Careers Service

Moving onto a PhD

If you are considering continuing with your studies pursuing a research degree, most commonly a PhD, then you will find useful information on this page. If you are considering any other form of further study see the general further study section of this site.

Is a PhD for you?

A PhD (also known as a doctorate or DPhil in some universities) is a self-directed research project that makes a unique contribution to the field of study. It is an opportunity to study an area of interest in great depth. It typically takes 3 - 4 years of full time study or 5 - 7 years part-time.

Here are some ideas to help you decide if PhD study is for you.

  • You must be very motivated, determined and have a strong interest in your research area to successfully undertake a PhD. If you enjoyed the independent research you did for your undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations then you may enjoy the longer research period of a PhD.
  • A PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic career so will be necessary if you want to work in academic research or lecturing.
  • Some students find the experience very isolating as they are working on their own for most of the time sometimes with limited support. Other students will find this form of independent working motivating.
  • In contrast many students, mainly in the sciences, work as part of a large research group and find interacting with the team enjoyable and motivating.
  • Talk to current PhD students to find out more about what is expected during a PhD and the lifestyle and working hours experienced to help you decide if it is the right thing for you.
  • Consider your motivations for undertaking a PhD. If you are keen to have an academic or research career then investigate the reality of what this means, e.g. what is the work really like, what about the work environment, how competitive is the academic job market in the UK and rest of the world?
  • Find out more about the range of career options for PhD students by looking at the PhD pages on this site:

Career options for PhD graduates

How to apply

There is no single point of applications for the majority of PhDs; instead, you will make applications directly to individual universities for each PhD project which interests you.

  • PhD projects that have already received funding and where the project aims have been defined are advertised on the host university's website, in relevant professional journals or other academic job websites. You will normally apply directly to the institution using their postgraduate application system.
  • You may not see PhDs of interest advertised or may have your own ideas about specific areas you would like to research. In that case you should identify which universities or research institutes conduct research in your areas of interest and then contact researchers / lecturers currently active in your field to discuss your ideas. You will commonly see academic profiles on university websites which invite expressions of interest from potential PhD students.
  • Many PhDs with funding attached have early application deadlines so you should start your search early.

Funding for a PhD

The majority of PhD students in the UK will receive some form of funding throughout their studies. However, a number of students self-fund their PhDs. Some ideas for sources of funding are outlined below.

Many advertised PhD studentships come with funding already attached. If you are successful in your application for the PhD and meet eligibility criteria then you will also receive funding.

The University of Edinburgh Scholarships and Student Funding Service has information on scholarships and other sources of funding for both prospective and current students at all levels in the University and beyond.

Talk to your potential PhD supervisors to see if they can suggest any suitable sources of funding.

The Careers Service has information on possible sources of funding:

Edinburgh Innovations provides access to a database of funding opportunities called Research Professional. Although much of this is for post-doctoral support (ie. for after completion of a PhD) there are a number of opportunities for PhD funding listed.

Study abroad

The information above applies to PhD study in the UK. If you are interested in continuing your studies abroad then please see the further study abroad sections of our website: