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uni students... ask me anything

I was at uni for nearly ten years and I admit there are times that I really miss the campus and how life used to be back then compared to how it is now.

I graduated my PhD last year and I have climbed up the career ladder within one year to land myself a decent job. The crazy thing is that the pay for a decent job isn't really that much due to the extremely high cost of living.

Please ask me anything and I will answer, whether it be related to uni or not.
Original post by UnemployedPhd
I was at uni for nearly ten years and I admit there are times that I really miss the campus and how life used to be back then compared to how it is now.

I graduated my PhD last year and I have climbed up the career ladder within one year to land myself a decent job. The crazy thing is that the pay for a decent job isn't really that much due to the extremely high cost of living.

Please ask me anything and I will answer, whether it be related to uni or not.

Your user name would suggest that when you first joined TSR you were unemployed, despite your PhD. So how did you secure that first job?
Original post by UnemployedPhd
I was at uni for nearly ten years and I admit there are times that I really miss the campus and how life used to be back then compared to how it is now.

I graduated my PhD last year and I have climbed up the career ladder within one year to land myself a decent job. The crazy thing is that the pay for a decent job isn't really that much due to the extremely high cost of living.

Please ask me anything and I will answer, whether it be related to uni or not.

I have a series of questions:

What field was your PhD in and was it competitive to secure a place?

What degrees did you do, since a UK bachelor's require 3 years (unless it had a placement year/year abroad/foundation year, etc.), a UK master's is 1 (if you need a master's), and the modal amount of time to complete a PhD is 5 years?

How was the PhD? Notably it was challenging and you need to really like your subject in order to complete it, but was there anything in particular you would want to warn prospective PhD candidates?

Where you said you landed a decent job, are you implying that you didn't decide to go into academia? Other than it being very competitive to get a place, what would you like people who intend to complete a PhD to know about the job prospects in academia?

Are you currently in a research role using your PhD or are you doing something else like consulting?

If you are currently doing something that is completely unrelated to what you studied, what is it in and what ultimately made you decide to make the switch? How long did you try to pursue your field before you decide to switch? Switching careers is also known to be difficult, so can you also describe your experience?

Have you tried to get any job that doesn't require a postgrad? If so, how was your experience and how did you get around the 'overqualification' objection? What do you personally think about the objection about people being overqualified for roles that they could do?

How were you able to fund your PhD after the initial 3 years if you received any bursary, scholarship, or loans?

What did you do during your PhD studies to fund your expenses? Did you do teaching or work as a research assistant? If you did, what was your experience? If you didn't, what was it and what was your experience?

What is your experience in dating like? This is a valid question because once you tell people that you have a postgrad, they can sometimes alienate you because you may be deemed 'too good' for them, they can find you intimidating, or any other trivial excuse.

Did you marry or was in a serious long term relationship during your PhD? Considering the optimal time to have kids and go into serious relationships, it can often conflict with the timing for doing long term studies. How did you work around family commitments whilst balancing your studies?

How difficult was it to secure the initial funding that you needed for your PhD?

Did you tried to secure any work experience in between your degrees and do you recommend people to do this? If so, what was the experience in and was it difficult to secure such work experience?

Did you do one degree straight after the other? If so, how did you find the experience and was it difficult for you? Do you recommend people do this or take breaks in between?


The above can be inappropriate or go into too much personal detail that I understand you might very well not want to answer (a drawback of being an inquisitive academic analytical thinker), so please feel free to ignore them or answer those that you feel comfortable answering.

I might also have further questions later, if you feel comfortable answering them.
Reply 3
Original post by DataVenia
Your user name would suggest that when you first joined TSR you were unemployed, despite your PhD. So how did you secure that first job?


Indeed, I was unemployed for a good few months after I finished my PhD. Getting a PhD doesn't mean an instant job tomorrow, and it seems to be the case for the majority of fresh graduates that I have seen. It was an ardous process to secure the first job, I had bills to pay and I was really struggling so I had to borrow money. I was in a period of going through a lot of interviews, with the outcome being "it's a no due to lack of experience", and then suddenly, I got a call from another recruiter with a company that wanted to interview me. The first stage was on Teams and the next stage was in person, and I got the job with the hiring manager describing me as "outstanding". It was low pay, as most entry level jobs are and I did it for one year just to put the experience on my CV. That one year opened up so many opportunities for bigger and better things and now I will be starting the exact same job with a higher salary in another company.
Reply 4
Original post by Anonymous #1
I have a series of questions:

What field was your PhD in and was it competitive to secure a place?

