Guide to working and  Part time PhD study 

Studying for a PhD is a big commitment, either full time for 3-4 years or part-time for generally 6-7 years. If you want, or need, to work during your PhD this could have an impact on your study: here are some of the things you may find it helpful to think about before starting your PhD.

Is funding for a PhD in the UK enough to live on?

If you are fortunate enough to have full funding for your PhD, your studentship should cover both fees and living expenses and be tax-free – the stipend levels for students studying for a PhD in the UK are set by UK research councils for their own studentships, and these are then generally followed by Universities for their own studentships. They are set at a level that is intended for you to have enough to live on and not to have to work.

If you are looking for PhD Funding, apply to attend our annual PhD Funding Fair. Meet leading UK Universities with funding on offer, chat to current PhD students, attend talks on how to apply, and find out what it’s really like to be a PhD student.

How much work is included in a Graduate Teaching Assistantship?

Some PhD studentships are called Graduate Teaching Assistantships – this means that you will be expected to teach for a certain number of hours in each academic year and this is part of the conditions of the studentship. It is advisable to find out exactly how this works with the University advertising the opportunity: will you receive separate payments or is this part of the studentship? How many hours will it involve and how will that relate to your PhD? Will you receive training? If you are considering an academic career as a possibility this may have certain advantages as it can help give you some initial experience but you may also find it difficult to do the work and the necessary study for a PhD at the same time.

Should I study my PhD full-time or part-time if I need to work?

If you need to work and study, it’s important to think about how you will manage that – can you study full-time and work at the same time and if so how much work can you do? This may depend on your subject, but generally a full-time PhD is regarded as a full-time commitment, so anything other than a supplementary job for a few hours per week may be difficult to do. Some students start with a full-time PhD and then move to studying the PhD part-time but you would need to discuss this with your University first.

Planning to study a part-time PhD may take longer overall but it may also give you the time to do your PhD and to make the money you need: if you do decide to study part-time you may already have a job that will allow you to have flexible hours. Think also about part time work in a field that relates to your study. If you need to look for a job that will help you do your PhD, your University is likely to have temporary or part-time jobs that students can apply for on campus – most Universities have a database of these jobs for students so you can find out in advance what the pay rates are and if that would be enough.

Universities also have a range of part-time jobs which may be administrative or involve working in labs – if you apply for one of these jobs, especially in your own department, it’s important to make sure you work out how you will manage this so you know when you are working on your PhD and when you are working on your job.

What if I am an International Student?

If you are an international student in the UK there will be restrictions on how many hours you can work and other visa issues that may mean this is not a practical option.. The rules about this are very strict and the UK Government enforces these closely.

Talking to your University about your options

Your University will always want you to succeed at your PhD and will have experienced students working whilst studying and works and what doesn’t, so if you are planning to work whilst studying it’s a good idea to talk to your department. These questions may form part of your application process because your Supervisor will want to make sure you have the means to conduct your research as well as support yourself.

Many students from, London to Edinburgh, do study for a PhD and work for at least part of the time and complete their PhD successfully: if you look at the options beforehand, you can plan what works best for you so you get the most from your PhD whilst working at the same time.

Next Steps

Looking for a Masters? Search and compare Masters courses now on MastersCompare

Looking for PhD Funding? Meet leading UK Universities with funding on offer at our annual PhD Funding Fair in December.

Receive Email Updates of the latest PhD and Masters opportunities and funding as they are added to PostgraduateStudentships and MastersCompare.Tell us about your search for postgraduate study or ask us a question on our Think Postgrad Facebook page.