Masters/PhD/Job dilemma


I'm an OU graduate with a BSc in Physics (2:1, disappointingly) and have been accepted onto a year long full-time quantum-related masters degree. Since applying, my (& my husband's) financial circumstances have changed, so the nearly £6k price tag and the fact that I'd be unable to work while studying due to time constraints(study hours + it's a 50 mile trip each way to uni) means it seems unwise to take up the offer.

I've looked at scholarships and they all either don't apply as I'm not a grad of the uni I'm applying to/don't fulfill other criteria (some of which are truly bizarre!).

I could work for a year, and *hope* to have enough money to afford it, but can't count on getting a well enough paid job to save. (Also, I'm 32, so time is of the essence here).

We could perhaps take out a loan, but am not sure we'd manage the repayments, so would be risking being financially up the creek.

Have applied for 6 PhDs (various unis), had 3 interviews, been turned down for all three. The other three I don't know, but considering the closing date was March for two of them and I've heard nothing, have to assume those were a 'no'.

There are other PhDs I could go for, but I'm short on time, and often end up wasting time contacting people, only to find the placement has been filled/won't go ahead anymore, despite it being open for online applications on the university website!

So what do I do? The masters starts in the 3rd week of September.

Of course, it would be very easy to just give up and say I should've done all this ten years ago, and try to get a job with what I've got. But I don't want to do that. I do love the field I'm trying to get into. And that's why we're all here, right?


I wish I could offer more help but I have no experience in the UK system so am a bit confused with the applying for PhDs that have been filled (as my experience in Canada/Australia was that I developed my own research topic and had supervisors take me on?)

In the UK, do you need to have a masters to do a PhD? Can you fast track? I'm not sure if it's worth applying for PhD programs if you aren't meeting their qualifications, although getting three interviews is good!

Do you need the masters/PhDto get into the field you want? Have you tried other avenues such as networking, going to conferences in your field? These days its more about experience than qualifications, lots of people are being told they are overqualified and under experienced.

I think you might regret not doing the masters. It will just required some creative thinking to budget for it. Lots of graduate students don't have financial help from parents/scholarships/have to make it on their own, so I'm sure if you and your partner put your heads together, you might be able to figure something out.

It might mean that you take on a job and run on fumes, but sometimes we have to make these sacrifices to get what we need?


For a PhD in the UK you ideally need a masters, while they don't ask for it as a requirement it is unlikely that you will a PhD without one unless you are self-funding. In your area of research are you going to be lab based or can you work from home at all (this would cut down on the commuting costs). If you are struggling for money you can work around a masters but it is really difficult or you could consider a part time masters and work along side. You could look in to a career development loan which doesn't require any repayments until 1 month after your course finished, but these tend to take at least 12 weeks to come through. I ended up taking out a student overdraft from TSB, this was for £2000 and was interest free and this gave me a cusion so that I didn't have to work as many hours.
Hope this helps.


I thought a part-time Masters would be a good idea? That way you can get a job but stay in with the masters too? Masters could be done in too years and its never too late to start a PhD.


I'd second the suggestion about seeing if you can do your Masters (or a similar one) part-time. I did my Masters part-time with the OU and worked at the same time, as there was no other way for me to afford a Masters. It made all the difference in getting a funded PhD place. I'm one year into my PhD at the age of 44 :-)