How long does it take to get a PhD part time? Complete a PhD on your own time. 

During my time in academia, I know of a number of people who have decided to do their PhD part-time. It is completely possible to complete your PhD on a part-time basis it just takes a little bit longer. The time it takes depends on the fraction of full-time work you are willing to take on.

A part-time PhD can take anywhere from 5 to 20 years depending on the fraction that you are working. It is a great way to balance life with studies, but some extra considerations need to be made before deciding to complete your PhD part-time.

You may wish to complete a part-time PhD to balance your commitments outside your studies with your PhD. Some people also do a part-time PhD initially to ensure that they can manage the pressures and to test the waters.

Also, I know of people who have started a full-time PhD and have reduced it to part-time because they have found a job to financially support their studies.

Part-time PhD: How long does it take to get?

A part-time PhD takes longer than a full-time PhD, however, the amount of time it will take to complete depends on the fraction of time they are working and their research goals.

Generally, a part-time PhD can take between three to ten years to complete.

Here are the average fractions of a part-time PhD and how long you can expect to spend in university.

FractionEstimated Number of years to completion
Full time3 – 7
0.84 – 8
0.65 – 10
0.56 – 14
0.47.5 – 17.5
0.215 – 35

It’s important to note that these ranges are very unprecise. The real length of a part-time PhD is dictated by the same elements as a full-time PhD which include:

  • achievable research question within timeline
  • PhD candidates ability to prioritise research
  • students ability to remain persistent in spite of setbacks
  • a whole amount of luck and hard work
  • supervisors ability to supervise students
  • supervisors urgency in returning drafts
  • and so much more.

When you are unable to dedicate as much time to your PhD as a full-time student some of the elements above play a more important role than others.

Part-time PhD students must balance other commitments such as work or family life alongside their studies.

It also means that students may have to take fewer classes and make less progress each semester in order to maintain an acceptable level of academic performance.

As such, a part-time PhD may take significantly longer than its full-time equivalent but with hard work and dedication it can still be achieved in a reasonable timeframe.

If you want to know more about How long it takes to get a PhD check out my other article:

The main differences between a part-time and full-time PhD

The main differences and difficulties that people experience between a part-time and full-time PhD include:

  • keeping up momentum – having to stop and start more often with bigger gaps means that people struggle to keep up the momentum during their PhD.
  • Access to supervisors – it can be difficult to find time to talk with your supervisor particularly if you are not in the office as often as others.
  • Building up a network in the university – make sure that if you are doing your PhD part-time that you build up relationships with people that can help you including Administration staff and people who operate instruments for special equipment.
  • Writing – finding time for writing is one of the hardest and most difficult things during a PhD. During a part-time PhD it can be harder to dedicate time to writing and reading. Place these in your diary first.

Ensuring that you keep up momentum throughout your part-time PhD will be one of the hardest things that you have to do.

A top tip is to write a list of where you have just finished and the actions you need to do to get started the very next day you are in. A lot of time can be wasted trying to work out where you left off the last time you were in the lab.

Trust me, you will not remember as much as you think you well.

What are a part-time PhD and a full-time PhD program?

A part-time PhD and a full-time PhD are both doctoral degrees, with the main difference being the amount of time invested in studying for them.

A full-time PhD student will focus solely on their studies, while a part-time PhD student would need to balance their studies with other commitments such as employment or family life.

Full-time PhDs typically take three to seven years to complete (depending on the country you are doing your PhD in), whereas part-time PhDs can take many more years.

Part-time students can study as little as one day each week, although this varies depending on the institution and field of study.

Part-Time PHDs can be beneficial for those who want to continue working while they study, but it can also be more difficult due to the extra demands on their time and resources.

I found that a lot of part-time PhD students were completing their PhD alongside their current job and their employers were very supportive of their PhD is because it was directly related to their jobs.

For example, I knew of a person doing a forensic PhD alongside his job as a forensic scientist.

How many hours a week is a part-time PhD to complete a PhD?

A part-time PhD is an option for those who want to complete a doctorate while still maintaining their other commitments.

Generally, part-time PhDs require around 20 hours per week, although this can vary depending on the program and what your supervisor and department are happy with.

While some students may choose to dedicate more time and finish earlier, most will take between four and six years of part-time study to complete their doctoral studies. Quite often students will increase their load towards the end of their PhD because the end is in sight and they want to finish sooner.

In any case, a PhD Part-Time is an excellent way for someone to gain qualifications and knowledge without sacrificing their current lifestyle and commitments too much.

However, be aware that a PhD will always be on your mind and a full escape is never really possible. That is, until you finish.

Is there part-time PhD funding for PhD students?

Yes, there is often part-time PhD funding available but in my experience it is more common for a part-time PhD student to be supported by their current employer.

Whether you are pursuing a Doctorate or Doctorate Degree, a Part-Time PhD Program can provide financial assistance to help cover the costs associated with your studies.

Depending on the specific PhD Program, part-time students may be eligible for some of the same types of funding that full-time students receive, such as fellowships and research grants. The funding bodies are aware that you want to do it part-time.

Financial aid officers at the university where you plan to enroll can provide more information on what types of scholarships, fellowships and grants are available to PhD students.

Additionally, many institutions offer part-time doctoral programs designed specifically for working professionals who are interested in pursuing their doctorate while still maintaining their current job.

It is important to inquire about any special funding opportunities when researching potential part-time PhD Programs with the administration offices.

How Do Part Time Doctorate Programs Work?

Part time PhD programs usually involve a reduced course load and fewer years to complete than a traditional full-time doctoral program. So, it’s exactly the same as a typical PhD but just done at a slower pace.

In some cases, part-time students may need up to 10 years to finish their degrees.

Part-time PhDs typically involve attending classes on a part-time basis, with classes being offered in the evening or on weekends. Nowadays, you are also seeing a lot of the courses offered online as well.

These programs are becoming increasingly popular among those who want to upgrade their qualifications without sacrificing their current commitments.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know how long it takes to get PhD when you’re doing it part-time.

Many more universities are offering flexible workload to their students because they are aware of the increased demand from people wanting to further their education whilst also earning money in their current profession.

Many people start doing a part-time PhD for lifestyle reasons or because they have a significant number of commitments outside of their studies.

There may be lots of funding available for part-time PhD students you just have to go and ask your administration office. You may even be eligible for the same funding as a full-time student.

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.