Is it possible to work full time and complete a PhD?


I have been reading your posts eagerly but you all seem to be funded, full time students. Is anyone out there working full time, self funded, and a mother of a toddler?
All very lonely out here and after 4 years part time not sure how much longer I can go on! Needs some encouraging words from full time workers who have done it/ are doing it.
It all seemed so possible before having a baby, but now I am working 50 hrs a week and looking after my little one I am not so sure any more.
Words to give me strength are needed.


I am working FT and doing a PT PhD in the UK.
I am not British (language barrier), I don't even live in the UK and my PhD is in a field completely different and irrelevant from my work....

I am in my fourth year and now struggling to write my thesis (I have 4 and half chapters ready out of the 7). How do I do it? With program!!!!! I finish my work at 2 every day, have lunch by 2:30 and start working at 3. I work till 8, then go to the gym for an hour and then sleep! I do not work over the weekends.

I believe I will do it because I want to do it!

You can also do it!


I worked full time for most of my PhD (I did 14 months working for the uni part time but left to go back to full time work). I did it by having lists for everything with approx time limits. This meant if I have some time, an hour, ten mins three hours, I was able to look at what needed doing and then do it. I found the reading difficut because I kept having to go back to it but I coped by making masses of notes and photocopying/buying masses of stuff. It is hard and I was envious of friends on full time full funded PhDs but then again many of us graduated at the same time, with my part time having taken as long as their full time. You can do it, but it is difficult.


Hello everyone,
Im so glad someone started this post. I am starting to feel really down about this whole Phd thingy today and really need an outlet to vent. I work FT (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm), i hold a managerial position at work, i have a toddler, and im doing the Phd PT-basis (sociology). I am funded, but the ridiculous thing is, although im PT-status for the Phd, the funding body (employer) expects me to complete it within 3 years (the same duration for someone doing an FT in the same phd course because thats just the policy!). Its signed on contract, there's nothing i can do to change it. On weekends, my husband takes our toddler out so that i can catch up on my readings ro do some writings, but im really wrecked with guilt and not spending enough time with my toddler, so instead of working doubly hard in getting most of the thesis done on sat-sun, i get at most 2-3hours shot at it.

The i tried another strategy, which worked fairly well in the beginning. I forced myself to write 500 words per day, and i stopped when i reached that number. It could be free writing, or just my thoughts with regards to the argument of my thesis; well, just to feel good that i at least did something. I tried getting up to do some readings/writing between 5am-630am each day, but its just not possible, i need my sleep. During lunchhours, sometimes i get out on my own to some cafe and catch up with 1-2 readings (this means, i dont quite socialise with my colleagues). It sucks, but i tell myself, there's no choice. because by the time i get home (7pm), my attention is to my toddler.

At this stage, im no longer in love with my phd topic, i despise it, i procrastinate, and im simply not motivated at all. Im trying to not feel sorry for myself, but today has been bad. I just need some encouragement for someone who has been there, and done this, and to tell me, that its not so bad, that i will eventually make it.


Hi, so glad to hear there are others out there
like me.  I think motherhood and guilt are the same word! I get so frustrated
at work when people moan because they are busy, I want to scream 'You don't know
what busy is!!!' But then I remember I chose this path and most of the time I do
enjoy it.  I just have moments of 'Why did I think this was a good idea?' and
'Why am I doing this?'  I guess that is why it is a PhD, because it is about
perseverance and not just brains (just as well, ha ha!) Keep going girls, we
can do it!!!


I am a four year full time funded EngD'er.

I am in awe of you guys, how you do this with a full time job, kids, partners etc. is beyond my comprehension. I think that each of you deserves a double doctorate and triple pay (at least).

Keep going if you can.


Quote From milo:

I am a four year full time funded EngD'er.

I am in awe of you guys, how you do this with a full time job, kids, partners etc. is beyond my comprehension. I think that each of you deserves a double doctorate and triple pay (at least).

Keep going if you can.

Ah, but do you have any clout in this department. Never mind the double doctorate, I'll take the triple pay ;-)


Ahhh Milo, you made me smile. Can you tell my boss your suggestion!


======= Date Modified 27 Mar 2012 20:32:15 =======
I've been doing a PhD for seven years p/t while working full-time with no funding. I have just handed in and am now waiting for my viva. You'll do it - i used some advice from my girlfriend who said treat it as if you were going to eat an elephant (or other large food stuff) one little piece at a time. I found myself wanting done with it on countless occaisions but you'll be amazed at the inner reserves you find. The last 2 years have been a blur and were extremely intense with quite a few 'dark nights of the soul', but you get it done; somehow. You've obviously got the determination (already having done 4 yrs attests to that)! There will come a point when you realise that you're getting there and you will!!!


I worked FT and did my PhD full time and looked after my son who was aged 3-8 during the writing of my thesis. I think that most people just can't fathom just how hard this is. My supervisor, a well to do middle-class woman with childcare and cleaner on tap plus supportive/wealthy relatives etc. was particularly unsupportive as she not only couldn't relate to me personally - working class, poor, heavily tattooed, male tradesman bringing up a small child on the other side of the world from family support - but also could not imagine life without all the advantages, modcons and support networks that her upbringing had provided her with.

Her best advice the few times I raised any issues of stress, poverty, lack of time etc. in my first year was that I pack it all in and come back when my kid was in his teens and I had managed to save a wedge of ££. That is, despite her Marxist credentials she could not imagine theimpossibility of a carpenter bringing up a young child saving up the £30,000 that overseas PhD students require for fees alone. In short I had to do the PhD when I did as I had a fees scholarship and was unlikely to get one again.

The way I dealt with all this, and this is the only advice I can offer you and the reason I have given you the above, is that I became a committed bullshitter. I promised to hand work in on certain dates without any intention of doing so to keep my sups off my back. I took a year off - between my 3rd and 4th year - for 'personal reasons' that didn't exist. In short, I made up for the sheer stressfullness and business of my life by buying a lot of extra time by bullshitting. i don't know if others will pour scorn on me for this but it worked. I had a good viva with no corrections required and I cant find it within myself to feel guilty for all the lies I told my sups and all the emails I didn't return but I think that without this strategy of living on the threshold of being thrown out I would never have been able to submit. Hope this was of some help. Remember that it is your child and our own wellbeing that must come first and don't feel guilty to make yourself a bit of space by bending the rules; also keep in mind that your department doesn't want you to fail either so they will put up with a fair bit.
Good luck


Interesting post, Chippy. Thanks for sharing your approach - which worked well for you. Very well done on coming out with your PhD. Honestly, I think that so many supervisors have bad motivations and bullshit their students, so why can't it go the other way if the situation warrants it! :p



I'm so happy to find someone else out there with whom I can commiserate! I am also working a full time job (40 hours, sometimes more) and have been doing my PhD program part time for the last 3 years. I don't have any children so I can't imagine having that responsibility on top of everything else, but I can relate to trying to juggle work, school and family (husband/pets) life. I go through phases where I'm ready to quite but then I try to find something with in the courses I'm taking that really excites me and try to remember why I applied for the PhD program to start. I also think back to the day I got my letter of acceptance and remember what hopes I had about my studies. I'm not sure how much longer you have to complete your program but also thinking about the fact that the 3 more years I have to finish will go by quickly. I think about how quickly the first years have gone and try to remember if I take things day by day that it will help.

I'm curious what else has kept you going so far and why you've ended up sticking with it? On those days were I'm less motivated and wondering if I should stick it out any words of wisdom you have could surely help me too :)


Even with a baby, it is still possible, but don't be scared to slow down if you need to. You should not have to feel lonely (though I completely understand - I shed lots of tears over the same thing!) and I think that Chippy's idea is grand. Have an official break from it. I defended my PhD last year, having worked and studied full time - I didn't have the toddler to juggle aswell but I did decide part way through that my life was so boring that a 2 year contract in China was just what I needed to spice things up. My uni agreed to giving me a year 'off' as I thought that moving countries and learning Chinese on top of work and PhD study would have pushed me over the edge. I had 6 months of that year doing next to no PhD work and it gave me the time to gather my an extra six months to work unofficially on my PhD. So on paper I submitted in 3years and 1 month and I now I'm back in the UK, with my PhD in maths, a couploe of years work experince from an amazing country and I can speak mandarin. I wonder if a year off for personal reasons, which you can use working every other weekend on your PhD to keep the rhythm, could work for you too. Don't lose hope though and don't give can and will get there and it really is worth it :-)


Glad to hear I'm not going crazy by myself. Needed to read the above today to help me feel better. I have an eight month old and am officially on mat leave but unofficially supposed to produce three chapters "in my spare time"... hahahaha. In MY spare time I like to eat, and sleep and maybe take a bath... sometimes I forget when I last showered because all that is on my mind is my son. I got pregnant in my fifth year of my phd and spent the first trimester in a daze falling asleep everywhere. My only concern during those first months was going to the grocery store to buy 4x more food than what I would normally eat, then spend the rest of the day making "lunches" so I could leave the house and eat while driving, while working, while visiting other people: basically I became an eating machine within a few weeks into my pregnancy. Since my son is here, all I am concerned with is sleep. Sleep off all of the stress I was under during the pregnancy, and after the birth. My son was born a night owl and I had to readjust my whole life around a wierd schedule that did not help me with my phd because I was up at 1 pm to 6 am and woke up at 7 am and 9 am and 11 am to breastfeed for an hour each time. Needless to say, I am now completely exhausted and do not know how to find time to sit myself down and write my thesis when I have to reread every sentence several times to understand what the paper is talking about. Chippy I am really happy to hear that bullsh** got you through your phd, cuz since I got pregnant, I feel like that's what I've been doing... not only to my supers but also to myself... I really believe I can do something at first, but most of the time it doesn't work, so starting to feel like a politician.