What degrees did you do, since a UK bachelor's require 3 years (unless it had a placement year/year abroad/foundation year, etc.), a UK master's is 1 (if you need a master's), and the modal amount of time to complete a PhD is 5 years?

How was the PhD? Notably it was challenging and you need to really like your subject in order to complete it, but was there anything in particular you would want to warn prospective PhD candidates?

Where you said you landed a decent job, are you implying that you didn't decide to go into academia? Other than it being very competitive to get a place, what would you like people who intend to complete a PhD to know about the job prospects in academia?

Are you currently in a research role using your PhD or are you doing something else like consulting?

If you are currently doing something that is completely unrelated to what you studied, what is it in and what ultimately made you decide to make the switch? How long did you try to pursue your field before you decide to switch? Switching careers is also known to be difficult, so can you also describe your experience?

Have you tried to get any job that doesn't require a postgrad? If so, how was your experience and how did you get around the 'overqualification' objection? What do you personally think about the objection about people being overqualified for roles that they could do?

How were you able to fund your PhD after the initial 3 years if you received any bursary, scholarship, or loans?

What did you do during your PhD studies to fund your expenses? Did you do teaching or work as a research assistant? If you did, what was your experience? If you didn't, what was it and what was your experience?

What is your experience in dating like? This is a valid question because once you tell people that you have a postgrad, they can sometimes alienate you because you may be deemed 'too good' for them, they can find you intimidating, or any other trivial excuse.

Did you marry or was in a serious long term relationship during your PhD? Considering the optimal time to have kids and go into serious relationships, it can often conflict with the timing for doing long term studies. How did you work around family commitments whilst balancing your studies?

How difficult was it to secure the initial funding that you needed for your PhD?

Did you tried to secure any work experience in between your degrees and do you recommend people to do this? If so, what was the experience in and was it difficult to secure such work experience?

Did you do one degree straight after the other? If so, how did you find the experience and was it difficult for you? Do you recommend people do this or take breaks in between?


The above can be inappropriate or go into too much personal detail that I understand you might very well not want to answer (a drawback of being an inquisitive academic analytical thinker), so please feel free to ignore them or answer those that you feel comfortable answering.

I might also have further questions later, if you feel comfortable answering them.

Hello. Wow, that's a lot of questions. I'm more than happy to answer them as I owe a lot to this forum and it has helped me along my long journey.

