PhD from working as a Research Assistant?

posted
09-Aug-18, 10:55
Avatar for Polypickleploidy
posted about 4 months ago
I was at an interview for a Research Assistant and on my CV was written that I would like to pursue a PhD. The interview panel said they weren't sure if I could get a PhD from this role...I was really surprised, because it sounded like working as a research assistant might in some cases lead to a PhD. But surely if one wants a PhD one applies for a PhD right?
Does working as a Research assistant ever lead to a PhD? Is this some crucial piece of information I have been missing?
posted
09-Aug-18, 12:55
edited a moment later
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 4 months ago
Hi Polypickleploidy. Could you please tell us if the role is in the UK or other Europe?
In Germany it is quite commin to hire research assistants and in the mean time they pursue a PhD.
posted
09-Aug-18, 13:41
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 months ago
In the UK it can happen that the RA role actually has scope for you to be more independent and be supervised to attain a PhD. Likely in your case the project didn't have scope for that. And they wanted to make you aware of that in case you were expecting that it might (given that you said you want to do a PhD on your statement).

If you are looking to do a PhD, certainly an RA position can be one way into doing one. It would not be one where you got to carry out your idea though, as the project would already have been proposed etc by the stage you came on board. If you are more interested in a PhD where you have the freedom to carry out your own idea then I wouldn't suggest this route.

Hope this helps.
posted
09-Aug-18, 13:44
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 months ago
Ps. An alternative situation is where someone does a part-time PhD and has a part-time RA role alongside it (usually for the purpose of paying for the fees and/or supporting oneself financially). I don't think this is what they were referring to in your interview though - it sounds more like the previous scenario I mentioned.
posted
09-Aug-18, 13:55
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 months ago
I think it depends on the discipline. In Biology, a RA position is just that. You wouldn't generally get on to a PhD from it. They are usually for people who have BScs but no intention to pursue research as a career. It's more of a technical route doing routine bench work.
posted
09-Aug-18, 15:33
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for Polypickleploidy
posted about 4 months ago
It's in the UK. Oxford - so so excited.
I will have the opportunity to publish papers - moderately terrifyingly exciting prospect.
But I had no idea that an RA could lead to a PhD under any circumstances. I thought it would be a good way to see what a research environment is like and if I wanted to pursue a career in research.
Worth knowing though that RA roles can lead to a PhD, because my worry with a PhD, was paying bills and whatnot while studying for it.
posted
09-Aug-18, 15:51
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 4 months ago
Hello. It is really interesting for me to answer as I have taken two RA roles but unfortunately did not lead to a PhD. As a general role, the main advantage of RA is you get more money at the expense that your main focus should be the funded project. If you are UK/EU citizen, paying PhD tuition fees won't be a catastrophe.
In theory and pin practice also, you can register for a PhD and your line manager will be your supervisor also. Your work in the funded project could be included (not necessarly all of it) in your thesis. I strongly advise you to go for it.
If you find in one or two years that the PhD is not going well, you can quit but at this time you should have a few publications which can support your application for another PhD.
There are two things I should warn you from. 1st to have a career in academia, you should have a PhD. Do not spend 6-8 years working as RA without a PhD. The other warning is: do not ignore alerts about insufficient progress of your PhD. You are paid to do RA that is fine but PhD is also very important.
posted
09-Aug-18, 15:58
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for Polypickleploidy
posted about 4 months ago
That's really useful, thanks Eng77.

So they said not sure I could get PhD out of it - to me that means maybe. I guess start work first and see what happens.
posted
09-Aug-18, 18:01
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 months ago
Quote From Polypickleploidy:


So they said not sure I could get PhD out of it - to me that means maybe. I guess start work first and see what happens.


Or it means we want you so we will tell you maybe instead of no to keep you sweet.

I would be very careful here. Start the job, do the job, assess the scene and then decide if you want to pursue a PhD there. If you do and they agree, make sure you are registered like any other student. I've seen students come unstuck in situations like this before, and they either didn't get on the PhD they hinted at, or they weren't properly registered and ended up not getting one.
posted
09-Aug-18, 21:02
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 months ago
Yes but for now maybe just celebrate your success in getting the RA role! It is great to have the opportunity to work at Oxford (some people will pooh pooh at me for saying that but so what - it is a very prestigious uni), and great that you will have the chance to be on papers as well. Keep your options open - you never know - it may lead to a funded PhD opportunity - i.e., when the RA post ends. That might be ideal if you like it there and have built good relationships with potential supervisors!

But yeh, for now, focusing on the RA job sounds good. Congrats!
posted
11-Aug-18, 19:35
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for Polypickleploidy
posted about 4 months ago
Thanks, the information you gave me was really useful.

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