The PhD degree course involves a lot of research as you can imagine, and a different, unique style of learning. A PhD course is your chance to bring your contribution to the world of knowledge with an original and interesting research paper. For this reason, you have to select a PhD and a subject for your PhD thesis with a lot of care and consideration.
Find out below the main things you need to consider before embarking on your PhD study journey. The PhD degree course involves a lot of research and a different style of learning. find out below more about this type of programme.
1. Choose a topic/subject for your PhD
For some PhD students, finding the right topic for the PhD thesis is fairly easy, while for others, it may seem like a walk in a maze. In any case, you should really explore your chosen topic more in-depth and see if you can eventually turn it into research questions you can answer to. The thesis for a doctoral programme should reflect originality and validity as well.
In addition, you should take into consideration subjects you are really passionate about or really interested in and see in what way these can become the subject of your doctoral thesis.
If you find a topic that fits this portrait: it’s something you’re interested in exploring and at the same time, it is completely viable for a PhD project, you’re in luck! You have just found your right topic for your PhD.
2. Find the best supervisor
Although the organisation of doctoral education is becoming increasingly centralised in European universities, the supervisor- supervised model is still strong. It goes without saying that you need to identify a supervisor that is an expert on your (proposed) topic, not a supervisor that has general knowledge about your subject and needs to further his research and reading in order to give you valuable instructions.
This situation will certainly create a delay and a gap as you advance with your research work. However, don’t underestimate the importance of interpersonal chemistry!
Once you’ve identified a possible supervisor, send him/her an e-mail outlining your research interests, asking whether they might be interested in acting as your supervisor. To ensure a smooth supervision, it is important to collect some information about his/her personality and how he/she works in a supervision context.
If you can – and costs and travel time are manageable – then try to arrange a face to face meeting to discuss your topic of interest. If not, telephone or Skype discussion is a good alternative.
Supervisors typically provide information about their PhD candidates on their website, so you might find it helpful to (tactfully) approach a few individuals to ask for more information about their style of supervision. This will help you decide whether the potential supervisor is the right person for you.
The supervisor will not only determine the quality of your research experience but can also influence your career beyond, through their professional networks and mentoring.
3. Check out institutions that offer PhD programmes
Many prospective candidates have faced the following dilemma: institution or supervisor- which is more important? In some cases, well-known academics are in prestigious institutions, but there are very experienced, high-profile academics outside the top tier. You need to weigh pros and cons and decide what is the best combination of institution-supervisor for you.
Privileging the institution over academic may not always be the best strategy, as the result of your thesis is the most valuable aspect of a PhD, for both personal and professional purposes.
After completing a doctoral degree, future employers will be more interested in your department, the people you worked with and the research that you’ve done.
4. Decide if you want to study a PhD abroad
Prospective PhD candidates might start their PhD search by selecting the country they want to pursue this degree first. A key priority is to align your research parameters – topic/supervisor/institution – with your geographical preference.
Consider the following:
- How is doctoral education organised?
- What is the reputation of the higher education and research system?
- Which funding sources are available?
- What is the status of the PhD?
- Where would you like to stay for at least three of your life? To what extent do you like/dislike the lifestyle in this country?
Do a thorough research, get the answers to these questions and find the right balance that would make your study experience abroad as complete, comfortable and enriching as possible.
5. Are you eligible to pursue a PhD in a country?
While in most higher educational institutions, a second graduate degree (Master’s) or a Bachelor’s degree (first class degree, above 70/100) is the main entry requirement, you should explore the PhD admission requirements policy before you apply.
In some countries, the rules are stricter, or have higher standards and you might need to ‘translate’ your qualifications and establish whether they meet the minimum expectations.
Visa requirements for a PhD abroad
If you apply for a PhD abroad, you may have to first deal with the visa application process. If your chosen degree is in EU and you are a non-EU candidate, you will need to check the visa requirements and costs for the PhD candidature in the country.
Postgraduate students from any European Economic Area (EEA) country (plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) and nationals of Switzerland do not require visas to enter another EEA country.
International students who plan to study for a PhD in the United States have to apply for the F-1 student visa.
6. How will you pay for your international PhD?
The PhD is a considerable educational and financial investment and you need to be fully clued up about funding arrangements before you commit to three or four years of study.
Are you only interested in funded PhDs or would you be able to self-fund? Either way, you should consider the transparent – and hidden – costs involved, including fees/institutional administrative costs, accommodation expenses, living expenses and conference/travelling expenses, if you decide to go for a PhD abroad.
Costs vary by institution, region and country. Similarly scholarships, bursaries and stipends also vary by funding body and country. In Australia, for instance, universities like Melbourne Business School, Faculty of Business and Economics offer to fund your tuition fee and living expenses, in the form of a very ample scholarship for anyone accepted to their PhD programmes.
Furthermore, don’t forget the loss of earnings you incur by withdrawing from the job market for around three years. On the other hand, many theories suggest that most successful PhD students are the ones that take a break of a year or two between a Bachelor/Master’s degree and a PhD programme. During this time, they can engage in a job and also gain perspective and find out what they are truly interested in, in terms of future career goals.
Ready to apply for your chosen PhD?
After taking all these factors into consideration and giving each one a serious thought, the only thing left to do is to finally prepare all the paperwork and apply for a doctoral degree. You may still encounter a few setbacks along the way, but the final result is all that matters. You just have to keep this in mind and stay positive and motivated!