It was in computer science and for me it was ok to secure the place as I had a good relationship with my MSc supervisor.
I did BEng, MSc, PhD. My bachelors was from 2012-2015, and then I took a year out to wait for the postgraduate loan, so I did my MSc from 2016-17. I then started my PhD soon after that in the start of 2018 in which I submitted my thesis at the end of 2021 and then I did my viva around spring 2022, which then lead to my graduation being at summer 2022. I immediately left the campus within days after my graduation as a fresh new start in summer 2022 which felt like becoming completely sober from uni life.
The PhD was arduous and required constant attention,it had a lack of structure and required a great deal of emotional responsibility. I have a lot to warn PhD prospective candidates, and it's just to make sure that this is where you see yourself 5 years from now. So now we are going into 2024, ask yourself if you could still be doing this in 2029. Also, how would you fund yourself for a rainy day? Many PhD candidates have not finished their studies by the time their funding ends which eventually could lead to destitution if not managed. I personally had to take on temporary jobs towards the end just to make ends meet. It was a nightmare working full-time whilst writing a long thesis during evenings and weekends and I certainly don't have positive memories of that period.
•In terms of a decent job, I am amongst the top 25% earners in the UK, but even then after tax and student loan deductions, it's still not a lot. My new salary just brings a bit of comfort and allows me to save a bit after every month, but in order to get a deposit on a house, I'm still a very long way away from that. It's really difficult when you have to support yourself financially as I am living alone.
•I'm not in academia, and I'm now in something completely different, there is an element of research within this role, but it's nothing like the PhD. The reality with PhDs is that there really isn't that much that is related to a lot of PhDs and it is just another piece of paper. Even though I am the only one in my team with a PhD, I don't see myself as any better and I would still get sacked if I underperform. I did previously do jobs that I was well "overqualified" for during the end of my PhD and during the first few weeks when I moved to this new area. They were just temporary jobs to pay the bills, I sucked at them though as I didn't really want to do those jobs.
I was funded through the first three and a half years of the PhD so I had to take on temporary jobs during the big thesis write up just to make ends meet. Though my expenses were lower back then as I was living in a cheap student accommodation with all bills inclusive. It was easy for me to get this funding as my supervisor was well connected professor and he managed to get me the funding, I do wish it was four years as it would have helped me massively instead of panicking towards the end.
•As for dating during the PhD, I was in a short term relationship during the first year, but that girl graduated and moved on, this was ages ago. Then when lockdown started, I wasn't dating at all and was just carrying on working from home. I wish I would have valued lockdown more as it gave me a bit of time to breathe in this hectic world. After the big lockdown in 2021, I then entered another relationship which lasted a year and that girl also graduated and moved back to her home country last year. As a guy, I don't think it's the optimal time to get married and have kids as I did my PhD during the ages of 25 - 29. Though, having said that, when I started my bachelor's at age 19, I always had a vision of marrying early, as it getting married by 25 at latest, but now I look back on that, I'm glad I didn't. It's just really difficult in this day in age, especially with house prices and just meeting the right person. These are things that I learnt a bit later on rather than during my bachelor's where I was very young and immature.
•As for work experience, I admit I only did my first job during the end of the PhD which was a temporary job doing admin work, I had never been on a payroll before then and that was in my late 20s. Despite that, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was in that job and feels like a lifetime ago since I graduated my PhD, even though it was only one and a half years ago. Still to this day, the vast majority of my adult life has been spend on campus as a university student.
•It's really up the individual whether to take breaks in between or go from one degree to another. I had a gap year after my bachelor's as I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I moved back home for that year and I panicked. Also, the postgrad loan was not available until the year after my bachelor's anyway, so there was no way of funding a masters. Looking back on that year, I could have made more of my free time as now that I am working, I am completely living for the weekend.
Original post by UnemployedPhd
Hello. Wow, that's a lot of questions. I'm more than happy to answer them as I owe a lot to this forum and it has helped me along my long journey.

It was in computer science and for me it was ok to secure the place as I had a good relationship with my MSc supervisor.
I did BEng, MSc, PhD. My bachelors was from 2012-2015, and then I took a year out to wait for the postgraduate loan, so I did my MSc from 2016-17. I then started my PhD soon after that in the start of 2018 in which I submitted my thesis at the end of 2021 and then I did my viva around spring 2022, which then lead to my graduation being at summer 2022. I immediately left the campus within days after my graduation as a fresh new start in summer 2022 which felt like becoming completely sober from uni life.
The PhD was arduous and required constant attention,it had a lack of structure and required a great deal of emotional responsibility. I have a lot to warn PhD prospective candidates, and it's just to make sure that this is where you see yourself 5 years from now. So now we are going into 2024, ask yourself if you could still be doing this in 2029. Also, how would you fund yourself for a rainy day? Many PhD candidates have not finished their studies by the time their funding ends which eventually could lead to destitution if not managed. I personally had to take on temporary jobs towards the end just to make ends meet. It was a nightmare working full-time whilst writing a long thesis during evenings and weekends and I certainly don't have positive memories of that period.
•In terms of a decent job, I am amongst the top 25% earners in the UK, but even then after tax and student loan deductions, it's still not a lot. My new salary just brings a bit of comfort and allows me to save a bit after every month, but in order to get a deposit on a house, I'm still a very long way away from that. It's really difficult when you have to support yourself financially as I am living alone.
•I'm not in academia, and I'm now in something completely different, there is an element of research within this role, but it's nothing like the PhD. The reality with PhDs is that there really isn't that much that is related to a lot of PhDs and it is just another piece of paper. Even though I am the only one in my team with a PhD, I don't see myself as any better and I would still get sacked if I underperform. I did previously do jobs that I was well "overqualified" for during the end of my PhD and during the first few weeks when I moved to this new area. They were just temporary jobs to pay the bills, I sucked at them though as I didn't really want to do those jobs.
I was funded through the first three and a half years of the PhD so I had to take on temporary jobs during the big thesis write up just to make ends meet. Though my expenses were lower back then as I was living in a cheap student accommodation with all bills inclusive. It was easy for me to get this funding as my supervisor was well connected professor and he managed to get me the funding, I do wish it was four years as it would have helped me massively instead of panicking towards the end.
•As for dating during the PhD, I was in a short term relationship during the first year, but that girl graduated and moved on, this was ages ago. Then when lockdown started, I wasn't dating at all and was just carrying on working from home. I wish I would have valued lockdown more as it gave me a bit of time to breathe in this hectic world. After the big lockdown in 2021, I then entered another relationship which lasted a year and that girl also graduated and moved back to her home country last year. As a guy, I don't think it's the optimal time to get married and have kids as I did my PhD during the ages of 25 - 29. Though, having said that, when I started my bachelor's at age 19, I always had a vision of marrying early, as it getting married by 25 at latest, but now I look back on that, I'm glad I didn't. It's just really difficult in this day in age, especially with house prices and just meeting the right person. These are things that I learnt a bit later on rather than during my bachelor's where I was very young and immature.
•As for work experience, I admit I only did my first job during the end of the PhD which was a temporary job doing admin work, I had never been on a payroll before then and that was in my late 20s. Despite that, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was in that job and feels like a lifetime ago since I graduated my PhD, even though it was only one and a half years ago. Still to this day, the vast majority of my adult life has been spend on campus as a university student.
•It's really up the individual whether to take breaks in between or go from one degree to another. I had a gap year after my bachelor's as I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I moved back home for that year and I panicked. Also, the postgrad loan was not available until the year after my bachelor's anyway, so there was no way of funding a masters. Looking back on that year, I could have made more of my free time as now that I am working, I am completely living for the weekend.

