If you are considering furthering your qualifications to PhD level, then you may want to first assess the impact that this will have on your life. There are huge demands placed on PhD students, both in the research and the delivery of the findings. You are going to become an expert in your field, and for this, you will need to be able to process vast amounts of prior research whilst formulating and developing your own ideas around the topic. This differs greatly from the work required to achieve decent undergraduate grades and you will need to be prepared for the rigours of PhD life if you decide to commit to it.
How many hours will I need to put in per week?
As a minimum, you will be working on your PhD as many hours as you would work a full-time job – so around 40 hours per week. However, many PhD students find that this is not enough to allow for all of the PhD research and other work that a PhD requires. Some PhD students are also required to help out with teaching, and this can take up a significant portion of your time, leaving you less time to conduct your research.
For this reason, PhD life may actually mean no social life – as you find your weekends and evenings are taken up by reading and studying. This can start to feel quite lonely as you may feel like you are missing out on quality time with friends and family. You will need to try and find some balance to make sure you are feeling your best mentally to deal with the quantity of work involved in a PhD.
Whilst demanding, if you can achieve that balance, PhD life can also be very rewarding as you really start to build your expertise in a field that you are truly passionate about.
Be prepared for the set-backs
It’s easy to think of your PhD running smoothly, with the research findings neatly fitting with your hypothesis and you simply spending your time writing this up, but there are many things that can go wrong and you need to be prepared for this. Seemingly small things, such as debugging software can really set you back and prevent you from progressing, which can be intolerably frustrating if your deadlines are approaching.
This is why leaving things to the last minute during your PhD is unadvisable as it will not allow you time to deal with these issues. Other things to be aware of are the admin involved in contacting institutions to obtain information you need to progress, transcribing interviews, learning new software, and there are many other unforeseen things that can arise during your PhD that are not part of the research and thesis writing itself.
Even the writing of the thesis has its own setbacks. It’s unlikely that the first draft of the thesis you submit will be approved by your supervisor and you will be ready for your Viva. Most likely, your supervisor will return your thesis for revisions multiple times, and this can be disheartening as you may feel like you are not getting anywhere. In fact, you need to consider that each submission is an improvement on the last and you are getting closer to reaching your goal each time.
Is PhD life worth it?
This is what you need to decide before you embark on the immense commitment. You need to be completely sure that this is what you want to do and that you have the drive and passion about the subject to get you through the difficult times. If you are prepared for what life is going to be like as a PhD student, then this will help you handle the setbacks and persevere in order to achieve your career goals.
Recommended further reading on PhD life on our site (stay encouraged!): Top 3 Reasons Why It Is Worth Getting Your PhD Degree, After All