Part-time PhD Advice


Hi Folks,

I know this is a topic that comes up every now and then but any advice you are able to give me would be much appreciate, particularly from anyone who is doing or has done a part-time PhD.

I am currently doing an MSc KCL and doing a PhD has been on my mind for a few years now. I'm fortunate to be in a job that hopefully has some good opportunities for career progression and I'd rather not leave it, so if I do a PhD it's likely to be part-time. I'm thinking of soon approaching one of my lecturers at the university to bring the subject up.

I'm just interested to hear what other people's experiences of part-time PhD study are. Starting a PhD is not a decision I'm taking likely. My working hours are fairly flexible (Flexi time) and I was wondering, realistically, how much time part-time students put into their PhD every week.

Anyway, any advice or pearls of wisdom you can offer will be gratefully received.



What is your subject area?


I'm working in Environmental Health, but I'm thinking of doing my PhD with the CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and looking at the profession in some way. So possible how we train people, or how we deliver a service to and how we can look at measuring that service delivery. Either way it's going to be leaning more towards 'arts' than 'science'.


Arts based PhD's are good in that the freedom from the lab makes them more flexible. It is def giving it a try!


This is a really bad day to ask my advice on this! I'm PT and it is bloody hard. Today I'm dealing with an academic who is annoyed with me because I can't attend a seminar because I work - I've already used up loads of annual leave to do other PhD related things and I just can't take more time off to go to a seminar that isn't even vaguely related to my research area. A PT PhD is doable (or at least I'm told so), but don't underestimate what bloody hard work it is (and how little support you will get). I gave up my well paid job to do a less stresseful admin job to try and make things easier on me and it is still impossible some weeks. I wouldn't not do the PhD and I do love what I'm doing, but make sure you're 100% committed and have worked out exactly HOW you are going to fit this in with your life before you start


I don't want to sound pessimistic and I love the fact I'm doing a PhD, but it is also extremely depressing (especially as a PT student). My supervisor said to me when I first approached him - if you don't think you can sit down after a tough day at work and do a few hours of study then don't do a PT PhD. I think he's absolutely right. I don't have any 'free time' anymore - only work and study - you have to love your PhD more than having a life!!!

But as I keep on saying, I love the PhD and I'm willing to make those sacrifices. But I wish someone had told me straight at the start what it would be like so I would have been better prepared (which is why I'm telling you all this!!!)


Thanks for the advice. I'd much rather hear how it really is than not know what I'm letting myself in for! I'd be interested to know what your PhD is in.

As I am hoping to do my PhD in the area that I work my employ has said that they will be as flexible as they can, although whether this will actually happen or not I don't know. I have been trying to plan ahead and figure out how to fit a PhD in, I am hoping to have a timescale of about 5 years, do you think it is realistic or too ambitious?

Thanks for the advice.



I would echo what sixkitten said. I have been lucky in that there was a huge overlap between my job and PhD topic for the first 3 years (was a f/t job). I will be honest and say that I too had little time out and worked weekends, evenings etc. It is tough but doable if you are prepared to make sacrifices.

Good luck!


I worked whilst studying for a FT Masters and, whilst that was extremely tough, it was no where near as hard as the PhD. You have to be much more disciplined and the level of work is much harder. There are no 'deadlines' and it takes real effort to do both. Like I said, I don't want to put you off, but it's best you're prepared!!!


Guys I was just wondering, do you have to have a suitable reason for doing the PhD part time. i.e. kids/job?


No you don't need a 'reason' - I know someone doing it PT because the fees are cheaper overall than if he did it FT (but he doesn't have any other commitments). He's committed to beng enrolled for more years than if he was FT, but as so few FT students finish in the three years anyway he's decided to do it as a PTer


I'm going to be doing my study part time too (still to get the place, but it looks promising)I have a further prob though as I work in a school (not as a teacher)so there is going to be very little chance of getting out during the school day -the head even says you have to ask if you want to make a docs appt during school time 'and it will be considered' Still I will have the holidays to catch up. Luckily it isn't going to be lab based.