Whether you want to become a PhD candidate through an unquenchable thirst for knowledge in any given field or to further your career by becoming more employable, PhDs are highly valuable in the UK.
PhDs provide candidates with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue research in an area of interest. When candidates reach the writing-up stage, they are genuine experts in their field. Once your thesis has been submitted and the viva examination has been passed, your intellectual prestige will be on par with the academic panel, which possesses the authority to award you your doctorate title. Naturally, PhDs can improve your standing in academia and outside of it.
The only qualification higher than a PhD is a Doctor of Science degree, which makes it one of the most well-respected qualifications you can strive to gain. Whether you want to continue your career inside academia or research or outside of it, a PhD can help to prepare you for a range of high-paying and desirable professional positions.
In addition to contributing creative knowledge to your field, you will also obtain a range of other valuable skills that will look great on your CV! These transferable skills that are valued by employers and institutions across innumerable sectors and industries include public speaking, professional networking, research capabilities, academic writing, and project management.
It is only natural that students wonder if a PhD is worth it in the UK before they commit the time, money and energy to pursue their doctorate title. Thankfully, there is solid evidence available which proves that even if your PhD takes four to eight years to complete, it will be worth it in the long run. The increased earnings a PhD can provide you with can also easily reimburse you for your investment in time.
Employability After Obtaining a PhD in the UK
In 2023, data provided by the UK government outlined that, in comparison to students who only hold Masters postgraduate degrees, the rates of employment for PhD graduates are far higher. This data came from the Graduate Outcomes survey conducted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) after they looked at the career paths of graduates from the 2019 – 2020 academic year, 15 months after they completed their Masters degree or PhD courses. The information outlined below is a great way to gauge your future career prospects after graduating; it is not a guarantee that the benefits you will enjoy will be the same – you could end up in a far higher-paying position, depending on which way you decide to go with your career, along with several other factors, including age, location, and experience.
After completing a taught Masters degree, 62% of graduates from the 2019 – 2020 academic year were in full-time employment, 9% were in part-time employment; a further 8% were employed and participating in further study, and 1% were solely focused on additional higher education. As for the graduates who had completed their doctoral research and passed, 71% were in full-time employment, 9% were employed part-time, 10% decided to further their studies around employment and 1% stayed committed to studying. Meaning that doctoral researchers are, on average, 7% more likely to hold a full-time position. 7% is a slim margin, but this quantitative data doesn’t allude to the seniority of job roles following graduation or how much they are earning, which are the main reasons people undertake doctoral research if their motivators revolve around career advancement.
Job Opportunities After Obtaining a PhD in the UK
Obtaining a PhD in the UK won’t only ensure that you can find full-time work; according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the majority of PhD graduates boast professional occupations. Regardless of your field of study, if you have a PhD, you have an 8% advantage over graduates with a taught Masters title when it comes to being offered a professional tole. From the surveyed 2019 – 2020 graduates, 83% of PhD students had a professional occupation 15 months after their study, as opposed to 64% of postgraduates holding Masters degrees.
Do UK PhDs Increase Salaries?
As a hattrick of employability benefits, PhDs can also improve earning potential. After writing up their dissertation and earning their title, PhD students in the UK are far more likely to earn over £30,000 a year. While many PhD graduates earn significantly more after they enter the postgrad workforce, HESA showed that 43% of Masters graduates earn over £30,000 a year, compared to 87% of their PhD counterparts. This makes the £30,000 figure an excellent benchmark for earnings success after completing a PhD.
The HMRC also provides valuable data on PhD graduate salaries. As the statistics don’t solely rely on the information shared by a sample of graduates surveyed, it is infinitely more reflective of the earnings and employability outcomes that PhD candidates can expect when they finish their doctoral research. One, two, three, five and ten years after graduation, the median annual salary for PhD students was £33,200, £37,000, £39,200, and £43,000, respectively. For Masters graduates, the figures were £26,700, £31,500, £33,700, and £35,900, respectively. Once again, remember that these median averages aren’t the limits of your income potential after graduation. Nor do they account for your previous experience or how in demand your freshly acquired skills are in your respective field.
Preferential Professions for PhD Students in the UK
Though it is far from the only option, many PhD students, after completing their thesis and being awarded their doctorate title, become professors. To 3 – 4 years after finishing their programme, 20% of PhD-holders are higher education teaching professionals; a further 10% remain in academia through involvement with research.
Modern PhDs, in all fields, are very versatile qualifications with the ability to develop a vast array of transferrable skills in candidates. Many UK universities, such as UWS London, also work with PhD candidates to create highly employable PhD graduates, meaning that the job market for doctoral researchers is a diverse landscape – you certainly won’t be scrambling for the same professional teaching and research roles as the rest of your PhD peers! Other desirable roles in higher education for PhD graduates include administration and leadership positions. But if you want to look beyond academia, your options won’t be limited.
How to Assess the Value of a UK PhD for You
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, is a PhD worth it in the UK, as this will very much depend on your plans and aspirations after you have submitted your thesis and performed your oral examination. It is common for PhD candidates to enrol on a research course with no particular academic career in mind – they are simply inspired by the fields their undergraduate and postgraduate studies allowed them to graze in before they found the inspiration to dig a little deeper and plant their own seeds of creative knowledge.
If you don’t share this same passion for knowledge, even if you are tempted by the promise of a certain career, a PhD may not be for you. However, if you have read this far, you likely possess the drive and determination to see your doctoral research through to the end with the world-class supervisors at UWS London. If the cost of your PhD is one of the major factors in why you are questioning the value of a PhD, you will be relieved to learn that undertaking doctoral research is cheaper than you think. In UK universities, PhD fees are far lower than the cost of acquiring an undergraduate degree and typically below the cost of a taught Masters degree. However, you will need to take into account more than just the tuition fees – you must also consider how you will support yourself for the three+ years while you are studying.
The good news is that funding is available for researchers participating in pre-funded projects. Doctoral loans and individual scholarships are also available to qualifying students. Before deciding to become a PhD candidate, always take the time to research what funding options are available; this process can automatically add value to your doctoral research!
Other Benefits of Obtaining a PhD in the UK
If money and employment status aren’t your main motivators and you are driven by intellectual curiosity and academic achievement, PhDs are still valuable for home and international students in the UK. Through studying for and writing your PhD thesis, you will research topics and phenomena that no one has ever conducted before to make a distinctive contribution to your field of interest.
Making a contribution to the sum of all human knowledge is a massive achievement in itself, that is before accounting where your new title can take you in the professional realm. Furthermore, you will hold a prestigious title that has only been granted to a tiny fraction of the global population. A 2022 study outlined that, globally, only 25 – 64-year-olds have a PhD. In the UK, the figure is slightly higher at 2%, and the figure is growing yearly as more potential PhD candidates see the value in participating in doctoral research.