Thank you for your response. It was insightful, which unfortunately also spurs on more questions for me.

A few more if you please:

Were there any office politics that you need to resolve when you were doing your PhD? It's said that you can often become competitiors with other grad students, but it doesn't always get ugly. It's something similar when you get into postdoc.

What about the office politics in your current job? It's said that whilst you're at entry level, you often don't get enough attention to warrant being involved in any office politics, but there are usually exceptions when you're "overqualified" i.e. some people will try to still get rid of you once they know you have certain number of degrees in some organisations - it can get really dirty and underhanded.

Should you fund the entire PhD course by yourself (personal reasons), what do you think the standard PhD candidate should bear in mind and how much should he/she allocate for this? You have mentioned that you ended up working full time hours whilst you were writing up your thesis, which I can appreciate isn't going to be much fun and it implies the expenses are higher than one would expect (even though it varies from one location to another)

I was speaking to a teacher who has a PhD once, and he said he picked the topic that he did purely because he wanted a PhD, not necessarily for the passion for the subject. What is your take on why should someone do a PhD? If I were to do one, I would usually aim to do it so I can pursue research in a subject area even though I can probably get by with a master's in some cases. Am I thinking "incorrectly" regarding this?

How flexible would you say a PhD in a subject area is e.g. would it allow you do move into a different field/discipline? I have seen people who did a PhD in animal behaviour before they go into neuroscience research. From my understanding, a PhD is usually ultraspecific because you're investigating a tiny subset of a specialised subject, so I wouldn't have imagined that you would have that much leeway to move into other fields should you so wish. If you could change fields, how do you go about this?


Just out of interest, have you looked into property investment? This is by no means of recommending or advising you on anything financial, but perhaps it can offer you some leeway to getting onto the property ladder.
Reply 6
Original post by Anonymous #1
Thank you for your response. It was insightful, which unfortunately also spurs on more questions for me.

A few more if you please:

Were there any office politics that you need to resolve when you were doing your PhD? It's said that you can often become competitiors with other grad students, but it doesn't always get ugly. It's something similar when you get into postdoc.

What about the office politics in your current job? It's said that whilst you're at entry level, you often don't get enough attention to warrant being involved in any office politics, but there are usually exceptions when you're "overqualified" i.e. some people will try to still get rid of you once they know you have certain number of degrees in some organisations - it can get really dirty and underhanded.

