I previously asked this question in Mathematics.SE (which is now removed from that site):

How to be a professor and a researcher in academia if I only have a baccalauréat in maths and don't have much money?

And one kind user from France said that I can't unless I have a PhD. (French baccalauréat is only graduation from high-school.)

But how to get a Doctorat in France? I search for informations about a PhD in general: like how much would it cost me?...etc

Also I heard of 'classe prépa', should I take them first?

  • 6
    You need to get an undergraduate degree from a University first, then typically you need an Honours or Master's degree to enrol in a PhD. Since you say you only have a high-school qualification, I am voting to close because questions pertaining to undergraduate studies, and the funding thereof, are off-topic on Academia.SE.
    – Moriarty
    Jan 3, 2014 at 12:18
  • 4
    @scaaahu As I understand it, a French baccalauréat is an exam sat at the end of high school. Passing this grants university entrance.
    – Moriarty
    Jan 3, 2014 at 12:28
  • 1
    @user10453: if you plan to stay and study in France, I suggest that you ask your questions on a french forum like les-mathematiques.net/phorum. People there will be more familiar with the french system.
    – Siméon
    Jan 3, 2014 at 12:33
  • 6
    @Moriarty I think your answer is good but I disagree with the vote to close. The question seems to be about the requirements to enter a PhD program. An undergraduate degree is (part of) the answer, not the question. I think we should leave it open.
    – earthling
    Jan 3, 2014 at 12:56
  • 3
    Baccalauréat in math means that you went to high school with course emphasis on math and physics and that you passed a version of the national end-of-high-school exam (baccalauréat) in which math and physics were more difficult and beared more weight.
    – A.G.
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:16

3 Answers 3


As somebody who's actually doing a PhD in France, maybe I can provide some more information.

Firstly, as everybody says, you have to get an equivalent of a Bachelor degree (I think that's "licence" in France), and the a Master degree as well. I didn't do this part of my studies in France, but, some things that I overheard:

  • of course, nobody is paying while you are doing that, and you most probably have to pay a yearly tuition (probably around 400eur)
  • I think that there is some programs to get some scholarships that could help you, and you'll probably be eligible to help from CAF for a while
  • to supplement your income, I'm sure you can teach already in the last year of Master, and possibly (but I'm not sure), even as soon as you finish you Bachelors (aka "licence")
  • other major expenses are living costs and eating costs: you can usually get a student dormitory (200-300 eur/month is plausible, but it depends on a city) and as a student, you get cheap student lunches (3-4eur/meal)

As I said, I didn't do this Bachelor-Master part of my education in France. But, for the PhD I can offer more information:

  • a PhD in France is basically a normal work contract lasting for (exactly) 3 years, with a usual possibility of extending it for 3-6 months
  • to obtain a PhD, you have to obtain a grant. Sometimes, you apply to professors for a subject that is already funded, and sometimes you apply to the professors and then you submit your grant application together (like me)
  • you still have to pay a yearly tuition (~400eur), but you will be receiving a monthly salary where the amount depends on your grant. It's usually between 1300 and 1600eur
  • in your first year, you are still possibly eligible for CAF
  • there's two type of PhD contracts: research, or teaching. The teaching contracts are harder to obtain, but it is usually easier in your second year than your first. If you need/want more income per month, a teaching contract gets you an additional 300eur/month on your salary
  • other major expenses are again lodging and food: again, sometimes dormitory housing is available, but renting a flat can be acceptable as well (around 300eur/month if your flat-sharing up to 550-600 if you're renting alone). Usually, the lab/university provides some kind of lunch discount tickets as well.

