How long does it take to get a PhD? Complete a PhD quickly

Deciding to do a PhD is a decision not to be taken lightly. In order to get a doctorate, you must, first of all, spend 3 to 4 years in undergraduate education so that you can apply for your doctoral degree.

After that, you’ll be expected to perform original research and contribute to a body of knowledge to gain your PhD. It will take many years to complete, and many people wonder how many years does it take to complete a doctoral degree?

Research shows that the average amount of time to complete a PhD across disciplines is 4.4 years. Depending on the country, a PhD will take anywhere between two and seven years to complete depending on whether there is a coursework component (US universities).

I spent three years at an Australian university to get my PhD.

The actual amount of time it will take you to complete your PhD will depend on factors such as luck, your productivity, your PhD supervisor relationship, and if you are doing your PhD full or part-time.

This article will go through everything you need to know about the length of the PhD and how you can complete it quicker.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?

Getting a PhD can be a long and challenging process, but it is also highly rewarding.

On average, it takes an individual around 4-6 years to complete a PhD program.

Check out the table below which provides a range of the amount of time it takes on average for different countries.

CountryAverage length of PhD (years)
US5 – 7
UK3 – 4
Australia/NZ3 – 4
Europe2 – 6
Asia3 – 4

However, this time frame is not set in stone and there are many factors that can affect how long it takes to get a PhD.

The biggest factor is the country in which you are going to do your PhD. If you are considering doing your PhD in the United States of America you can expect to spend up to 7 years. Because they have a significant coursework component before the research starts.

If you want to know how to complete your PhD in three years check out my YouTube video where I go through everything you need to know to stay on track for a completion within three years:

It takes many years to do a PhD because there are many factors outside of your control. Let’s take a look at why a PhD take so long to complete and what you can do to make sure that it is as short as possible.

Why does it take so long to complete a PhD?

In the United States of America a doctoral student is usually required to complete a number of courses and examinations, in addition to research and writing a dissertation, before reaching the dissertation phase.

However, even once the student has reached this stage, it may still take longer to complete their PhD program due to the time it takes for them to write a dissertation.

During this time, they must spend considerable amounts of time researching, planning and writing their dissertation, which can take months or even years depending on the complexity of the topic being studied.

Furthermore, there may also be additional delays in completing their PhD due to external factors such as funding or other commitments that might prevent them from dedicating more of their time and resources towards completing their PhD.

Getting used to research

Postgraduate research is not like anything students have done before.

Therefore, there is a settling in process that requires a PhD student to understand what research really is and start to work their way through the mountains of literature related to their primary research question.

Undergraduate does not prepare you very well for a research-based PhD. Therefore, it always takes at least six months for a new PhD student to work out how to work their way through previous studies and buildup skills to be able to start answering their own research question.

Failing a lot

There is a lot of failure in research.

In fact, if there wasn’t failure you wouldn’t be able to push the limits of knowledge.

A PhD take so long because a PhD student must fail more than they succeed and, therefore, slowly find out what direction to take their research in.

Being able to overcome failure as a PhD student is imperative for success.

Writing up your thesis

Lastly, writing up a dissertation takes a very long time.

It involves analysing your results and reporting on your experiments in a clear and concise manner. It will go through many iterations and your supervisor will look over chapters again and again.

There must be this level of rigourous editing because it is your ticket to being admitted to the degree. You need to be able to commence other experts in the field that you know what you’re talking about and that your contributions are genuinely novel and worthy of submission to the degree.

I was able to write out my thesis in approximately three months and you can watch more about how to write a thesis quickly in my YouTube video, below.

What factors affect how long it takes to get a Ph.D.?

The length of time it takes to get a Ph.D. can vary drastically depending on several factors.

Most US universities require students to enroll in coursework and complete a dissertation, both of which can vary in length.

It usually takes students anywhere from three to seven years to complete the requirements for their degree, though this timeframe may be longer or shorter depending on the field of study and how much research is required.

Additionally, workloads and timelines can be different from student to student depending on their individual goals and objectives.

Ultimately, the amount of time it takes to get a Ph.D. will depend on the specific program and institution as well as the individual’s dedication to completing their degree requirements in a timely manner.

Field of study

Your field of study will also have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get your PhD.

Here is data from a study that looks at Australian university PhD completion published in 1994.

Field of studyYears to completion
Arts humanity and social sciences5.4
Overall average4.4

You can see that the overall timescale for producing a PhD is 4.4 years but education, arts and humanities PhD is often take much longer.

It is my experience that PhD is in the sciences take on average 3 ½ years.


Luck plays a massively important role in determining the length of your PhD.

Everyone’s journey is different and, if you are unlucky, you may end up with a lot of setbacks. Continually working through the setbacks and making sure that you do not stop working for significant amounts of time will ensure that you finish in as quick a time as possible.

If you keep working creatively long enough and hard enough on a research question, you’ll be able to work through any short-term setbacks.


Being focused for multi-year projects is very tough.

Staying motivated and focused throughout your PhD will challenge even the most purpose driven students.

A PhD is a marathon and not a sprint and, therefore, working towards your goal little by little every day is the best way to maintain focus.

Supervisor urgency

Your supervisor will heavily dictate when you are able to submit. They will be responsible for making sure that your PhD thesis is up to the standard required by the field.

Making sure that your PhD supervisor is prompt with feedback and returning your dissertation drafts throughout your PhD journey will mean that you will avoid unnecessarily waiting for feedback and extending your candidature.

How can I complete my Ph.D. sooner?

Completing a Ph.D. can be a long and daunting process, but there are several ways to get it done faster.

Here is a YouTube video a talk about the fastest way to complete a PhD:

One of the best ways to expedite the process is to start getting your work published all your thesis written early on in your studies.

This will help you accrue experience and give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs or grants after your PhD.

Additionally, make sure you have an organized plan to complete your dissertation so that you don’t waste time due to procrastination or lack of planning.

If possible, try to find mentors who can offer guidance and advice throughout the process; having someone who has gone through the same steps before can be invaluable in helping you stay on track.

I had a mentor throughout my PhD and subsequent postdocs so that I would be able to have accountability and someone to help troubleshoot outside of my supervisory team.

Finally, break down your dissertation into achievable easy to achieve goals.

With careful planning and hard work, completing your Ph.D. sooner than expected is definitely within reach!

How long is a part-time PhD?

A part-time PhD is a doctorate that requires fewer hours per week and spread over a longer period of time.

I know of people who did their PhD part-time alongside their jobs.

It usually takes many part-time PhD students around 6 to 10 years to complete their PhD. This is longer than the typical three-year duration for full-time PhDs, but it allows students to keep their job and other commitments while working on their degree.

Many PhD students opt for the part-time program in order to balance work and study commitments.

With the right planning and dedication, it’s possible to complete a part-time PhD in around six years.

However, this may vary depending on the individual’s research project and rate of progress.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about how long it takes to get PhD.

It takes on average 4.4 years to earn a PhD although it depends on your doctoral program as to how long it will typically take a PhD student to graduate.

Writing your dissertation early and being focused on the end goal will help you finish within four to seven years. Part-time PhD’s may also take a little bit longer but the time to completion will depend on various factors outside of your control such as luck, your supervisors urgency, and how well the research topic and question was formulated.

Many earn their degree within five years which means they can then go on to achieve other career goals. In my case, I went into industry, returned to academia, and now runs several online businesses.

Despite not being strictly related to my current career, my PhD is invaluable.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.