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Why Do a PhD?

We look at reasons for pursuing doctoral study, including career options.

People choose to undertake a PhD for a range of reasons. In our research for this course we asked current and recent PhD candidates about their motivations. Among the most common reasons given were:

To improve career prospects

“Really the main reason is because I was very much interested in the topics and felt that a good PhD research could be the right approach to move my career towards that direction. Plus, I like [a lot] academic life.” Doctoral student
“[I wanted to do it] to become an expert and have more opportunities for better job positions.” Doctoral student

Passion for a particular subject/topic

“This has always been my interest and I had the right support to finally do a phd. Not always been sure about academia, but the project was perfect for me.” Doctoral student

A drive to do research to help further human knowledge and contribute to society

“I wanted to do this to try and make a difference that could lead to tangible improvements for captive animal welfare.” Doctoral student
“I wanted to do an applied project that would have a real world impact and help solve a known problem.” Doctoral student

A desire to continue with their studies generally and have a passion for knowledge

“I loved the idea of getting to look at something in-depth.” Doctoral student
“to prove to myself that I can do it and I like experimenting and testing out ideas.” Doctoral student

Benefits of PhD study

A PhD can bring you a range of benefits. As an academic, you will become an expert in your field, but a PhD also offers opportunities to grow and build your network. In addition to your focus on your own project area, the university environment allows you to attend workshops, conferences, and seminars held by other students and academics across the schools and departments. It’s not only a great way to integrate yourself in the university but also expands your knowledge and network.

Being a PhD researcher opens many doors such as academic collaboration and being invited to speak at events. You just have to be ready and engaged to look beyond the research. Maybe you have an interest in other areas or have thought about interdisciplinary studies. While you may be in one school or department, you will have the opportunity to explore more areas outside of your main subject. Be open to the possibilities that may come your way and the PhD experience will be so much more fulfilling. Cross-fertilisation of ideas can lead to bold new directions and groundbreaking research.

Discussion points:

  • What is your main reason for wanting to do a PhD?
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Is a PhD Right for Me?

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