I am a 3rd year PhD student. I am being pushed by my supervisor to apply for scholarships which will lengthen my PhD by two or even four more years. I enjoy what I do, and I have had good outcomes so far (in terms of research).

Why is everyone rushing to finish a PhD in three or four years? What are the hiring drawbacks in academia for hiring a PhD who needed 4+ years to finish? Should I accept these scholarships and lengthen my PhD or is it better to not?

  • 8
    What country are you in and what field of research? In my field (math) in the US 5 years for PhD is normal (I had just one student who finished in 4 years). Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 16:34
  • 4,5, or more years may be common in the humanities?
    – GEdgar
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 23:25
  • 1
    If you want actual facts about how long a PhD takes in the USA: nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 0:53
  • In my field / country 3 years is the norm. I would question a candidate on taking longer as it sometimes suggests there were problems with their ability to to carry out research. Not always, but I'd certainly notice and ask about it. You've not mentioned you aspirations...but many grants have time-limits and finite funding, you need a post doc who can work to that (it's not about rushing or over working, but meeting timely deadlines).
    – JayBee
    Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 9:39

4 Answers 4


"My question is: why everyone is rushing to finish a PhD in 3 or four years?" In many places it's very hard to get hold of scholarships for a longer PhD period, so they run out of money. Or they want/need to earn more, want a better life, start a family etc.

I don't think the reason is hiring drawbacks (in those cases I'm aware of, which are of course not representative for what goes on worldwide in all subjects), I think the reason is many candidates can't sustain a longer PhD period well financially.


People on hiring committees are interested in your academic qualifications, but they are not going to be particularly interested in whether your PhD took three years, or five, six, etc. Most people who read your résumé are not attentive enough to even notice the time taken, and even if they do, it is only likely to raise a concern or question if it is an extreme deviation from the norm. Perhaps there might be some questions in marginal cases where a PhD takes less than three years or more than eight, but aside from those extreme cases people are unlikely to care. As your career progresses and your PhD degree recedes into history it will matter less and less. So yes, stick with your PhD program and enjoy the extra time.

  • 2
    The survey of earned doctorates gives median times to complete a degree. ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf23300/data-tables There are several categories where the median is more than six. Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 1:12
  • Indeed. My answer flags more than eight years as an extreme case, but even there, it is field-dependent.
    – Ben
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 1:52

The length of your doctoral program, per se, means little. What you accomplish and the connections you make with people mean a lot.

However, the tricky part is that the overall economy changes and that affects the academic marketplace. Had I finished in four years instead of seven, I'd have been in a completely different and extremely hot market. But it died rapidly. The opposite can happen as well. And it is hard to predict.

But, if, in your field, the market is hot and seems like it will stay the way for a bit, it would be better to finish early than to delay. Again, the opposite is also true.

But better than thinking about the time, think about how you can build resources for your early career, both through your research and through establishing a circle of contacts and potential collaborators. Some people are able to establish a (modest) reputation even as students if your field has conferences and such.


The other answers talk about what happens at the end of a PhD and in the first few years after the PhD. This is the wrong way to think about it. Instead, think about your entire career.

You did not mention your personal and academic goals, so I will focus on finances in this answer.

It is quite common for workers to earn more as they gain experience. Either their employers increase their pay because the experience is valuable, or more commonly workers are able to switch to a higher paying because they gained experience. PhD students usually see smaller increases in pay than other workers. In recent years, the increases have been well below inflation.

As an example, let us assume you work until you reach the age of 65. if you get $37,000/year as a PhD student in 2023 and finish your PhD in 2024 at age 30, at age 65 you might earn $110,000/year in 2023 dollars with 35 years of post-PhD experience. If you finish your PhD in 2023 at the age of 29, then at age 65 you might earn $110,000/year in 2023 dollars with 36 years of experience.

Finishing your PhD one year earlier will get you ($110,000-$37,000)=$73,000 in 2023 dollars.

Certainly the details will vary greatly between individuals. If you choose to adjunct teach creative writing for your entire career, your income may never go up. If you start a successful company immediately after finishing your PhD, the extra year might get you tens of millions of dollars.

Many of the enjoyable aspects of a PhD can be continued after you complete your PhD.

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