Should you fund the entire PhD course by yourself (personal reasons), what do you think the standard PhD candidate should bear in mind and how much should he/she allocate for this? You have mentioned that you ended up working full time hours whilst you were writing up your thesis, which I can appreciate isn't going to be much fun and it implies the expenses are higher than one would expect (even though it varies from one location to another)

I was speaking to a teacher who has a PhD once, and he said he picked the topic that he did purely because he wanted a PhD, not necessarily for the passion for the subject. What is your take on why should someone do a PhD? If I were to do one, I would usually aim to do it so I can pursue research in a subject area even though I can probably get by with a master's in some cases. Am I thinking "incorrectly" regarding this?

How flexible would you say a PhD in a subject area is e.g. would it allow you do move into a different field/discipline? I have seen people who did a PhD in animal behaviour before they go into neuroscience research. From my understanding, a PhD is usually ultraspecific because you're investigating a tiny subset of a specialised subject, so I wouldn't have imagined that you would have that much leeway to move into other fields should you so wish. If you could change fields, how do you go about this?


Just out of interest, have you looked into property investment? This is by no means of recommending or advising you on anything financial, but perhaps it can offer you some leeway to getting onto the property ladder.

Again, thank you for the questions. I will answer them now.

•There was indeed office politics happening with the academics, but I was not involved in that at all. That was a while back now and from what I have heard, most of the academics in that department have left and seeked opportunities elsewhere.
•In my current job, the office politics is more complex and it is mostly with those who are higher up. I am not getting involved as I will be leaving soon and starting fresh in new years. As for being "overqualified", that usually happens during the recruitment process, not after you have been accepted in a job.
•I really don't know many people who funded their PhD by themselves, in my department we were all funded. Though lots of candidates could not finish in time.
•As for your teacher's situation, it's actually common that people do PhD's just to get a PhD rather than passion for a subject. And to be honest, you don't need to be passionate for a subject to do a PhD, you just need to be able to do it. I will be honest, I did my PhD just because I was too scared to enter the working world when I was that age. I also was so attached to the campus that I really couldn't see a life outside of uni. It's very different for me now.
•In terms of PhD flexibility, it really depends on the supervisor. Some supervisors are more flexible than others and some are more strict than others.
•As for property investment, I've not had a look into that yet as I just want to work for a couple of years first.
Also, I didn't go to my PhD graduation ceremony.
Original post by UnemployedPhd
I was at uni for nearly ten years and I admit there are times that I really miss the campus and how life used to be back then compared to how it is now.

I graduated my PhD last year and I have climbed up the career ladder within one year to land myself a decent job. The crazy thing is that the pay for a decent job isn't really that much due to the extremely high cost of living.

Please ask me anything and I will answer, whether it be related to uni or not.
I am in my 4th year of undergrad myself and I wanted to talk to someone who has been through it for advice. I am international student here so initially this whole thing + covid was a huge change for me. I felt like I was doing very well for myself but this year I found out a couple of people in my class are getting As and getting way better averages than me (I am getting Bs mostly). I feel like this and a couple of personal matters have really broad my confidence down and made me pessimistic. Back home I used to be top of my class and now seeing that I am average and there is better is affecting me. I am trying to get past it but seems difficult. I also want to go into a phd and I believe I have the skills and all that but knowing others with better grades might go I will lose opportunities. Do you have some advice about these, something to make me stop thinking so badly and hopefully get back on my game.
what's the square root of 2?
(you said anything)
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by Anonymous #2
I am in my 4th year of undergrad myself and I wanted to talk to someone who has been through it for advice. I am international student here so initially this whole thing + covid was a huge change for me. I felt like I was doing very well for myself but this year I found out a couple of people in my class are getting As and getting way better averages than me (I am getting Bs mostly). I feel like this and a couple of personal matters have really broad my confidence down and made me pessimistic. Back home I used to be top of my class and now seeing that I am average and there is better is affecting me. I am trying to get past it but seems difficult. I also want to go into a phd and I believe I have the skills and all that but knowing others with better grades might go I will lose opportunities. Do you have some advice about these, something to make me stop thinking so badly and hopefully get back on my game.

I will be honest, the grades are just a tick-box exercise. They really don't matter. Employers usually hire through experience and traits. That is certainly the case in my field as I am surrounded around people with no degrees who are just as competent as me, if not more competent.

I hope that eases the pressure a bit.

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