too young to do a PhD?


I am in the second year of my PhD (in a n social science discipline) and I am 23 years old... there are often comments made to me or during conversations with other PhD students that lack of life experience etc etc means that younger PhD students are not as well equipped, and are not able to make judgements as well as someone older... Indeed it has been suggested to me that my age is actually affecting my research which is on older peoples social and community lives.

What are people's views on doing a PhD in your earlier twenties? are we at a disadvantage?



I also started my PhD at a young age, 23 to be precise and I have also heard various comments, not so much in regard to my life experience being a disadvantage, but about the fact that I'm wasting my youth (makes me sad to write that lol). However, I have always maintained that a PhD in an interesting area is a good way to spend your youth, opposed to joining the 9-5 rat race in pursuit of a home or any other financial "ball and chains".

Another advantage is that a PhD is a great qualification to travel with and during!


I started mine when I was 21 and didn't really feel at a disadvantage :-)


As someone who is twice Sandian's age I think that life experience will modify what you get out of (and can put into) a PHd. I am now much better able to put a three (or six if pt) project into context, it does not appear all that long from where I sit. I have had to get back into the learning mode that I was in during my undergraduate training but I feel I am able to take a much more pragmatic view of what is realistically achievable and pace my self better.

Reading the comments about supervision makes me suspect that this is the biggest difference. My supervisors are contemporaries of mine. Our relationship is one of colleagues and never once has been teacher/student, leader/follower.

However had I been ready to do a PHd in my 20's ( which I so was not mature enough to do) then I think the qualification would have had a strong and positive effect on my career so if you are ready to do it go for it...!


I'm 22 and in the first year of my PhD, and I don't think I'm at a disadvantage. Although it does bug me when mature students look at me like I'm a child- there is such a major focus on mature students, and ensuring they are supported etc (as most are part-time) and don't get me wrong this is obviously necessary, but I do often wonder what about students like me who get sh*t because we're young?!


I am mid way through my second year and I am 23. I went straight from undergrad to PhD which is what I think some people have a problem with rather than my age. I don't feel at a disadvantage in terms of doing the research but I do sometimes worry I will be if I was to go on to look for an academic job as I would have less experience than others. I think if you feel ready and prepared to do it now then don't worry what other people think! :)


Quote From button:

Although it does bug me when mature students look at me like I'm a child- there is such a major focus on mature students, and ensuring they are supported etc (as most are part-time) and don't get me wrong this is obviously necessary, but I do often wonder what about students like me who get sh*t because we're young?!

It was the other way around at my uni. As a part-time (and somewhat mature) student I was very cut off and isolated, with very little support. Full-timers on campus (also generally younger) had much much more.

As for the age thing I don't think it matters to be honest. In my first go at a PhD (before the neurological illness struck) I was just 22 when I started, after a 4-year Scottish honours degree. And I didn't feel in any way inferior or out of my depth. Second time around I was in my 30s, part-time, and felt - apart from the lack of support for part-timers - on an equal footing again.


There are alot of students that start their PhD when they are 21/22, depending on whether they took a year out to do their masters. I would have thought most students would be around that age.


Sociology OP by any chance? Not my discipline but at joint research training events I used to get a lot of this from mature sociology PhD students. I think there are pros and cons of doing a PhD young (and I was late 20s but looked younger when I did mine so got hit from obth sides or benefitted alround depending on how you look at it). If you are younger, you tend to have fewer personal ties and so can be much more flexible. This helps with the networking, conference going and eventual ability to relocate for the few jobs on offer. The downside I think is that succeeding in a PhD means you have to be quite tenacious and resilient and able to take criticism, and those are things that I know personally I'm better at now than I was in my early 20s. But that doesn't mean all mature students are good at those things - and on your point on judgement I have known teenagers with great judgement and people in their 50s without any... Yes your age is probably an issue in how your interviewees respond to you but so would gender, ethnicity, disability and any number of different personal characteristics. Why not turn it into an interesting methodological discussion? But above all, don't let these people mess with your self-confidence - if they are really getting to you, then that's bullying and needs to be discussed with your supervisor.


The main reason I am glad i didn't go straight from UG to MSc to PhD is financial. because i spent a few years working (but still living like a student!) I started my PhD with savings. If I had gone straight from uni I'd have been scraping the bottom of my overdraft from the beginning and would have stuggled more finacially.

Thinking of people I know most were in their early to mid 20s when they began. I started age 27 and I'm not really sure how much of a diffence those 4/5 years made. probably not a lot!


There are pros and cons either way. You will not have the depth of life experience that someone older would have, but you have many other benefits. I'm in my early 40s now and couldn't have done this in my 20s, I was way too flighty and had no tenacity whatsoever - but that's just me. Now I'm that bit older I feel more able to deal with it all, to stick at it, and to make judgements than I would have been able to do - but everybody is different and I know quite a few PhD students in their 20s who are far wiser than I am ;-) Furthermore, in your 20s you have the flexibility to really make a go of this. I don't... I'm married, I have 3 children, a house, 2 dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits etc etc - I can't just up and move for a post-grad position - I'm stuck here, and there are only really 3 unis within commuting distance of me - that puts several spanners in the works.

You may find that the comments are out of jealousy - I'm extremely jealous of my younger collegues - they are soooo lucky - they can work when they want, go where they want and have an amazing future ahead of them - not that I'd ever come out with comments such as you are facing!!!! I just wish in many ways that I'd been more mature in my 20s and in a position to do this then!


I don't feel like there is a disadvantage then again in my department of approx 20 students the majority are around the age of 25, I will be too in 48 hours! I think it depends as others have commented on what type of person you are, evidently in my department there are a lot of dedicated youngsters. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous of friends who left education after their undergrad degrees and now have jobs/ been travelling etc but I really enjoy what I'm doing so it doesn't bother me much.



I started my PhD on my 22nd Birthday, straight out of a 3 year undergraduate degree, no masters, which is commonplace in my subject. Most of my fellow PhD students were in their 20's but had dropped a year or two here or there ie gone out to work, or taken gap years etc. Although I don't reget doing my PhD at that age (26 now, currently a post-doc), and you can certainly make the most of it, as pointed out by Stressed, I think there was a little animosity from my fellows and maybe I had a little trouble fitting in at first, but then I was kind of forced to grow up, so became more like them, and that was that really.

One negative side of doing a PhD at a youngish age I suppose is that you would normally be meeting a future partner etc then, and it can be difficult to meet people whilst doing a PhD, I found this to be the case for a year or so. I was involved in a few clubs/societies and managed to meet my gf (now of about 3 years) in one of those, so I was fortunate in that respect.