As for some additional information about how to get in to a PhD programme:

  • in France, it is obligatory to do at least one internship in a research lab or a company during your Masters, but two are possible
  • if you are planning to stay in France, it is very customary for people to do their PhDs in the same lab where they did their internships, and some even just extend on their internship topics
  • your Master supervisor and all the contacts you made during your internships will probably be most helpful, as you can ask them for advice, or even if they know of a position / professor that would suit your plans
  • additionally, if you want to do your PhD outside of France (it always needs a Master degree), it's probably a bit harder to obtain (although your Master contacts can help you). It's a paying job with a salary in a lot of European countries (some examples includ: Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland...)
  • 4
    This is a well-written answer. I would just add that usually, after your bac (baccalauréat, aka A-levels), you have 3 years of license (L1, L2, L3, this is called "bachelor" in many countries, but it's not the French "bac"), then you enter master (M1, M2). During M2, you are supposed to choose/organize an internship; this usually concludes in a Master project being written, and quite often you continue with the same people for your PhD. Don't worry about the PhD scolarship now, the opportunities will come.
    – yo'
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:54

Penelope's answer is already very good, I just want to give some additional details.

First, a Ph.D. is required to get a position in academia. To be even clearer, there are several positions and you can learn more about what is a maître de conférence or a professeur des universités here. In France, a Ph.D. is not the highest academic diploma that one can get as you can prepare yourself to get the Habilitation à diriger des recherches (HDR), which will allow you to supervise Ph.D. students.

To be eligible for a Ph.D. program in France (or doctorat), having a Master's degree (or an equivalent diploma) is necessary. Now the French educational system is quite confusing if you are not familiar with it. Basically, after a french baccalauréat, you can either choose to go to:

  • Université: where you will need three years to complete your Licence, then an additional two years to complete your Master.
  • Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE) and Grandes écoles: since you posted about mathematics, you will choose to go to a scientific CPGE, where you will attend a maths/physics intensive two-year curriculum that prepares you to take the concours d'entrée aux grandes écoles. These grandes écoles are given the right, by the government, to deliver a Diplôme d'ingénieur (or Engineering diploma), which is equivalent to a Master's degree.

While they both deliver Master's degrees (i.e., you can apply to a Ph.D. after them), the universités are more likely to prepare you for academic research whereas the CPGE and Grandes écoles are more suited for working in the industry. However, I highly suggest you to inform yourself about these two possibilities before choosing a path.

Finally, I want to emphasize on a point mentioned by Penelope: during your Ph.D., you remain a student, which means you can have access to all the privileges offered to students regarding everyday life (housing, public transports, social security, ...) while being pretty decently paid. Unless you have a family to support and if you don't have any accidents, there should be no reason to have financial difficulties.

  • Great answer, perfectly completes my answer for the before-PhD part I didn't know much about. Btw, do you know the exact information about the teaching part I didn't know: can you start teaching after the Licence or only in the last year of Master? I'd like to put definitive information in my answer if you know.
    – penelope
    Jan 8, 2014 at 9:59
  • From what I have read here, you have the possibility after a Master's degree to prepare for the agrégation (a national exam) which will allow you to teach in high school or higher education, without doing any kind of research. I don't think it is possible to start teaching right after the Licence.
    – PatW
    Jan 8, 2014 at 13:53
  • About the teaching as a PhD student part: I heard that it is not standard practice given the mostly strict limit of 3 years. But it can be useful if one wants to teach after the PhD.
    – Karlo
    Jan 3, 2017 at 23:23

If you want to get your Ph.d in france, you will first have to get a bachelor degree and a master degree. You need to get accepted for Ph.d though, though finishing your master degree in the high average of your class (honorary degrees) makes the acceptance more likely.

The acceptance of your Ph.d varies on other factors as well, if a lot of people are applying for a spot with a better background than you, they might get it.

On the question

How to be a professor and a researcher in academia if I only have a baccalauréat in maths and don't have much money?

You don't neccesarily need a Ph.D to be a professor, if the AND researcher is important, than you will need one. If you just aim to lecture, they accept people with a master degree to lecture in the (professional) bachelor degrees. (Ofcourse, with a Ph.D you have more chance of getting the position)

  • 3
    "You don't neccesarily need a Ph.D to be a professor" -- Do you know a Professeur/Maître de Conference in France without a PhD or its equivalent?
    – yo'
    Jan 12, 2014 at 20:56

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