A part-time doctorate is worthwhile

Reflection: Part-time doctorate: curse or blessing?

On my own behalf: My review of my part-time doctorate over the past four years. Doctoral thesis and full-time job is a delicate balancing act, especially for the self-employed. Doing a doctorate alongside your job is a great challenge. Is it a curse or a blessing? Read my analysis on this with reflection on my experiences.

Around 17 percent of doctoral students face this double burden and do their doctorate externally, as the study by the Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (iFQ) shows. If you want to combine a doctorate with a job, you have to plan ahead, have a strong will and have a lot of stamina. I can testify to that on the basis of my part-time doctorate, which I have just successfully completed. (Photo: Dometto)

Advantages of a part-time doctorate

Wearing a doctorate is still something extraordinary in Germany. Only 1.4 percent of Germans aged 25 to under 65 have successfully completed a doctorate, according to the Federal Statistical Office. With the Dr. or the international PhD. Title increases social and professional reputation.

Many want to achieve more responsibility, recognition and higher income with the doctorate. Self-employed people also benefit from the doctorate, which signals higher competence to the customer and has a trust-building effect. Studies (e.g. Kienbaum study, December 2008) prove the competitive advantage of the doctorate.

Disadvantages of the part-time doctorate

A doctorate is associated with many formal, bureaucratic and practical obstacles for working academics. It is difficult for anyone who wants to acquire a doctorate part-time and not employed as a research assistant at the university. External doctoral positions are rarely awarded, and the outcome and duration of the procedure are often uncertain. And doctoral students do not have their own university legal status.

Problems of the part-time doctorate

The following factors are particularly critical:

  • The lack of binding structures in the doctoral process,
  • Travel, enrollment and doctoral support costs;
  • Lack of time, resources and capacity due to double exposure;
  • Effective duration of the doctorate up to the acquisition of the doctoral degree cannot be planned;
  • For the self-employed: lost sales and profits due to the doctoral period.

In addition to the lack of scheduling and structuring of the process, there are often deficits in the supervision of the work: According to a survey by the doctoral network "Thesis" (2004), almost a third of the doctoral students feel poorly motivated by the supervisor, a seventh of the doctoral students is not looked after by the official supervisor. Fortunately, I had a competent and committed doctoral supervisor who looked after me well.

Doctorate abroad

The Bologna Process brought about a Europe-wide harmonization in the education system. A doctoral degree with independent research with a doctoral degree / PhD can therefore also be completed within Europe. For example, I did my part-time doctorate at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. Why? To understand it, I have to explain the connections, especially the reform in the education system.

Internal versus external doctorate

Despite reformed university courses, the traditional form of the internal promotion recorded that was unsuitable for me. What is the difference between an internal and an external doctorate?

  • An internal doctorate is associated with a paid position as a research assistant at the chair. The internal doctorate takes a little longer because you work for the chair or the institute on the side. Mostly you use this form directly after your studies.
  • An external doctorate is limited to the mere supervision of the dissertation. In the case of an external doctorate, the supervisory relationship is different than in the internal area: the doctoral supervisor accepts a doctoral candidate and the doctoral candidate then works on his topic independently.

The external doctorate is suitable if the research activity is to insist on an independent working method. Working time and location can be designed autonomously. That was the reason for my external doctorate. In addition, of course, the focus of the course has to fit - in my case: a technical university with a management faculty. And the chemistry between doctoral supervisor and doctoral student must also be right.

Many universities abroad have massively expanded their doctoral programs with the Bologna Process, e.g. Prague, Vienna, Bratislava. This results in educational offers similar to a distance learning course. After the application and the entrance test, the university is accredited. You get a curriculum with tasks for exams, term papers and tasks per semester, which you work out independently in coordination with the doctoral supervisor.

You submit the research results and receive ECTS points for it. After the required semester and sufficient points have passed, the exam takes place. You have to familiarize yourself with the educational process abroad, the examination guidelines of the university and the intercultural mentality. That takes effort. As far as I know, there are no comparable doctoral programs in Germany, which I find regrettable.

Reasons for dropping out of the part-time doctorate

Many who started with me gave up because ...

  • the motivation has collapsed or the research design was not possible;
  • there was turbulence in the private environment such as divorce, separation or death;
  • there have been changes in the professional environment such as: new job or new project;
  • the requirements and burdens were not feasible due to the double burden;
  • There were also personal problems such as: insomnia, stomach pain or burnout.

Conclusion: part-time doctorate: Curse or blessing?

For me it was both. I had spiritual heights (flow experiences) in dissertation research because my curiosity makes me love to research new topics. Since I dealt a lot with learning research during my studies, it is easy for me to systematically, efficiently and productively explore complex and agile areas of knowledge such as social media. I also like using innovative methods likeBusiness intelligence to conduct exploratory research. That is why research and the imparting of knowledge is something of my calling.

But the part-time doctorate also has its downsides. It takes a lot of time, energy and nerves to endure the double burden of the lack of time, resources and capacity for years. Since it is not possible to plan the duration of the doctorate up to the acquisition of the doctoral degree, one has to live with this uncertainty. It is a balancing act, the conflict, especially for the self-employed Promotion versus lost sales to balance. Many fail because of the obstacles and give up. Fortunately, I managed this balancing act, but it wasn't easy. That's why I advise you to weigh the pros and cons beforehand in order to avoid the risks of failure.

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