About a PhD in the natural sciences

Doing a PhD in the natural sciences often has two sides to it. These are not easy to understand and to connect, so here we try to explain what you need to know:

a) In the eyes of the university you are a PhD student.
As a student you need to enroll in a study program offered by the university. You need to get a certain amount of ECTS credits to complete a certain curriculum. You need to pay study fees. Only after completing the curriculum of the doctoral program you enrolled in can you get the PhD. A broad overview of this process is given in this PhD Handbook.

Click here for our section on studying at University of Vienna as a PhD candidate.

But there often is a second aspect to completing a PhD:
b) You are a paid worker and have an employment contract with the university or another institution.
This is only partially true. There are various ways of doing a PhD. You can have no source of funding and still find a supervisor and a project that allow you to achieve the doctoral degree. In many fields of the natural sciences, however, it is required (or highly advisable) to find a source of funding for you (a salary) and for your project (money to pay for lab equipment, consumables, travelling costs etc.) before you start your PhD studies. If you do obtain funding you will be considered an employee! This leads to you having certain rights and privileges but it can also bear responsibilities that you ought to be aware of. We’ll get to this later.

As it turns out, these two aspects of the doctoral studies, “studentship” and “employment”, are in no way connected to one another. This makes it somewhat difficult to fight for PhD students’ rights and to get information regarding your specific situations. With this blog we try to explain a few important things.

Click here for information regarding contracts and types of funding for PhD candidates in Vienna.