What to do if I need 'gap year' before PhD


So I've just been rejected from the 'job' portion of a PhD application. It was a GTA position and they've said no without an interview (I'd been hoping to get a bit further at least). They have said I can continue and apply for PhD study there as a self-funded applicant, but tbh I can't really afford this. I know people have done it by working and I admire them massively but I don't feel confident enough about my time management skills, or, if I'm honest, my willingness to say goodbye to a social life for 6 years!

I don't know whether I should say I want to apply for the PhD anyway and see what happens. My supervisor for that would be my current masters supervisor who suggested I apply for the PhD/GTA position, and I don't want to seem like I'm just giving up too easily as I'd really like to do this project and work with her - but the funding is a big sticking point.

I would also, I think, need a job which is more relevant - my masters is in neuroscience, I work currently in a totally unrelated job and I'm finding that more and more difficult to juggle - not the time as much as the constant gear-shifting. We were told that generally part-time PhDs work if the job you're doing alongside is relevant and mine is really not.



I have one more application (for a funded project I'd really like to do), but nothing more up my sleeve as I am too late for the research council funding and various other ones - wasn't sure I wanted to do a PhD until my supervisor sent me the links for the GTA positions and suggested I apply, and then when I discussed it with her and got thinking about it and started my dissertation research I realised I really would like to do a PhD. So if I don't get this other one, realistically I'll have to wait till next year.

I've seen ads for research assistant jobs which I would have a chance at, if I do have to wait a year - I was thinking that would be a good thing to do in a 'year out', if I can get one, but they're so far in totally different areas from what I want to do my PhD in. Is this a case of 'beggars can't be choosers' and it's better to have the experience in neuroscience/research, even a different area, than a totally unrelated job where I forget what I've learned on the masters? Or does it look indecisive if I've done an RA or similar job in a different area? My feeling is if I held out for the 'perfect' job at this stage I'd never get one so I should be flexible, but wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience with PhDs etc and what you did.


Hi Igorina,

Personally, I would never ever do a PhD where I have to fund myself. PhD is stressful in itself and if I also have to worry about earning my own money then that's too much!

If I were in your place, I would definitely go ahead for another job...any job. I also had a year's gap where I lectured Bachelors and Masters students at a local college. It was possible in India since there are a lot of private colleges where there is always a dearth of teachers. I don't think it should matter a lot if you do a job in a different field...just be honest about your decision when asked about it in the interview. I am sure everyone understands.


Hello, I took a year out between my undergraduate and my PhD. I spent the year doing a mix of things, I spent the first 3 months waitressing, then worked in a lab for 3 months, the 3 months playing housewife, then some more waitressing/bar work. The time in the lab was a really good experience but unfortunately I had to move away from the area. I also really enjoyed the slower pace of life whilst playing housewife and waitressing, it did help refresh me after my UG.
Is there an option of starting at other times in the year? At my uni you can start a PhD either in April or October so it may not necessarily be a whole year you have to take out.
Wish you the best of luck


Thanks GeneNat and Thumbelina, that's really helpful!

I've had a chat with my MSc supervisor who was helpful - she said I can apply next year and will be in time for ESRC funding etc then, and the project will be available though may need some modifications depending on what work has been done meanwhile - and she's happy to give me a reference to the other place, she knows the supervisor there and thinks it's an interesting project.

Have been to sites like jobs.ac.uk and set up alerts - wondering if I should put up my CV there. Are there any other sites etc which people have used to search for RA-type jobs?


Hmm more questions sorry!

Given that I can't afford to do the PhD at my current place unfunded, is it better to leave the field clear by withdrawing from the application now so if I want/need to apply next year I haven't messed things up by being rejected or getting a place and then saying I actually can't do it (don't want to mess them around, or make them feel like I am)? Or would it be better to 'show willing/interest' by carrying on and seeing if I can get it this year - would it be possible to defer entry if I DO get it until next year when I can apply for funding, or is this not allowed/frowned on/impossible?

Sorry if this is a really stupid question and what I'm thinking makes no sense - I'm fairly new to the process and concerned about accidentally putting my foot in it somewhere or messing up a chance (slightly paranoid possibly...).


I would apply for a PhD only if there is a chance of getting a funding. So if you have a chance of getting a funded PhD, by all means apply! If you are certain that there is no way that it will be funded, then in my opinion it is better to withdraw the application.

Regarding deferring entry, it depends on the place and the system. If you apply through a graduate school then I'm pretty sure you cannot postpone entry until the next year. But if it's funded by your boss then it depends on her/him. In the latter case, I would talk to the boss and tell them that I cannot join unless it is funded and they can tell you whether or not it is worth applying.