How Hard Is it to Get a PhD?

Doctoral students collaborating on an assignment

There is no question that earning a PhD is challenging. However, the rewards will be well worth your effort once you graduate. You’ll have a doctoral degree to add to your resume, which means you’ll be a far more competitive job candidate. No matter what field you’re in, earning a PhD degree is an impressive accomplishment that provides a boost to your professional reputation. Since PhD programs are widely known to be rigorous, completing one will indicate to potential employers that you are a hard worker who is capable of overcoming many challenges.

Securing Funding for Graduate School

One of the challenges of earning a PhD degree is securing funding for your studies. Fortunately, there are multiple avenues to consider. One of the most common methods of funding graduate studies is applying for tuition reimbursement from an employer. If you’re currently employed and planning on working full-time while earning your PhD on a part-time basis, this can be a good option for you. When asking for tuition reimbursement, focus on how earning your doctorate will benefit the company and its clients or customers. If funding is approved, you may be asked to commit to working for the company for a certain length of time.

Other common methods of funding your PhD degree are as follows:

  • Scholarships
  • Graduate student loans
  • Fellowships
  • Grants

Avoiding Social Isolation

Many new graduate students cite isolation as one of the main challenges of earning a PhD. This can be due to a number of factors. Since you will be busy with work and school, you might have trouble finding the time to meet up with your usual social circle. In addition, you might find that your loved ones have trouble understanding or adjusting to the new demands on your time.

Plus, a dissertation is primarily a self-driven process. Of course, you will have the full support of the university and your advisor, and you will take courses with fellow students. However, you will be expected to do the bulk of the work by yourself. For some people, this can feel like a lonely endeavor.

This challenge is best dealt with proactively. Even if you don’t think you’ll have a problem with the social isolation, you should take steps to avoid it. Make time for your friends whenever possible—even if it’s just once every couple of months. In addition, you should strive to meet new friends in your graduate program who fully understand the rigors of the PhD process. Try to establish mutually supportive relationships with a few of your fellow students. Use email and texts to send messages of encouragement when time doesn’t allow for in-person meetings.

Coping With a Heavy Workload

Even if you’re planning to earn your PhD on a part-time basis, you can generally expect a significantly higher workload than you’re accustomed to. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you’re just starting your PhD degree program and you’re wondering how you’ll manage to finish your dissertation. Know that plenty of other doctoral learners have been through this same problem—and you’ll get through it, too.

First, try to avoid thinking too “big.” Focus on the small details. Break down your dissertation into a list of discrete, small tasks and focus on just one at a time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your advisor or other departmental staff for assistance if you’re feeling a little lost.

Maintaining a Work/Life Balance

Most PhD students work long hours for a handful of years to complete their degree. It might seem like your best course of action is to work as much as possible every single day so that you can stay on track toward graduation. However, this is a recipe for burnout.

It’s important to schedule regular breaks each day. Make time to do one thing for yourself every day. Go for a walk with a loved one, volunteer at an animal shelter, join a sports team or cook a healthy meal. You’ll find that you return to your work feeling more refreshed and energized.

The College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University offers extensive student support services to help all of our doctoral learners achieve their goals. In addition, the dissertation process is fully integrated throughout the coursework, enabling students to stay on track toward graduation. You can click on Request Info at the top of your screen to explore our doctoral programs in areas such as business and management, psychology and school administration.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.