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A PhD is essential if you wish to follow a career in academic research and very helpful if you want a research job in industry. You will undertake a large piece of original research, written up as a thesis.


In the UK PhD programmes now also include elements of training to develop your transferable skills. UK PhD programmes normally last 3 - 4 years. They are usually completed within a university, however there may be opportunities to study within other laboratories and research institutions via schemes such as CASE PhDs.


An idealised academic career progression diagram 


Choosing the right PhD is crucial, not only in terms of the subject choice, but also in terms of the academic supervisor and his/her research group. Make sure you research these carefully before applying as you will bespending three to four years with them in a relatively close environment, so it is important that you have a rapport (you can find this out when you attend interview by asking to meet the other research group members).


Applying for a PhD is similar to a Master’s course but if you have identified a research group you would particularly like to work with, you can write speculatively by sending them your CV and a letter of introduction to make you stand out in the crowd.Make sure your application is highly targeted and refer to their publications and recent research stating how you will be able to contribute.


If you are from outside the Europea Union (EU) or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), you may have to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate from the UK Foreign Office.


PhDs and Master’s courses are advertised on websites, departmental noticeboards, magazines such as the NewScientist and also by word-of-mouth. 


Our career profiles will give you an idea of where a PhD could take you.


Here are our CV tips for writing your academic CV




Most bioscience PhDs are fully funded; your funder pays your tuition fees, money for your research and a stipend to support your living costs. As these are tax-free, you could end up earning a similar amount to many first-time jobs.


You cannot apply directly for the money yourself; instead the funding comes with the PhD (rather like a salary). PhDs are mostly publicly funded via the various Research Councils who are responsible for co-ordinating and funding particular research areas. Research Council funding is open to UK and EU students.


CASE studentships (Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering) are jointly supervised by academic and industrial partners and include additional funding from an industrial partner on top of Research Council funding. These often include the opportunity to work at the industrial partner and experience work in industry.


 CaSE studentships from the BBSRC

• CaSE studentships from the MRC


Health charities such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and the Wellcome Trust also fund PhDs that fit their areas of interest.


Links and further information - find PhD funding for UK and EU residents and International students

Postgrad solutions study bursaries - bursaries of around £500 to supplement your funding

Commonwealth scholarships - scholarships for Commonwealth students for PhDs in the UK 

Education UK - British Council guide for international students' funding for postgraduate study

Postgraduate funding guide - for study in the UK

Postgraduate studentships - from a range of institutions

Funding postgraduate study - funding sources for postgraduate study in the UK Government 

Funding my further study - funding ideas from Prospects, UK graduate careers website

Scholarship search - funding PhD and Masters courses across the UK

EURAXESS UK - advice for researchers looking for new jobs and funding inside or outside the UK

On-course - database of biomedical and medical research PhD courses and Masters

Biochemist e-volution - careers noticeboard for studentships and post-PhD research positions

Naturejobs studentships - PhD studentships from  all over the world  

Search PhD studentships - database for locating studentships in specific fields and locations  

Education Index - database of graduate programs in the US