A PhD is the internationally recognised qualification for a career as a research scientist or academic (lecturer or professor in a tertiary institution). It involves a major piece of independent research – and a book-length thesis – completed under the supervision of an experienced scientist and assessed by a panel of examiners.
The minimum period of study is two years, but almost all PhD students take at least three years to complete their thesis. A number of students take four or five years, especially if there are difficulties with the project or a change of research direction.
Most students secure a PhD scholarship to cover fees and living costs, but generally these grants only cover three years of study and may need to be supplemented with work as a laboratory demonstrator for undergraduate classes.
You will need a high level of achievement in an Honours or Master’s degree in order to enrol in a PhD.
A PhD is the minimum qualification for work as a scientist in most research fields, but competition for jobs can be fierce as there is an oversupply of graduates relative to the number of jobs.
Typically after completing a PhD, you will be employed as a 'postdoctoral fellow' – a junior researcher – for two to three years each in several different laboratories. Competition for the limited number of more permanent roles as university lecturers or lead researchers in industry is based largely on the results you achieved (and published) during these postdoctoral positions.
Many PhD graduates will find work outside of research, for example as technical advisors in government departments, data analysts, patent attornies or management consultants. Their exceptional data analysis skills and independent research experience are in demand in a range of industries.
People who have a