Robert Lawrence PhD Student

Is research right for you?

Discover the benefits of getting a PhD or research degree and how it can boost your career.

Do you love learning, want to keep researching or hit the heights of your field of expertise?

PhDs and research degrees help you start or continue your research in a field you're passionate about. You can decide what you work on, how you work on it and how you get there, with support and guidance from a supervisory team.

Make a world-first discovery, create innovation with lasting impact or shine a new light on important topics.

Whether you've just finished your postgraduate degree, in the workforce or returning to uni after a break, a research degree gives you a lot of options.

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Don’t just take our word for it – check out some of our Student Stories to see the great experience our students had at uni.

For me Portsmouth bridged the gap between academia and practical work, from leading my own firm (Alexandrite Decisions) to founding a charity organisation for cancer patients support.

Rania Azmi, Goal Programming Research Doctorate

Reasons to do a PhD or research degree

1. Passion for research

If you simply love learning and have a passion for discovering new things then it's a good sign a research degree is for you.

You'll pick a topic you're interested in and have the freedom to dive deep into the heart of a problem.

Draw on the years of research in your field, forge your own findings or perspective and make your contribution to a body of exceptional research.

2. Become an expert in your field

Build on your knowledge from your Master's degree by engaging with complex topics in a more specialised field of your choice.

You'll be able to learn more about what you're passionate about and give you the tools to make meaningful contributions to specific research fields.

You'll dive into key areas and challenges in your field, developing your theoretical approach and applying it through your research.

Or you could look at conducting interdisciplinary research. Blend theories, approaches and expertise across fields and universities to create brand new, world-leading research.

3. Put your studies into practice

If you want to start applying what you learned in your studies then a research degree is a great way to do it.

You'll work independently in gathering resources and research. You'll develop sharp time management skills, share your findings with your peers and develop your work together.

You'll hone your communication skills so you can discuss complex topics both written and verbally to experts and everyday people alike.

You'll develop your interpersonal skills, working with professional staff, peers, academics and others. Become a master of taking on feedback as you refine your research.

Writing an extended report or essay takes time and skill. Identifying an objective, working in the lab or forging an argument and making your case with evidence takes talent. You'll end up a technical expert and writer no matter what field you're in.

4. Learn with engaged peers

During your research degree, you and your peers are all studying to get better at what you do. You'll learn with motivated researchers bringing their own perspectives and experiences to the same problems.

You'll build a solid study group to push and encourage each other to develop. You'll also gain new insights from your classmates that can help shape your learning.

5. Boost your career

A research degree is a great way to become a subject matter expert or researcher.

A research-based degree is the most direct pathway to an academic job at university. You'll get the skills you need to compete in the university sector. After you graduate you can look at becoming a tutor, researcher or lecturer. Most universities offer post-doctoral research fellowships where you can get paid to hone your skills, carry on researching and get your academic career rolling.

Some jobs require a Master's or PhD and generally pay very well in the private and public sector. You could:

  • work in the public or private sector in industrial research and development
  • advise on government policy to make an impact on your local region or country
  • become a communications expert for your field and share complex research in clear, everyday fashion

6. Networking opportunities

PhDs and research degrees are a great chance to expand your network and meet diverse people with similar interests, knowledge and passion.

You'll have the chance to attend conferences, seminars and workshops in different cities or countries. Gain new insights and build connections with other researchers and experts across borders.

Networking with coursemates, colleagues and other academics helps expand your knowledge base and balance the solitude that can often come with a research life. Having a network is also incredibly helpful in finding and applying for funding and looking for work in the future.

7. New city, new experiences

Studying for a PhD or research degree might mean moving cities or even countries. If you've been wanting a change of setting along with your career path it's a great opportunity to give both a try.

If you're an international student, studying in a different country gives you the chance to graduate with both fantastic life experiences and a great qualification.

Portsmouth is a welcoming, student-friendly city – one where you'll meet people from all around the world, and have the chance to make connections with people in a whole new environment.

See why Portsmouth is a great place to live

Since starting my PhD, I have been lucky enough to publish twice and visit three different conferences, one of which was held at Cornell University. These opportunities will prove invaluable in my career going forwards, in academia.

Robert Lawrence, PhD Molecular Microbiology

Questions to ask yourself

Just like any course, the benefits you'll get from a research degree depends on what you want to get out of it. When you're weighing up your options there are some important questions you should ask yourself to make sure it's right for you.

1. Is this subject something I'm passionate about?

Studying a research degree is a multi-year time commitment. If you're excited by the idea of spending a significant period of time dedicated to one subject, that's a good sign you're ready.

Research degrees often involve a lot of independent work, so if you're only partly interested in the subject, you might find yourself losing interest. That can make meeting your own expectations more difficult.

Is learning about and working in this field something that you can see yourself in for the next 5-10 years? And where do you want to be in that timeframe? It's important not to study just so you can put off bigger life decisions.

2. Do I need a research degree to follow my passion?

There are many different jobs or careers in every field. Not all of them require you to have a research Master's or PhD.

If you want to contribute to a specific industry or area, do you already have some skills and knowledge you can apply in it? If not, what skills or knowledge will a research degree give you?

3. Am I ready for more uni?

If you've finished your Bachelor's or Master's degree and are looking at your next options, a research degree is an option that keeps things familiar. For some students, if you've spent the last 3-4 years studying you might want to try something different.

It depends on who you are, what you care about and what you want to do with your life. If you finished your degree and you're mostly relieved it's over then jumping right back into study may not be the best fit for you.

Remember that you can always go to uni again later. Plenty of graduates spend a few years working before coming back to upskill, retrain or dive into their passion. In a lot of cases, what you've learned in your work experience will make you a better student when you go back to it.

4. Have I found the right supervisor?

Every research student has at least one supervisor. They're there to support and guide you as you develop your ideas and compile your research

Having the right supervisor can be the difference between making your research good, great or excellent. If they're running or part of a research centre or group you may have greater access to networks and resources

It's best you explore supervisors you can work with, which might mean checking out multiple universities and reaching out to them directly. Usually, their profile will say if they're taking on new students and they're happy to get back to you by email.

As it is a PhD I have formed my course myself, but having a supervisor who is well-versed in my subject area is the most unique part of my work here, as no one else is approaching the subjects we look at in a similar way

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott, PhD English Literature

5. Can I afford it?

Before you decide on a research degree it's important to think about the costs involved.

If you're a UK national applying for an MPhil or MRes course, you might be eligible for a Government Postgraduate Master's Loan which you can use to fund your tuition fees, living costs and other costs for a Master's course.

If you're an international student you'll need to plan out how you can cover your costs and fund yourself while you're studying.

When considering a PhD there are funded and non-funded options:

If you're currently working you may need to adjust your working hours or potentially look for part-time work. You might have less money to play with if you're studying full-time and working on the side.

If you're moving cities or countries there are other costs you'll need to consider. You'll need to factor in things like the initial cost of moving and your deposit if you're renting a place.


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