Jenn Chubb

PhD in Education (part-time)


Tips for working 9 to 5 and doing a part-time PhD

Making the decision to do a PhD is a big deal at any point in your life. A PhD can be carried out full-time, aiming to complete within three years, or part-time over six years. I study part-time and am in my fourth year of my PhD at York, where I am also a full-time member of staff. I also have a lot of musical commitments outside of my working life.

Why do a PhD part-time?

Doing a part-time PhD allows you to carry on working. Work often informs and gives new perspectives on your research whilst your research can information your practice (if it relates to your day job). I am finding it a really rewarding experience. So here are my tips for anyone considering a part-time PhD:

  • Take time to think about why you want to do this before you start. It’s that motivation that will carry you through your PhD journey. A PhD does not come for free: it costs time and money. However options are available for you both in terms of self-funding and scholarships through doctoral training centres funded by the Research Councils. Doing a part-time PhD, self-funded, may actually be a cost effective way of getting your qualification. Find out more about research fees and funding.
  • Choose your supervisor wisely and pay attention to that relationship. A Thesis Advisory Panel will also support you but your supervisor will be the only other person (other than maybe your mum) who will intimately concern themselves with the ins and outs of your PhD and keep you on track.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you feel work and other commitments have to be prioritised over your PhD. This is inevitable. Especially try where possible not to compare yourself to the full-time student who will likely have more opportunity to get involved in departmental activities or similar. However, just keep a close eye on your progress and talk to people about how you are getting on.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people. Get to know other students, especially part-time students who may share your concerns or challenges. You will also need lots of support from family and friends.
  • Don’t forget to be a student sometimes. As a part-time student it is not uncommon to identify primarily as someone who works, or as a mother, a carer - allow yourself to be a student too. You’re paying for this, and you deserve to do this, so take the time to go to that departmental seminar, or write that conference abstract, even if work / life is not making it easy.
  • Grow a thick skin. A PhD comes with its ups and downs, and studying will feel very different to your professional life. Understand that confidence will grow with time.
  • Keep a good work life balance. By doing a realistic and comprehensive timeline with achievable milestones, you can plan your work so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. Make sure you still have your hobbies, play with your kids, see your friends. It’s what will keep you going through the highs and lows.
  • Oh, and enjoy it!

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