Can You Start a PhD at Any Time? 10 Things to Consider Beforehand

Can You Start a PhD at Any Time? phd students smiling

To answer your question straight away: Yes, you can!

Since there is no age limit for PhD admission, it’s never too late to advance your professional career or your personal fulfillment with an online PhD degree.

When it comes to the average age of PhD students in general, it’s 29 across OECD countries with 60% of entrants aged between 26 and 37 years old.

Now, what would be the best age to start a PhD greatly depends on your post-graduation plans.

Before embarking on this quest, you need to clarify two important things:

First is properly understanding the time, cost, and job prospects. 

Second is being aware of the fact that if your goal is to enter elite programs and advance the research frontier, it may get tougher as you get older.

Can You Start a PhD at Any Time? graduation hat

To start, let’s go over the basics:

What is a PhD Degree?

PhD is a globally recognized postgraduate academic degree and also the highest level of academic qualification you can achieve.

It’s awarded by universities and higher education institutions earned for submitting a thesis or dissertation, based on extensive and original research in a candidate’s chosen field. 

How Long Does a PhD Take?

If you wonder how does a PhD program work, earning your degree usually takes 3 to 4 years if studying full-time, whereas a part-time PhD takes twice as long as 6 to 7 years.

No time to commit to full time studies yet you don’t like the idea of waiting on your degree for more than half a decade?

No problem! With the flexible University of Zambia’s online PhD in Business Management, you can be the master of your time! 

The programme lasts for 3 years and is designed to prepare you to immediately apply the skills, knowledge, and competencies into the workplace.

How Many PhDs Can You Have?

As much as you like! If you have that much time that is.

The only restriction for obtaining a PhD is to have a bachelor’s/master’s similar to that in that field. For example, a science student can not do a PhD in law and vice versa.

Can You Start a PhD at Any Time? brain picture

Let’s get on with the business! Coming up is the most important part of your PhD journey:

10 Things to Consider Before Getting Your PhD Degree

If you are planning to apply for a PhD program, you’re probably seeking advice from fellow students, professors, administrators, your friends and family, and lastly the Internet. 

With so many sources it’s hard to know which advice to focus on and what will make the biggest difference in the long run. 

So before you go back to daydreaming about receiving the Nobel Prize, here are ten things to seriously consider beforehand. You never know which of these tips may save you from potential anguish and help you make smart decisions as you embark on your path to a PhD.

  1. Make sure you really want to do a PhD degree
  2. Actively seek out information about PhD programs
  3. A PhD is not a continuation of your undergraduate program
  4. Consider taking a break 
  5. You can change your area of study
  6. Choose the PhD program with a variety of research options
  7. Embrace the change
  8. You will need strong management skills 
  9. Expect to learn research skills on the go
  10. There are no real breaks

Make Sure You Really Want to do a PhD Degree

To be honest with you, completing a PhD is quite a task. On numerous occasions, you may feel like Wile E Coyote chasing after the Roadrunner – a little bit out of your depth a lot of the time. It’s three to four years of your life, so make sure that time really counts. 

After all, it’s possible to make it big in the industry without a doctoral degree. However, a PhD degree can be a very useful qualification with many transferable skills to add to your CV.

Some of the essentials include time management, organizational skills, prioritizing workloads, attention to detail, writing skills, presenting to an audience – and most importantly – resilience.

Actively Seek Out Information About PhD Programs

Don’t wait for your career center or department to lay out a plan for you. Stay proactive in your search by consulting your career center counselors, your professors, the Internet, and especially your department’s alumni who are in or graduated from your desired PhD program. 

First-hand experiences will almost always trump the second-hand information you get to collect.

A PhD is Not a Continuation of Your Undergraduate Program

This may sound obvious, but many students ignore this fact until they have jumped head-first into a PhD program. The goal is shifting from completing an assigned set of courses to developing significant and original research in your chosen field. 

Even though you will have required courses to take, especially if you do not have a master’s degree yet, these are merely complementary to your research as they provide a broad and deep knowledge base to support you in your research efforts.

Remember that at the end of your PhD program, you will be evaluated based on your research, not on how well you did in your courses. As grades are not critical as long as you maintain the minimum GPA requirement, you shouldn’t pay them too much attention at the expense of research projects. 

Consider Taking a Break 

Burning out or ending up trudging through the PhD program is unfortunately a not-so-rare scenario among the academics. 

Taking a break of a year or two or even more after graduating may be necessary to gain some perspective. Many graduates take a job for five or more years before going back to get their PhD.

You can use your gap to explore different areas of research without having school work or a thesis competing for your attention.

Getting research experience can help focus your interests and give you a leg up during the application process.

You Can Change Your Area of Study

When transitioning between college or another research job to PhD studies it’s perfectly acceptable to completely change research areas.

One of the best aspects of being the PhD student is that you can make the research your own.

For example, if your undergraduate research was in atomic physics, you can transition into applied physics and apply much of what you learned as an undergraduate to your current research. 

