Should I do a Ph.D.?


I completed a BA and MA in Archaeology, graduating with the MA in 2009. My goal at the time was to do a Ph.D. as soon as possible in order to pursue a career in academia.

However, life got in the way of these plans. During the last semester of my MA, I experienced illness in the family, which was a severely emotionally draining experience, which left me with very little energy and motivation to pursue further studies. Furthermore, around this time I began to have serious misgivings about pursuing an academic career, due to lack of job security and very limited earning prospects etc.

After finishing my MA, I therefore took an administrative job unrelated to my degree. About a year later, I decided to do a qualification in accountancy, and I started studying part-time whilst working full time. I still have some exams left to take of my accountancy qualification, but I expect to have completed them within 2 years.

I am now wondering, however, if I should pursue a self-funded part time PhD (in archaeology), starting in the academic year of 2016 (as I should have completed my accountancy qualification by then). I would do the Ph.D. whilst working as an accountant (ideally working 4 days a week rather than 5).

I have no intention of applying for academic positions upon completion of the PhD (as these are extremely competitive, accountancy pays much better, and I'm planning on buying a house with my husband in the near future which means I am not in a position to relocate for jobs). However, I do intend to continue doing research and publish papers in my spare time. Basically, the PhD and academic activities would be more of a hobby I am extremely passionate about than anything else, whereas accountancy would be my source of steady income.

The question is, am I completely naive in thinking that doing a part-time Ph.D. whilst maintaining a career in accountancy is possible?



It's not impossible to do a PhD part-time whilst pursuing an alternative career, but it would be very demanding, requiring at least 15 hours of work a week for 6-8 years. Would you be prepared to make the sacrifices in your life that would be necessary in order to complete it?

Also, it can be difficult to publish work if you are not affiliated with a university, and once you finish you PhD you generally won't be.

Only you can decide if this is the right thing for you to do, but if you are that passionate about it, then I think you should probably go for it, because you will likely have the determination to see it through to successful completion, and at even if you don't, at least you may be satisfied that you tried.


TBH most ppl I know who started part-time PhDs didn't finish because they couldn't handle the situation. My advice: full-time or wait till the time is right.


the attrition rate in a PhD program is extremely high even for a full time student. Even the brightest students still face difficulty to get ahead in the publishing game. A lot of people expect going to graduate school with the good intention to nourish their mind, enlightenment, etc.., which is all well and good, but the truth is in a PhD level, you are expected to be a producer of knowledge as opposed to being a consumer of knowledge. I wish someone would have told me earlier in my graduate school day that this PhD program is more of a work than it is a leisurely activities that you do for fun/enlightenment.


As someone with a full time job and a part time PhD who has just spent the entire bank holiday weekend slaving over a keyboard in a stuffy dark room, I have to say there must be easier and possibly cheaper ways to indulge a passion for archaeology than committing to 7 years of having almost no life outside work and study. I loved my MA but I've found the PhD to be a very different beast. I have enjoyed it at times but if I didn't need it for my career I would've given up long ago. I know one person who started a PhD purely for interest after he was made redundant so he had plenty of time and no real money worries but he found it too stressful and dropped it.


hi MrsK86
many helpful responses given :-). How about waiting till you finish your accountancy qualification and after you get work as an accountant, before you make the decision to do the phd?

It is good to have plan and ask questions now, but you won't really know what it's like until you get there.

Maybe after you start accountancy work, by then you might have your mortgage etc. see how everything fits in your life, whether you still have room for a phd as a hobby.

My honest opinion is that even as a hobby, it would be very difficult; your hobby might "eat" you up and take you away from your life. Really don't mean to scare you, but this is how it can be for some people. If you have children, it could be more than difficult! I have a friend who "missed" her children's baby-years because she was so busy with her phd.

Having said all that, well done on your accountancy studies and all the best!!!

love satchi


Thanks for the replies, it's good to see the perspectives of other postgrads :-)

First of all, my husband and I are childfree by choice, so whether or not the phd can fit around a family is a non-issue :-)

Also, I am aware that Ph.D. students are expected to publish articles etc during the course of the phd (at least that's what it's like in archaeology), which I am fully prepared (and even excited) to do. I also expect to attend a couple of conferences a year in order to present my work :-)

The issue of how to publish once the Ph.D. is completed is something to think about. I know that there are academics in archaeology with other jobs, and they still manage to get their research published in academic journals. I imagine that if I publish good articles as a Ph.D. student, the same journals may be more inclined to publish me upon completion because they will already be familiar with my work. And as far as I can tell, it's perfectly possible to present research at archaeology conferences without actually being a lecturer or researcher at a university.

I think doing 15 hours a week for the PhD. is doable, particularly if I can work as an accountant 4 days a week rather than 5. I'm already used to organising my time well; I have done multiple accountancy exams around a full time job, and in the weeks leading up to an exam I usually study for several hours every evening after work in addition to at least 10 hours on the weekends.

The attrition rate for Ph.D. students is indeed high, and there is no guarantee that I would complete the PhD. However, I am certainly not as naive about academia as I was as an undergraduate, and I guess the fact that I don't expect or need academia to become my main career takes a lot of pressure off.


wow sounds like you have made up your mind :-)

wishing you the very best
love satchi


Interesting thread - I'm in a similar position. Did you end up doing the Phd?

Avatar for pf329

A professor I knew a few years ago did her PhD part-time and her advice was don't.