You’re only doing a PhD so you can be a student forever


So, what do you want to do once you finally finish University?

You’re going to have to find a proper job soon!

It must be nice to still be just a student.

No doubt you’ve heard this, probably from people doing “proper” 9-5 office jobs in “The City” who think you’re putting off life by doing a PhD and wonder what you’re going to do once you’ve stopped pissing around at uni.

Don’t get me wrong, lots of doctoral students don’t want to go into academia after their PhD and are still deciding what specific route they want to take (like most of us). But the assumption that I decided to commit four years of my life to completing a mammoth piece of research, for absolutely no reason at all, is infuriating and quite honestly, patronising.

Because of this, I’ve seen PhD students – sometimes without realising – try to “legitimise” their working pattern by likening it to your typical office job. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone, anonymous PhD student, but you also don’t need to do this anymore.

It’s time to stop being embarrassed by the differences between PhD work and typical “office work”. Instead, we should be empowered by the uniqueness of the career choice we made.

For example, you don’t have to use corporate office language when referring to your PhD schedule to emphasise that this actually is your career and you’re not, contrary to popular belief, going to propaganda every night and eating Dominoes at 3am.

You’re doing something amazing, whether you get there through “conventional” channels or not is irrelevant.

You also don’t have to replicate the office environment by strapping yourself to an uncomfortable office chair in a stuffy room for nine hours to prove you’re not really a student student.

I only recently stopped doing this myself, and by all means if it works for you, do it. But you don’t have to riddle yourself with guilt for taking a 30-minute break to fill the dishwasher, or watch YouTube, just because you happen to be at home. If you’re lucky enough to be in a position to work remotely, utilise it. Take breaks, work in coffee shops, work on the sofa, have slow mornings. Heck, watch TV, or have a nap (god forbid) if you’ve got a mental block. It’s fine! You’re on your own time.

If you’re getting your work done and you’re feeling productive, it doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting behind an office computer or sitting in the middle of a bloody park.

Recently I decided not to care, and now every day feels like non-uniform day at primary school. I get to decide what hours I work; I get to decide where and how I work; and I get to decide whether I want to work around people if I’m feeling introverted.

And, at the end of all this “pissing around at uni” and taking naps in the middle of the day, I’ll have completed a mammoth piece of research that I’ll be proud of, and one that will hopefully make a difference. 

But no, you’re right – I’m really only in it for the 20% ASOS discount.

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