It is a concern to me that I may look unattractive to potential employers because I went so far beyond the original budgeted time for my PhD (50% over time). I am currently searching for a job in industry, where there may be no understanding of the difficulties of my research and I expect to recieve no sympathy from prospective employers.

I feel that on my CV I must somehow find a way to hide that it took me so much time to finish my PhD. However I will not blatantly lie on my CV. Does anyone have any advice? Or any suggestions as to how I could explain this extra time on a CV? I hope I am not the only one to have ever been in this mess?

The time I studied for my PhD went to 6.5 years, which is far beyond the typical 4 years for PhD studies in Europe (I study in London). In growing desperation (for applications to jobs based in Europe) I consider replacing the first two years of my PhD with a job, possibly titled "research assistant" or something similiar, and placing it under employment history. On the CV it would then appear my PhD took 4.5 years, a more typical length. Any thoughts on doing this? Is it correct that in the United States and Canada that 6.5 years is close to the typical length (or time required) for a PhD and therefore I would not be discriminated against?

Any advice and suggestions are appreciated.

PS it genuinely took 6.5 years to finish this PhD, it was impossible to finish in 4 years.

  • 12
    If you published good research, nobody cares. Six and a half years is the average length time to complete a PhD in the US.
    – JeffE
    Sep 24 '13 at 1:07

Whatever you do do not fabricate or conceal the truth. I am not sure someone would worry about finishing "on time" as much as looking at the quality of the work you have achieved. In my system there is also a 4-year research time limit (in terms of calendar time it can be extended by including teaching, maternity/paternity leave or whatever is applicable). Regardless of whether you apply for a job in academia or industry the criteria for the employment will be much more than finishing on time. So issues like quality, number of papers published, social skills, other relevant skills will be measured. If you have a reasonable explanation for the extended period of your PhD, just spell it out. Do not make a big story about it, just cleanly provide an explanation that makes the period understandable and reasonable.

  • I’d also add that if you explain away (aka lie about) a 2 year research assistant position, you can expect questions in the interview about this position and that might lead to a tangled web and a stressful interview. Plus, stats at my UK based institution imply that a majority of students actually exceed their 4 year registration period.
    – Pam
    Sep 8 '18 at 13:04

I'm not sure I understand (and this might be a US centric thing). What does it even mean for a Ph.D to go "over time" ? It takes as long as it takes, and that's pretty much it. While taking inordinately long (8+ years) might raise some eyebrows, 7 is still within the "normal" range, albeit on the higher side.

In fact, I've often suggested to students that the benefit of staying an extra year to strengthen their CV (if there's a path to doing so) far outweighs the potential cost of taking "longer" to finish, in terms of future job prospects.

I suspect Europe (or parts of Europe) is different.

  • 6
    Yes, the system(s) in Europe has strict time limitations but mostly concerning financing. It is still possible to complete a PhD later although there is likely less support from the university/department once time runs out, for example, you may not have office space. Sep 23 '13 at 17:09
  • There's a typical PhD duration in Europe depending on the country (e.g. 3 yrs France, 4 yrs US, 5 yrs Sweden). I have a working contract with the salary based on my funding, that states I'm employed for 3 years. It is extremely hard to get further funding for a long period of time - in France, if your team has money they might pay you for an extra 6 months, and I've even hear of people using the unemployment support (very good in France) in order to defend later, or getting employed as the team's engineer if they wanted to significantly postpone the defense.
    – penelope
    Sep 24 '13 at 8:50
  • @penelope The time allotted for a PhD in Sweden is normally 4y, but that excludes teaching or other duties. Therefore many end up with e.g. 5 years, including 25% teaching. Sep 24 '13 at 11:06
  • @fileunderwater Sorry, looks like I was miss-informed. But I think the point is still valid.
    – penelope
    Sep 24 '13 at 12:12

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