FAQs about PhD

  1. Getting admission to PhD
  • Do you have to be a very smart person to get a PhD place?

There are two situations;

For all of the advertised PhD positions there is very tough competition so you must prove that you are the best. And yes, if you can’t impress the potential supervisor(s) that you are smart and intelligent you won’t get an admission for PhD. Alongside you also must prove that you are more intelligent/best suitable than any other applicant.

If you have own topic of interest and want to pursue PhD on that topic, maybe it’s slightly easier because you don’t have to directly compete with other candidates. However you must prove that you are intelligent/able to do PhD. But still there will be indirect competition as there were many students with similar topic applying for place. Since PhD students need/given their personal desk/spaces there are only certain students one university can take in no matter which route you are applying from.

  • Once I get a place as PhD student, is it like getting admission into bachelors or masters?

No. Although it may vary in different university or different countries, the usual practice is that there is a window period within first year when you will have some sort of internal assessment done by the university. This could be writing a detailed proposal for your PhD, an exam or a certified course on research method which you have to pass. If you couldn’t pass this stage, you will either be considered for Masters, MRes or MPhil only. If you pass it, then only you will be formally enrolled/registered as a PhD / Doctorate candidate.

  1. The journey
  • What is it like doing PhD?

The PhD process is comparatively shorter (or equal) than doing Bachelors but many consider it as a lonely and long. It’s mainly because, on typical conditions, you will be working on minutely specific topic for 3-5 years on your own with some limited assistance from supervisor(s). Another reason for it being long is also that, once enrolled formally to doctorate/PhD you may not have formal deadlines/exams etc. Which means a continuous project on back of your head even when you are with friends having a pint!

However if you can manage time there are many PhD students who would probably like to watch Big Bang Theory in Netflix ! or a Research Students Association in uni organizing a karaoke night out !

  • Will doing PhD change a person? Will the person invent/discover something?

Yes, it is supposed to change a person’s way of thinking. For many the process could be meditative and spiritual. It will take you to different level of mental stage. You will (are supposed to) master the skill of thinking rationally. You will start to see smaller things; smaller mistakes, smaller success, smaller voices, smaller causes, smaller effects… In fact the whole PhD journey is designed to make the student to think rationally.

Any information you get from outside world has some meaning, as a PhD student you will learn how to process this information to make sense of it. Once you make sense of it, you can translate it to the language everyone can understand. And this tiny information will turn into something useful to the humankind or planet or beyond!

So, a completing PhD is not necessarily a big discovery, or a breakthrough. But it certainly makes the person able to produce a valid, reasonable, rational information.

  1. Career
  • What kind of job do I get after completing?

PhD will potentially have more doors open for you than doing lower degrees. At the same time it may close many doors which you would have got into doing Bachelors or Masters because you may be considered “overqualified”. I had one Japanese friend who said that there are very high suicide rate among PhD graduates in Japan because they struggle to get job simply because many company think they are overqualified. So anywhere, simply having PhD is not enough to get a job.

First and the main route most PhD graduates follow is academia; research fellow, lecturer, researcher etc. Secondly, there is also option to go into real practice as a researcher in government or pioneering companies such as NASA, Apple, Tesla, and Unilever etc. Thirdly, you can apply for research grants (with government, bank, NGO/INGO, trusts etc.) for your own project, if you have genuine proposal of your project.

  • What is the earning after the completion?

The usual mainstream PhD graduates who go to academia has decent wages up to level of a lower or middle level manager.

The second route suggested above is probably the highest paid; PhD graduates, who work in breakthrough projects with abundance of resources and with larger team.

The third route I mentioned is a bit of gambling if you are not a good manager; your own research project. Success of third type of career largely depends on your managerial skill and how well you have prepared and done risk assessment of your project beforehand. However, the third route can also lead you to the destination no one has never been before and earn high name and big money.