Ok so, I have seen a few students who have completed their Ph.D. in minimum duration of 3 years. I suppose that the student must have extra research talent but even then I have seen few students who have many papers and yet completed their Ph.D. in usual time (5 to 6 years).

My question is what is the role of supervisor for completing your Ph.D. in short period of time, say 3 or 4 years?

  • What area? And are you counting time from Masters' to PhD in all cases? Or Bachelor's to PhD?
    – Kimball
    Feb 3 at 13:56
  • I'm talking of Physics and talking only of Ph.D. that is you are done with Master's and join Ph.D. Feb 3 at 13:58
  • 1
    My guess is that pure luck is as much of a factor as anything. The first thing the student tackled came together quickly and was judged to have merit. Not everyone has that sort of luck, but the distribution certainly has outliers, as most do.
    – Buffy
    Feb 3 at 14:08
  • 3
    Having a clear, executable, project that doesn't run into any complications is required. This is partly on the supervisor having the clear vision and funding on hand, partly on lucky timing of the student coming at the right moment, and perhaps things like the phase of the moon...
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 3 at 14:39
  • Yes you definitely need luck, and possibly regulations in your favour. Just writing the thesis can take a while; if you are allowed a “paper” thesis, you still need a number of published papers, which takes time. Feb 3 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


Others may think differently, but I'm not so sure that luck plays the biggest role.

To answer your question specifically, if your advisor is supportive, or they at least stay out of the way and don't actively try to slow you down, you can finish as quickly as you want. The only real factor keeping you is classwork and whatever prelim exams the department has. It's possible to plan things carefully, take classes in the right order, and be done - again, as long as nobody is standing in your way.

However, I would strongly caution against this path. Graduate school is useful for a number of reasons, graduation being just one of them. I graduated very early, and I think if I could do it again, I would take much more time to graduate. Doing so would have let me publish more, become more established in the field, go to more conferences, etc.

Take a note from US special operators when they say, "Slow is smooth; smooth is fast."

  • +1 for "Doing so would have let me publish more, become more established in the field, go to more conferences, etc." Some grants and academic jobs only allow you to apply X years after your PhD, providing a strong incentive to build a substantial track record before you graduate. Feb 8 at 15:47

The advisor gives you certain jobs to complete and bring the results. He will review the results and if he is satisfied, he will discus things with you and give you next job.

Advisor is busy

If the advisor is very busy in other things, he may take a longer time to give you the job and also longer time to review your results.

Advisor is not keen

He can guide you more keenly to do the job or he can put every thing on you how you do the job.

Advisor is not so resourceful

You may need certain resources (lab, materials, equipment, funds) to do the job and the advisor does not have them ready for you.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .