Studying for a Part-time PhD: The Challenges and Benefits

4 minute read
Studying for a Part-time PhD: The Challenges and Benefits

Are you a Masters student or a researcher who is considering doing a PhD? If so, you would know that pursuing a doctoral program is a long-haul commitment for any student. The duration may vary by subject. A PhD in a STEM subject may take three years. On the other hand, if a PhD topic requires data collection over an extended period of time, the process can take longer.

In the Social Sciences fieldwork for qualitative data collection can take 2-3 years and so the PhD can take 5 years or a bit longer. The duration of the PhD program also varies by region. A PhD in the United States may require year-long coursework (to study and pass examinations in some specified courses). Your focused dissertation work can begin only after you pass those examinations. This is how a typical PhD program runs.  

What Does a Part-Time PhD Mean?

A part-time PhD is basically about flexibility. This means that :

  • The rules about timelines for submission do not apply to you.
  • Time for completion may be open-ended, sometimes as long as 8 years.
  • The fees may be lower than for the full-time programme.
  • Your presence may not be required.
  • You may be able to work remotely –in case you have a job or family responsibilities in a different city.

Many universities, regardless of the subject that you are pursuing, will offer you the option of doing a part-time PhD spread over a few years. However, if you are on a funded scholarship, or have a research fellowship or other sources of funding, this may not be permissible. You may be required to complete your dissertation within a stipulated period of time.

Must Read: Importance of publications during PhD

What are the Benefits of Doing a Part-Time PhD?

  • If you are a young professional and holding a job, a part-time PhD would be a good option because it would give you flexibility without disrupting your professional work.
  • A part-time PhD would enable a student to take up research projects and teaching assistantships alongside the study. This ensures additional income while you do your doctoral work.
  • If you have family responsibilities and are not able to focus full-time on your research, then a part-time PhD offers potential.
  • In case of financial constraints, the part-time PhD student will have to pay a lower fee annually, although it would extend for more years.

Challenges Faced in Pursuing a Part-Time PhD

  • Research has shown that when students take extended periods of time to finish their dissertations, many ‘drop out and do not complete their final dissertations.
  • Working on the same topic for 6-8 years can result in losing focus and motivation which ends up in non-completion.
  • Non-submission of the final dissertation means that the student is given the title ‘ABD’ (all but dissertation). Professionally this means that although you may have completed all other requirements, you will still be ABD and not get the title of a PhD The PhD is a key qualification required for academic and research-related positions.
  • This is the reason why university fellowships have a time limit within which a student must complete and submit their dissertation and fulfil all other requirements for a PhD.

Also Read: Top Challenges Faced While Studying Abroad and How to Overcome Them

Career Advice From a PhD Mentor

I have mentored many graduate students and PhD scholars during the years that I have taught at universities in India and in the United States. They have all confirmed that doing a PhD is hard work and needs a strong focus. My own personal journey in doing a PhD also confirmed that. I had to keep track of my own progress and create my own deadlines and targets so that every few months I could reach the next stage towards completion. In such a situation a part-time PhD did seem an attractive option. However, I chose a full-time programme to keep myself motivated and to get my degree as early as possible.

My advice is to all PhD scholars is to set a target to complete the  PhD during the time permitted for a full-time PhD Choose the part-time option only if you have serious time constraints or other responsibilities or if you need to live in a different city from your university. In that case, set goals and milestones for yourself so that you don’t lose focus or motivation. For more questions on research skills, finding a topic for research or choosing a methodology, DM me!

We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr Maina Chawla Singh. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you. 

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