Studying for a PhD in the UK
While many graduates begin work soon after finishing their degrees, others choose to take their academic commitment on to the next level. Whether studied as a requisite feature of a specific career choice, or just simply as a means of delving deeper into a subject that particularly interests you, a PhD is a major commitment and can bring some notable benefits. Hotcourses' student editor, Alejandra is here to tell you some facts about PhDs so you can choose what it is best for your own future.
With current changes in university fees and fewer funding options available, you should think very carefully about what you want to accomplish before taking on a PhD. Doctor in Philosophy or Ph.D. (for the Latin philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae) is a postgraduate award that recognises your training and experience in the research of a particular subject leading to a professional research qualification. Therefore, the skills that you acquire are more advanced than the basic qualifications such as a Bachelor's or Master's degrees. Usually lasting for three years, a PhD is a demonstration of professionalism and research competence. There are certain things that you will be expected to demonstrate in the pursuit of your research topic:
• Mastery of your subject along with ground knowledge of the basic theories and concepts related to your discipline.
• Research insight
• Capacity for independent research
• Ability to communicate results and relate them to the broader discourse
In terms of career pathways, the PhD puts you on track for academic posts related to either teaching or researching. You will find that many of the lecturers and department heads at your universities have a PhD - it represents the summit of academic knowledge. However, this does not mean that if you hold a PhD, you will not be able to work in more commercial areas. On the contrary, the professionalism and self-motivation that a research degree helps you to develop are qualities greatly desired by employers who look for this caliber of candidate to join their workforce. Crucially, the PhD is also very beneficial in terms of the pay scale as PhD holders will generally earn more.
Usually a PhD project is described as 'an original contribution to knowledge' by the awarding institutions. However, in reality the scope of originality that a PhD allows you is quite limited as it is based on other people's research, so the outcome is a combination of the insights of other researchers or scientists into your research topic. The real contribution comes when you apply a theory in a different setting, or review little-studied events in innovate ways. During your course you will have to establish and develop a thesis which will be supported by the data that you have gathered during your research. At the end of your course you will have to submit a PhD dissertation that includes your conclusions about the matter.
MPhil vs. PhD
The dividing line between the PhD and a Master's degree is often misplaced and increasing numbers of people do not have a clear understanding of the differences between what a Master's or MPhil (Master of Philosophy) and a PhD seek to achieve.
The MPhil is a less advanced qualification than the PhD in which the student is expected to master a content area. This can be completed in one or two years' full-time study. A candidate for an MPhil must undertake an investigation but, compared to the PhD, the work may be limited in scope and the degree of originality.
Considerably more emphasis is put on original work in the PhD and the PhD thesis involves greater depth than an MPhil dissertation. Greater synthesis and critical ability and also a more detailed investigation of any practical illustrations are expected from doctoral candidates.
The pros and cons of pursuing a PhD
Pursuing a PhD can be extremely fascinating and satisfying. A deep fulfillment can be gained by sharing ideas with other like-minded individuals who share your passion for a subject. It also provides an intellectual challenge allows you to make a real impact in a specific research area.
However, the increasing costs of the degrees and maintenance fees, combined with longer periods of time away from the job market can really affect your finances and job perspectives.
Although postgraduate qualifications can provide a distinct advantage for job applicants, particularly when competition is fierce, a degree by itself is not enough to get the job you want. Recruiters like postgraduate courses, but only if graduates can prove their value. "If post-graduate qualifications are undertaken for the right reason and graduates are able to explain their worth to prospective employers, they can be very worthwhile additions to a CV," says Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
In summary, the PhD is an investment in your future - and one that is born out of financial sacrifice in the present.
Whatever you decision, you should keep in mind that a PhD will require long hours of dedication and hard work. Looking to the bigger picture, you will be spending three years of your life in the study of a subject, so you need to be sure that it is the right decision for you.
There is no reason to be discouraged; you will become a real expert in a specialist subject if you decide to pursue this academic pathway. If you would like to get more insights into the PhD world, you can find more information in the following links:
Making your decision: guardian.co.uk/education
life after the PhD: guardian.co.uk
Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd