Want to do a PhD?

What is a PhD?

Known as a research degree, the PhD is a 3-4 year (full time) or 5-7 year (part time) course of independent and original research which is supervised by an academic in the subject area.

You will contribute new research in the form of a thesis suitable for publication which is around 100000 words.

PhDs are traditionally research based, although the integrated PhDs, also known as New Route PhDs, combine research with a more vocational training programme.

Professional Doctorates are useful for students interested in professional careers and consist of a taught core and incorporate professional and academic knowledge. They are available in education (EdD), engineering (EngD or DEng) and business (DBA).

Why do a PhD?

People complete PhDs for a variety of reasons:

  • Love of their subject
  • Springboard into a new career
  • Access to excellent resources for non-academic careers
  • As a pre-requisite for academic careers

When can I do a PhD?

You can do a PhD if you have at least a 2:1 relevant first degree or a relevant masters. You must have in-depth knowledge of your subject area and be able to present a comprehensive research proposal.

You could also apply for a job as a Graduate Research Assistant where you would support the research an academic in your department, teach, take part in laboratory work and complete your own research. You could also consider completing a PhD part time whilst in a job.

Researching into PhDs

It is important to check the quality of the teaching on the course – see the Teaching Excellance Framework (TEF) ratings.

You will either come up with the topic yourself, pitch it at your preferred institution and supervisor and hope to gain funding, or you can apply for a topic which has been agreed between a funding council and an institution and advertised and hope to get accepted (funding will be assured here).

Useful publications in the LSE Careers Library

  • Your PhD companion, Stephen Marshall and Nick Green, 2004
  • The PhD Application Handbook, Peter Bentley, 2006
  • How to get a PhD: third edition, Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh, 2001
  • AGCAS leaflet, postgraduate study and research


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