Part-time PhD...should I do it?


Hi, I am considering starting a part-time PhD in English Literature, and was wondering whether anyone could offer any opinions/ideas/caveats about this. I started a PhD in my early 20s, but for a range of reasons, left the university after a year. The failure to complete has been nagging at me for years, and it's something I feel I need to do, for a sense of closure, but also because researching, academic life, is something I really enjoy. I am now in my late 30s, and have prepared an application to my home-town university, but will have to study for my doctorate part-time, juggling gamily (2xchildren) and work commitments. So, I know, I have made the job a lot more difficult than it would have been if I'd completed in my 20s, but I know feel much more equipped to study, in terms of motivation and maturity. I would like use my doctorate, upon, completing, to become a lecturer/researcher. There, in a nutshell, are my circumstances. Comment at will!


You sound similar to me, with just a few details different. I started a full-time funded science PhD in my early 20s, but had to leave, in my case due to developing a serious progressive illness.

I started a part-time history PhD in my early 30s. Initially I was self-funding, but won AHRC funding from my second year onwards, on a part-time basis.

It was hard, being part-time. I wasn't working, but due to the MS-like illness I had very few functional hours each week. By the end my PhD was limping on on just 5 hours or so total, in 1 hour chunks spread throughout the week.

But I completed. And I know many other part-timers who have completed. It's extremely common for humanities students to study their PhDs part-time.

I can't use my PhD for work. I can't work, being too severely disabled. But I got a lot out of it. However I know other people who studied part-time who have been able to change their career on the basis of their part-time PhDs. So you could too.

I'd go for it. So long as you have a good idea what you're letting yourself in for then you will be in a good position to tackle any problems. And having started a PhD before can help. It's easy to be scared that you won't make it the second time. But you are more experienced than people starting for the first time, and can therefore be more efficient, even part-time.

Good luck!


In your situation, I would go for it.  Otherwise the nagging thought 'Well I could have done it, but I didn't', may continue to vex you.

And now that you're more mature, you can bring a more mature viewpoint.




Hi Incertus,
If you know you'll enjoy it you're half way there. I too study part time alongside full time working, no children but complex family commitments. I have taught myself to study into the evenings (as an undergraduate I never studied after 6 pm!) & have 'donated' all housework & chores to my better half. It sounds like you have the right motivation and I'm sure you have an inkling of what's ahead of you from your own experience and the posts here.
Be good to yourself, do something you know you'll regret if you don't and let us know how it goes.
Mog (up)


I was offered a full-time funded PhD in my 20s and had to turn it down due to health reasons at that time. I changed my career path after that and became successful but always wondered 'what if'. Six years ago (in my 30s), a couple of consultants I worked with asked if I would conduct some research with them and in return they would supervise me for a PhD. Well, what could I say but YES!!! So I was working full-time with a fairly loaded oncall commitment and embarking on a part-time PhD. Along the journey I have had one baby followed closely by twins and so I have switched work to full-time childcare with part-time studying. I found it easier to study in the evenings but my husband had to be resigned to the sofa alone while I worked in the office. Weekends always seemed an ideal time for study but impractical with toddlers and babies around. I have now submitted and am awaiting my viva, so cannot say I have completed yet via this mode of study. My advice would be to work out what time you can set aside to study, taking into account work, family and partner. I think the key thing is to have support from your family as it can take over your personal time, infringing on their time with you. Your motivation will be an asset as a mature student! Sounds like this is your chance to fulfil your dream.


Hi Incertus,

I'm doing a part-time PhD in Eng. Lit. too - I'd say absolutely go for it! It's very difficult to find spare moments in which to write, but it's inching towards completion! I've considered dropping it a few times, but I can imagine I'd be exactly like you - I'd have a nagging desire to finish what I started for years to come.

Best of luck!


Guys, thanks for all your supportive comments- it's good to hear from people at the coal face of doing a PhD. Out of curiosity, are many of you planning on using your PhD to try to gain entry into an academic career?


To be honest, I have done my PhD out of self satisfaction of achieving the highest academic qualification that I am capable of (didn't aim at a PhD when I started lol).  It is not necessarily a qualification that automatically opens career doors but may be useful in some applications. I will be looking for work again at the end of this year/next year (once we have moved and viva is done) and will be open minded about what possibilities are out there.  I have done some lecturing at BSc level as a specialist in my field and organised/presented at one-two day specialised conferences but have no formal teaching quals. As a part-time student working full time it is difficult to fit in extra teaching which would be necessary on your CV for lecturing posts.  I managed mine as part of my clinical career so did this while working. I would like to be able to use my PhD for a researchers/academic post but may have to fall back on my clinical career instead where a PhD is a luxury not a necessity.