Considering studying a PhD degree? See our advice for choosing a topic, applying and funding.

PhD and research degrees

A PhD is a research degree where you spend a significant amount of time investigating and analysing your chosen topic. PhDs and research degrees can help you pursue a career in academia although you can also apply for non-academic jobs.

Taking a PhD may also be a requirement for some professions. See how taking a PhD can benefit your career.

Taking your PhD at Sussex

Important: If you decide to stay at Sussex, we can support you during, and up to, three years after graduation. Find out how we can help you explore your career ideas.

Think about if a PhD is for you

If you're considering a PhD or further research, it may help to think about:

  • your career plans and if the PhD will help you pursue a career in academia
  • funding and cost and if you will be looking for a PhD studentship, or self-funding with a loan or scholarships
  • when and how you need to apply, including deadlines and course requirements.

Vitae has a useful guide for anyone thinking about doctoral research

Choosing your research options

Three years is a long time to spend doing research, so make sure it’s what you want to do. Think about what you want to research. Sometimes this can be dictated by your subject.

If you are considering studying a PhD, there are two options available to you.

You can:

  • apply for a funded PhD where you research a set project (most common for STEM subjects)
  • design your own research project, which you can either fund yourself, or apply for external funding (most common for Art, Humanities and Social Sciences). 

Where to look for a PhD

You can look for funded opportunites using:

Finding a supervisor

Whether you are applying for an advertised studentship or proposing your own research topic, you will need to find a supervisor. It may be someone you know from your undergraduate/Masters degree, or someone new from a different university. See our tips for finding a supervisor

Choosing a university

While your choice of supervisor may determine your choice of university, it is worth looking at how institutions are rated for your subject area. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses research excellence in 36 subject areas at UK universities. See Wonkhe’s guide to understanding the REF 2021 results

You will also find that universities have open days or postgraduate fairs for PhD or postgraduate study such as PhD Live fairs from FindAPhD and other postgraduate study fairs. See PhD visits and events at Sussex.

Funding and advice

If you are self-funding you can see our advice for PhD loans and funding or look for loans, scholarships and other opportunities using:

Applying for a PhD

Research when institutions are accepting applications, their deadlines and how you need to apply. Applications for PhD studentships, for example, can open at various times throughout the year and generally have set deadlines.

Most universities now have online application systems and will provide information on how to submit an application. See information about how to apply to Sussex. Sometimes you will need to apply with a CV. See tips for writing a CV for PhD applications.

If you get an interview the School of Life Sciences has a guide to PhD interview preparation.

Find out more about writing a personal statement for PhD study

Research proposals

Your research proposal is key to your application as it sets out what you want to research and why. See our advice for writing a research proposal if you are self funding

See more from Further study