Is it OK to take 4 years?


So I was wondering how many people actually finish in 3 years and whether finishing in 4 makes any difference when you come to find jobs? My university expects you to take up to 4 and I don't know anyone there who did it in 3. Is that typical? Should I be in a massive rush to finish? (I'm in my 4th year and everything is written so it's just (!) editing now)


I'm 6 weeks into my 4th year and I still have actual work to do, i.e. running simulations etc but I'm writing as I go along. My funding runs out at the end of March and I will need to find employment before then so it's unlikely I'll finish before the money runs out. I've decided I don't want an academic career and I'm not stressing about the fact it could well take me up until the end of my 4th year to finish.

Someone in my dept recently submitted at the end of 4 years and she has just started a post doc at a different uni whilst waiting for her viva. Somebody else in my dept submitted last week meaning he took just over 3 years and he also has a post doc lined up. So from that very limited evidence I don't think it matters too much if you take an extra year to finish. I'm in the sciences, I don't know if this is different for humanities/arts.

I'd advise against rushing unless of course money is an issue and you need to finish up quickly to find a job. If you can stay calm whilst editing then there's less chance of any mistakes finding their way into the finished thesis.



I am in the same boat with pixie... I just started the 4th year and I have bits and pieces written here and there, and some more analysis to do. I am very inventive when it comes to avoiding writing my PhD. Next week it will be a paper I need to finish. This week it was a consultancy report. Last week it was teaching responsibilities. The week before that it was a conference and applications for funding. It never ends.

I still have money until the beginning of the summer, but my supervisor is getting really annoyed with me. He set a deadline that I need to hand in a first draft, and he said I am doomed if I don't meet the deadline. So now I am really stressed, and have to give up on the idea of publishing the final part of my PhD. (I use publications as the number one distraction from PhD itself).

Deep down inside I know that we should finish as soon as possible and move on with our lives. But what if there is no prospect of a job? I delay graduation to postpone unemployment. My supervisor says that time you took to complete PhD also plays a role in employment opportunities, and he knows better. But publications and teaching experience also count and there is only so much we can do in these 3 to 4 years.


I think the majority of people finish closer to four years than three, so it's the norm and better to submit a complete thesis that you are happy with than a rushed one. It's when you go significantly beyond four years that it's dodgy (eternal PhD student stereotype), although many universities now force submission after 4 years (not counting any interruptions of study), as this is one of the statistics they are monitored on nationally.


Quote From bewildered:
It's when you go significantly beyond four years that it's dodgy (eternal PhD student stereotype), although many universities now force submission after 4 years (not counting any interruptions of study), as this is one of the statistics they are monitored on nationally.

Yes, my uni has a policy that you must submit within 4 years. It's not at all uncommon to take more than three though.


I'm one of those who submitted within the three years and like HazyJane my uni does not accept submissions after the 4 year mark unless there are extenuating circumstances (which usually means serious health issues/death in family). It doesn't matter to be honest I'm the only one who finished within 3 and most submit closer to 4 years. I wouldn't say this matters as much as the outcome of the viva/ quality of your work.


I certainly hope taking more than 3 years is OK - by the time I submit it will be 4 years and 3 months! (I was supposed to finish within 3 years, but was granted an extension due to a bereavement in the middle of my thesis). Everything that I've been told so far is that the quality of the finished thesis is more important than how long it takes you, so if you need 4 years to write the best thesis you can, you should make the most of it.

One friend of mine, another member of my research team, submitted her thesis within 3 years and couldn't find a postdoc - she is now working in another industry, but is happy there. Another good friend finished last year after six years (full-time - she had to suspend several times for various personal reasons) and walked straight into a post-doc, and is getting her thesis published. Take from that what you will :)


I recently intercalated so that my submission date for my PhD thesis is now May 2014. But I still have most of my thesis to write and I am now so overwhelmed by this that I have sat at my desk for almost a month doing anything but working on my thesis (divert myself with facebook etc). I am crippled by self-doubt and utterly de-motivated as a consequence. I am seemingly incapable of motivating myself and the inner voice which tells me to quit is much more dominant and louder than the inner voice which is more nurturing/kinder.I produce work extremely slowly hence my panic at my deadline. My supervisors are supportive and kind but I have missed another chapter deadline so feel unable to approach them because I feel so ashamed of my lackadaisical and defeatist attitude. I am at my wits end, so in desperation I found this forum whereupon I decide to share my dilemma in the desperate hope that I be offered either sagely advice, or better still, urged to quit the PhD altogether!