts, but also it is a big expense and takes time...


It certainly never hurts to contact old supervisors, as maybe they will have a position, or know someone that does. Alternatively, try looking for funded PhDs on as these often specify whether the PhD can be fulltime or parttime.


My younger child was just two when I started a full time PhD in the social sciences. It was no problem getting references from my supervisors even after 12 years! Studying, especially in the first year when my son was still wearing nappies and waking up in the nights, was hard, but it's better now, so if you can afford to wait another year, do it. I got really ill in my second year, probably due to exhaustion...
In any case it's vital that you get childcare sorted out before you start, and don't think studying from home means the child will sit in the corner and play (at least mine didn't...). You need backup for the inevitable sick days and holidays, ideally several people who you can ask to pick up child if you're running late etc.. I suppose like any other 'work'. It's important to give the PhD the same priority as you would a paid job (as nobody else does...), but also try and take time off for your family (and for your own health and sanity). I suppose part time study gives you a bit more time to adjust and juggle the different priorities/responsibilities that you have.
Good luck!


Well done on your new family! My advise is firstly to make sure that whatever institution you study a STEMM subject at is fully signed up to gender equality (i.e. an Athena SWAN silver or gold). Institutions that are not signed up to silver by around 2015 will not continue to recieve funding from any of the five main funding bodies. This means gender dinosaur departments that don't comply will go broke, taking staff and students down with them. So your first step is to check with the Equality Officer at whatever university you apply to that they have an Athena SWAN silver or gold award.



Thanks for all your replies, they've been very useful!

I did contact my old supervisors and amazingly there is a fully funded PhD that I have been 'strongly encouraged' to apply for. It is quite maths heavy and I'm a little anxious as it would involve a move 3 hours away but it seems like a really good opportunity. It's either that or a MSc in our home city, but we wanted to leave here soon any way for better schools. The phd opportunity would mean my husband looks after our daughter, the MSc would mean she goes into nursery a few days a week.

How on earth do you make these decisions?!


There you go! Amazing what can happen when you know people. Just apply for it. You can make the decision of whether to take it if you get it :)


Yaaay! You go girl!! x

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Congratulations! I am always happy to read such amazing success stories as getting the opportunity to choose between two amazing jobs is a success on its own.

I hope you have applied for the phd and I can't wait to hear about the outcome. Whether you choose the phd or MSc, I am certain you will make the best decision.


Good that you decided to continue....its always a good decission

I got a full funded Masters when my son was 2 years. I had NO IDEA of the project but I did faintly remember very few basics. But the belief the funding body put on me, I got all motivated. I promised them I will give them some good results. Basically, somehow I was not nervous but happy. I dropped of my son at preschool at 9:00 am and went to college, worked until 3:00 pm and returned home and cooked dinner. So I prepared break fast and dinner only. My kid is a gem :). Give him his toys and he plays for hours :). My husband helped when in thesis time by taking care of the kid on weekends, I think I worked some 5-6 weekends in the whole course!..

The only interruption I had was that I lost my dad, he was a healthy individual and still not very old (60 yrs). I shook...and shook hard..came back and I decided to dedicate my Master thesis to him. I did. My thesis was given an A grade.

Now, 3 yrs from then, I have a second child 18 months now, not so easy at all ;)..and I am trying to get into Phd. I got full funding again but I am not sure if my capabilities will match phd!!! also have some personal issue to getting into it right now. But I will try do it again, if not now.

You CAN do it. I was not any brighter than an average student but sone thing that made me achieve is the motivation and being positive. YOU CAN...