How to Choose a PhD Programme That Is Right for You?

By Elena Golovushkina

Congratulations on having chosen to embark on a PhD journey! This experience can be equally exciting and challenging and can help you discover many new things, people and develop your skills and knowledge. To make sure that you make the most of this experience, you need to consider several important issues when choosing your PhD programme.

1. Your motivation for doing a PhD

Motivation can be an important factor for choosing a PhD programme that is right for you. A good idea would be to start answering a few questions like:

Are you motivated by a subject interest or do you consider a PhD degree as a step towards developing your career?

Are you planning to work in academia afterwards and prefer to focus on developing research and teaching experience? Or are you willing to develop your career in industry? In this case, you may search for the PhD programmes that involve collaboration with industry.

Your motivation is an important factor that should guide you while searching for the right programme. Also, you don’t instantly have to enrol in a PhD right after you have finished a Master’s degree. A break of a year or two or even more may be necessary to gain perspective and to figure out exactly what your interests are, in terms of a possible subject for your research. Many people opt for landing a job for a few years before going back to study and apply for a doctoral degree.

Browse through PhD programmes

2. Choosing the right area or topic of your PhD research

Be as specific as possible searching for the relevant PhD programme. You may choose to begin your search from a rather broad area such as “Education”, for example. This can be followed by narrowing down the search by “Higher Education”, “Secondary Education” “Adult education”. In order to do this, just add the key word in addition to the chosen discipline/sub-discipline on the Home page of www.phdportal.com. This will help you to identify the programmes that are most relevant to you.

You may be really passionate or interested in a certain topic, but you should give a lot of thought to this aspect: how viable it would be for a PhD project? In what way can you transform it into a research question you can fairly manage?

In addition, your topic for the PhD should not necessarily have a connection with your Bachelor or Master studies. It can be a different, as long as you know you can deal with the research and coursework.

Finding a supervisor

As you already know from your previous experience as a Bachelor and/or Master student, finding the right supervisor for your thesis is very important. In the case of a PhD, the right supervisor is not just important, it is crucial.

You will have to give a significant amount of time when you look for researchers and professors and then, managing to get their approval for supervising your work. In the process of deciding for your PhD, the supervisor is more important than the exact university you will attend. So it’s best that you don’t decide first on the university, and then limit your options with finding a supervisor at that university. In fact, when referring to doctoral programmes, rankings and the prestige of the university are not exactly valuable details.

3. Funding

How are you planning to fund your PhD programme? Are you going to be self-funded or are looking for a scholarship? If you are looking for a scholarship, do have a look at www.scholarshipportal.com that will help you in search of exciting funding opportunities from the most prestigious universities in Europe. Applying for a scholarship is always a competitive process but it is certainly worth a try.

Find details about how you can get a scholarship for your PhD.

4. PhD duration and format

How much time are you ready to invest in your PhD? A PhD degree in Europe takes on average four years but largely depends on the country and the type of degree chosen. Do plan ahead to make sure PhD fits with the rest of your life plans!

Are you planning to do your PhD full-time or will you be able to combine it with your current job? In the first case, you are more likely to receive a scholarship since the majority of them are provided for full-time commitment to a research project. In case of a part-time PhD, you may consider the option of a professional doctorate, with your research project contributing to both theory and practice of your chosen area.

Search for advice

If in doubt, do ask for help! PhDPortal provides advice to potential doctoral candidates searching for PhD programmes. Contact PhD programme coordinators and potential supervisors in the chosen university or other experts in the field. Widen your network of possible contacts you could ask for advice; it could even be your current employer. In addition, use social network platforms to contact current doctoral candidates who will be able to share their experiences and provide some useful information. All this will help you make a more informed choice of a PhD programme.

Good luck!

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