How many hours does a PhD student work?

There is no way to answer this question. This seems to be in high demand on the internet. I think it all depends on 1) how productive you are during “working hours”, 2) how long it takes to collect your “data” for analysis (I think that’s the problem) and 3) how quickly your supervisor responds, when you need a response.

I hope, thumbs, toes, feet and arms crossed, that I will be finished in 3.5 years. At the moment (1.5 years) this looks realistic. Although I might find out that none of my experiments work in the next 6 months, which means I’ll have to continue my PhD for a bit longer…

Are there any time limits?

Yes – unfortunately all good things must come to an end! In the UK, the deadline for your PhD is defined as the deadline by which you must submit your thesis. This date is determined by the general regulations of your university and varies according to the structure of your doctorate, e.g. whether full-time or part-time. In the vast majority of cases, the accepted timelines are four years for full-time PhDs and seven years for part-time PhDs from the date you were officially enrolled in your programme, as shown below on the University of Leicester Enrollment Guide page.


A doctorate is a marathon, not a sprint: it’s important to work smart. I mean, if you’re having trouble focusing on a certain day, take a break. Add simple or fun tasks to keep your productivity up. Or if you’re having a bad day, take the rest of the day. You are in charge of your time and it’s not always wise to push work when you don’t feel like it. A PhD is not an undergraduate course that you can take and complete overnight. I don’t know how my hours compare to those of other PhD students, but I do know the importance of working at a steady pace. There are great opportunities to get involved as a doctoral student and I think they are worth investing time in. Not only can a good work-life balance improve your health and well-being, but you never know where your opportunities lie.

I hope this has helped dispel the myth that graduate students must spend every waking hour at work. I think the most important thing is that you use your time wisely. Let me know your thoughts in the comments too! You can subscribe for more content here:

Leave a Replay