Student Advice

What is a PhD or Doctorate?

Uni Compare  · Jul 30th 2021

A Doctorate qualification or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD/DPhil) is the highest academic level an individual can achieve.


These types of degree courses are very extensive and can lead to careers within academia, such as a job as a researcher or a lecturer. The majority of students who study a PhD degree course would have completed a Master’s degree previously.

How long does it take to complete a PhD?

A PhD typically lasts three years, and any available funding tends to last this time too. Students may be able to ask for extra time to complete their PhD thesis but this may be at their own expense.

What is involved in studying a PhD?

A PhD usually includes a dissertation of around 80,000 to 100,000 words which is based on research carried out throughout the course. The research needs to be original and aims to create new research and knowledge of a specialist area, to build from existing theories. Some institutions will accept individuals on a Master’s of Philosophy (MPhil) course and then upgrade them to a PhD status after the student completes the first year or two.

Students who have not completed sufficient work to a PhD level, or wish to reduce their workload can submit a shorter thesis and gain an MPhil instead. Of course, all PhD's are different in their approach, but the usual methods of studying remain the same.

There is very little taught element within a PhD degree, students are expected to work independently and seek support from their tutor and department. During their studies, individuals will attempt to get their academic papers published in a peer-reviewed journal and present their work at lectures and conferences, to gain feedback for their thesis.

UCL Energy PhD graduates at graduation.

What entry requirements do I need to study a PhD?

Doctorate degree courses may also be applied for by students who received at least a 2:1 at an undergraduate level, and may not necessarily need a Master’s degree, although this is usual practice before a PhD.

Students are advised to check with their chosen university as to what entry requirements they need to gain admission onto a course, or any other course they apply to, like a DipHE.

How do I apply to study a PhD?

Prospective PhD candidates are generally expected to submit a research proposal to the department of the subject that they wish to study within. Certain departments will also encourage individuals to discuss their ideas with an academic who works within that subject and field beforehand. The research proposal should outline what research the student wishes to investigate and how it will relate to other research in the field, as well as what methods they intend to use to carry out this research.

What can I do with a PhD?

PhD graduates can continue to work in academia and start undertaking post-doctoral research, which can then be followed by fellowship or lectureship.

Other career options – depending on the PhD subject – can include commercial research, or to utilise their knowledge and specialist research skills within areas of business and finance.

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.