Why a part-time PhD could be right for you

Postgraduate researcher Alan Dolhasz discusses the benefits of doing a part-time PhD, and the surprisingly varied amount of PhD graduate jobs you can expect to apply for when your studies are complete.

A part-time PhD student using her technology research in the workplace.

Choosing part-time PhD study

“When I told people I was studying my PhD part-time, they scoffed and said ‘good luck with that,’” laughs Alan, whose research focuses on image processing, human perception and machine learning, basing him in the University’s Digital Media Technology Lab.

However, electing to embark on his research degree part-time was the perfect choice. “I like doing research but I also enjoy the application side of things. Choosing part-time study has enabled me to be active in industry, which in turn has heavily informed my PhD.

“I guess it really depends on how closely you work with industry – if you want to stay heavily involved and don’t mind studying for a little bit longer, a part-time PhD will enable you to apply your research to your career."

Alan stresses it is really down to the individual. “If you’re not sure you want a specific career in academia, and you don’t want to put the brakes on what job you have currently, then a part-time PhD would be better.”

A real learning curve

Alan advises anyone contemplating a part-time PhD that there are tough times. “You do have to consider the time. There are extended periods where I can really devote time to my PhD, but then there are weeks where it has to take a backseat.”

There’s also the social aspect. “Once you get down to doing it, aside from your supervisor, you are essentially on your own. You have to put yourself through the wringer a bit and it’s not like an undergraduate degree where you can turn it off for a little while.

“You really learn about yourself when you study a PhD.”

What PhD graduate jobs could I get?

When Alan discusses his career plans for after graduation, it comes as something of a surprise.

“Once I have completed my PhD, I want to return to industry,” he says.

Alan says PhD study teaches you a host of attributes that will provide you an opportunity in many different industries, meaning academia is just one of many possible paths.

“The PhD skills you learn are closely connected to industry success – project management, for example, is a skill that is vital in every company,” he says.

“Being a logical, rational and clear-thinking individual is a benefit to any industry, and a PhD definitely teaches you those skills.”

A positive research environment

Alan feels that Birmingham City University has given him a tremendous amount of support, guidance and, most importantly, freedom. “The Research department here gives you both the space and the tools to grow,” he says.

“They’ve let me pursue my research interests and have helped me whenever problems have occurred. Working with people that you trust can’t be beaten.”