So you may be thinking that a PhD is the right route for you, or maybe you have never even considered it. Here are the pros and cons, right from the horse’s mouth.
The days of not turning up to lectures in first year are over. The afternoons spent trying to keep your eyes open in a second year lecture that you didn’t want to be in are gone. The long nights trying to polish your dissertation into a last ditch attempt at a 2:1 are behind you. Three years done and you have finally graduated, but what to do with your life now?
If, like me, you think three years at university is not enough by any stretch of the imagination, then postgraduate study might be for you. I’ve recently just started a PhD here at UEA in the School of Biological Sciences, and I’d like to pass on some tips for future students thinking about doing the same:
Shop around – there are hundreds of titles for PhDs advertised across the country, all completely unique in some way or another. Pick a title that will keep you interested for a long time as they typically last four years. Four years is a big chunk of your life that you don’t want to spend doing something that’s not right for you.
Reading – since starting on 1 October, 80% of my time has been spent reading. Papers, journal articles, books – you name it, I’ve read it. The majority of this is to get a starting knowledge of what you’re studying, but that knowledge is constantly updating so get used to reading a paper with your cup of tea in the morning for the next four years.
Work, work, work – typically as an undergrad you spend between five and 20 hours (maybe more if you’re particularly unlucky) in lectures, workshops and seminars a week. Postgraduate study is more like a real job. Supposedly, it’s your average nine to five in the office or the lab.
However, one great thing about this PhD business is the fact that you are your own boss. Want to take an hour off to go to the gym at 11am? Unlike a proper job, that’s fine, as long as you’re sensible and are making your targets.
So, while some of the above may sound like I’m trying to dissuade others, the fact of the matter is, that when it comes down to it, I really am enjoying the beginning of my research. It’s both a completely different experience from being an undergrad, and at the same time, is almost exactly the same, in all the right ways!