In case you decide to switch from the scientific to a non-scientific field such as social sciences or humanities, this claim is still valid, though the transition is a bit more complicated and more of a permanent commitment.

Can You Start a PhD at Any Time? Eiffel Tower and first phd in Paris,

Choose The PhD Program With a Variety of Research Options

Even if you believe you are committed to one research area, a couple of years of active work in that field may reassure you. Think ahead and find a PhD program with at least three professors working on an array of topics you could imagine yourself working on.

Many graduate programs require you to pick a research advisor before even starting. As such arrangements often do not work out, several PhD programs give students one or two semesters to explore different research areas before making their choice.

In your first year, you should explore the research of a diverse set of groups and network as much as possible to find your right pick.

Embrace The Change 

Resilience is key for completing your PhD. Stay open to change and embrace the chance to experiment in different ways. 

Who knows, you might even end up with a thesis chapter including all of your failures, which at the very least is something interesting to discuss during your viva voce.

You Will Need Strong Management Skills

Compared to college, PhD studies are on a whole new level when it comes to your regular obligations. 

Apart from finding time to attend your lectures and finish your homework, you will need to squeeze in some quality research time along with scheduling meetings with other students to collaborate on research.

Keep in mind that you’ll most likely have to teach for a number of semesters, as well as attend any seminar that may be related to your research or that just piques your interest. 

Even though it may seem simple enough to put this all into your calendar and stay organized, be prepared for schedules to go awry, and be ready to timely adapt.

Expect to Learn Research Skills on The go

The truth is, very few college students or even PhD students receive formal training on how to write scientific papers, present their research to others, or even peer-review scientific manuscripts. 

Following by example is one way to go, but going down this road can sometimes be quite aggravating.

You should either seek out talks or interactive programs offered by your department or career center, or ask a more experienced graduate student or your advisor for advice on these topics.

What’s really important is that you don’t get discouraged but instead plan to make extra effort getting used to these procedures and systems.

It’s gonna pay off big time once you realize you’ve become quite adept at quickly and clearly explaining your research to others and at outlining scientific papers and grant proposals.

There Are no Real Breaks

Sadly, you can’t forget about your PhD over the weekend.

Expect it to travel with you, work with you, even go to bed with you. Once committed to this path, you will need to find the time to get your work done, regardless of your calendar (or your clock!).  

Still, don’t get disheartened too easily. What is three to four years of regular commitment compared to a lifetime of extraordinary opportunities ahead of you?

What Are The Benefits of Doing a PhD? 

Apart from getting to call yourself a ‘doctor’ without knowing one end of a scalpel from the other, obtaining a PhD degree is a prerequisite for building an academic career. 

And in case you choose a different career path, having a PhD on your CV will impress nearly all potential employers. It will make you a very attractive candidate to employers looking to fill higher-level, research-driven positions. 

Furthermore, with this degree you will be qualified for more jobs and will have more lucrative career opportunities than you would with just a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What Are The Benefits of Doing a PhD? did you know - facts

Finally, a PhD can bring you a lot of joy as you’ll get to spend time with people who share your interests and passions. 

Also, did I mention plenty of travel opportunities? You could find yourself at a prestigious conference surrounded by the leading experts in your subject, or working on a research project in some of the world’s most exotic locations. 

If that doesn’t sound worthy of your efforts, maybe you should read from the top.

Should You Get a PhD?

In the end, It’s up to you to make it worth it. Obtaining your PhD will leave a sinkhole in your budget, and may even lead you astray on your career path. 

Still, if you play it smart, your studies will provide you with a great return on investment as PhD graduates statistically earn way more than their counterparts and have the lowest unemployment rates among all academics.

And to wrap it up, we answer some of the burning questions to help you make the final decision:

  • Can You do a PhD at Any Age?

Absolutely yes! All it takes is having a strong determination, and also strong nerves.

  • What is The Right Age to do a PhD?

There is none, as every age is the right age when you are ready to do it, when you have the experience and maturity to do it, and of course, when you find the right project.

  • Can you do a PhD in 2 years?

It is possible, depending on the field and of course your university. However, completing your PhD in such a short amount of time takes having most of the groundwork needed to fulfill your graduation requirement already accomplished before you actually begin your studies.

  • Is it Too Late to Start a PhD?

It is never too late to pursue a PhD. So, chin up and give it a shot!

  • Is 35 Too Old to Start a PhD?

It’s definitely not too old to start a PhD program. Given that work experience is common before beginning a PhD, a great number of students are in their mid 30s when they begin the program.

  • What is The Average Age to Start a PhD?

The average age at entry to enroll in a PhD program is 29 on average across OECD countries.

  • When to Start a PhD?

Right away! The Online PHD in Business Management from the University of Zambia will enable you to make a significant contribution to business practice through an extensive and innovative research-driven program. 

Explore everything the program has to offer you by visiting our prospectus page.

Also, if you have any questions, get in touch here as we’d love to hear from you!