Busting the myths
You may have various misconceptions about what it's like to do a PhD, but here's the reality
It won't give me the skills I need for a career in the real world!
WRONG! During your PhD you'll develop many specialist transferable skills such as project management, people management and communication. Also, depending on the project, specialist skills in high-end software, testing methods or equipment.
My work won't make a difference.
OF COURSE IT WILL! It all makes a difference! Whether it's making a major breakthrough in your field or laying the way for future research and progression, your work will make a difference.
It costs a fortune!
WRONG AGAIN! Many PhDs are funded, which means you'll receive a tax free monthly payment from the University, equivalent to a reasonable starting salary in industry. It won't make you a millionaire, but your research might! If you can't find a suitable funded PhD, scholarships are also an option.
If I do a PhD I'll be stuck in academia forever!
FALSE! The opportunities provided to you by doing a PhD are endless. Have a look through some of the profiles in our brochure to get an idea of the things the future could hold. If you don't want to be an academic you don't have to be! But, teaching is not all bad; remember the people who helped get you to where you are today?
The longer I'm in academia, the more out of touch I'll become with industry.
NOT TRUE! During your PhD you will do lots of work with industry; even if you aren't industry funded you will often be involved in a wider project that is and collect loads of great contacts by attending conferences and other events. Have a look at the Working with Industry section in our brochure to find out how you can be involved with the companies we work with.
I'll be stuck on my own in a corner for three years.
DON'T WORRY! Often you'll be working as part of a larger research team, both with other PhD students and academics. Your work may cross into other fields, so there'll be opportunities to pair up with other specialists to get the most out of your research. Of course, you'll be liaising with industry as well, attending conferences and having regular meetings with colleagues.
Frequently asked questions
Chosing to do a PhD is a big decision and you're right to have questions, here are some of our most frequently asked.
How long does a PhD take?
A standard PhD takes 3 years and you'll spend your 4th year writing up.
Do I have to be a real brainbox?
Brains help, and we do look for good grades, but that's not all. Enthusiasm for the subject and good levels of self motivation are just as important.
What do you look for in a PhD student?
As well as excellent grades we will be looking for students who stand out from the crowd. We want people we know will work hard and bring an extra element to the team that no one else can. We look for ambition and drive and the ability to work independently as well as in a team setting.
What can doing a PhD offer me that going straight into a career can't?
Holding a PhD will broaden your horizons in terms of your future career. As well as opening up a door to teaching, academia and research jobs, a PhD will mean that more senior jobs will become available to you without first having to climb the ladder. Your PhD will also mean better paid jobs. And we all want one of those!
Studying for your PhD will give you many transferable skills to give you a competitive edge, such as management, personal effectiveness and professional skills.
Will it restrict me from getting a job in industry?
No! Absolutely not! In fact, we have past PhD students doing things as diverse as designing water treatment plants in Iraq or implementing state of the art technologies in football boots.
Is there anyone I can talk to about my options?
I'm an international student, can I still apply for a funded PhD?
Certain funding does come with restrictions meaning that it is not available to international students. Not all, however, and we will always make any restrictions clear on our website. If in doubt, you can contact the project supervisor and they will let you know if you are eligible.
I've seen a non-funded PhD, is there any financial support I can access?
Sometimes it is possible to secure a postgraduate research scholarship, either through the University or external funders. Funds are limited though so you'll need to get in quick and apply.
How do I apply?
You can apply for postgraduate research using our Postrgraduate Online Application form.
If you've decided that you want to apply but you still have questions that aren't answered on these web pages, you can contact our admissions team who will be happy to help:
PGR Admissions Officer
Department of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Sheffield
Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 7751