Is a physics PhD worth it?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Jul 13 2023

Completing a physics PhD is a great way to gain research skills, and delve deeper into a topic you’re interested in. However, the process is lengthy and the costs can add up. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to do a physics PhD...


It may be necessary

Completing a physics PhD is necessary to unlock entry to certain careers. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a lecturer or a senior researcher, you’ll need to complete a PhD. A PhD will give you the necessary research skills and in-depth knowledge you’ll need to conduct further research and/or lecture to students. You’ll also make valuable connections which may lead you to a full-time job.

Career progression

Even if your dream job doesn’t require a PhD, completing one can lead to progressing faster in your chosen sector. For example, if you’re interested in becoming an astronomer, completing a PhD often results in a higher salary or faster career progression. Completing a PhD also allows you to network and make connections (some PhD students get published in academic journals or are invited to present their findings at conferences). Thus, completing a PhD allows you to make valuable connections with those in the field, connections which may be invaluable in your job search.


The tuition fees for a PhD can add up: between £3,000 and £6,000 each year, with international students paying significantly more. If you complete a three year PhD, expect to pay between £9,000 and £18,000, excluding research costs and general living expenses.

However, don’t let the cost of a PhD put you off, as there are a number of sources that offer financial support. For example, the UK government offers a doctoral loan of up to £27,892, while universities and research councils offer grants, which do not have to be repaid. 

Labour Intensive

A PhD takes a while, and you’ll experience a number of challenges. You might feel stressed and overwhelmed with all the deadlines and projects, you might struggle with maintaining a work life balance, or you could struggle with feeling isolated. While some students may love working independently and researching a topic they’re fascinated by, other students may struggle with meeting deadlines and miss the camaraderie of being an undergraduate. 

However, bear in mind that a PhD is also incredibly exciting, and there will be plenty of enjoyable moments. Your university will also have a number of places where you can access practical and emotional support, and connect with other PhD students.