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A doctorate (DPhil/PhD) is a necessary step in pursuing a career in academic medicine.

what is a doctorate?

The doctorate is an advanced research degree awarded on the basis of a thesis and oral examination. It is called a DPhil at Oxford but is more often called a PhD at other universities.

During a DPhil/PhD, clinicians will conduct their own research. They will also use key analytical skills, critically appraise published data, and develop a wider appreciation of their field of interest. 

To be awarded a doctorate, the candidate’s thesis must represent a significant and substantial piece of research. Also, candidates must be able to convey their work in a lucid and scholarly manner, and have a good general knowledge of the field of their thesis.

It is expected that the thesis will be submitted after 3 or, at most, 4 years from the date of admission.

can it be combined with clinical work?

A clinician doing a DPhil/PhD may have the opportunity to continue to develop, or at least maintain, their clinical skills. This can be done by participating in clinics, on-call rotas, clinical meetings and/or teaching. 

International doctors interested in combining doctoral studies with clinical work can find information about practising in the UK in the General Medical Council website. 

When should I apply ?

A clinical DPhil/PhD can be applied to at any time, if an individual has sufficient research experience and a comprehensive research proposal to apply for funding.  

There are many opportunities for doing research and building a strong DPhil/PhD application, if you are proactive. So, do not be shy about approaching academics in your areas of interest, such as groups leaders and clinical lecturers. Explore our department and unit pages to find them. 

For those in clinical academic training posts, a DPhil/PhD could follow on after the Academic Foundation Programme (AFP) or an academic clinical fellowship (ACF). These may maximise the opportunities for trainees to compete successfully for funding for a three-year clinical doctoral training fellowship. However, you do not need to have been involved in these programmes.

where can I find out more?

Read about doing a DPhil/PhD at Oxford in Why Oxford? - Doing a DPhil/PhD.

Or check our FAQs and applying for funding pages.

Where next, after a doctorate?

The award of a DPhil/PhD opens up the opportunity to apply for a clinical lectureship (CL) in order to pursue clinical academic training.

However, depending on which level of clinical training you are at, an academic clinical fellowship (ACF) recruiting at ST1-ST3 may be a more suitable option.

A further option is returning to non-academic clinical training in a specialist training post, with the possibility of applying for a CL in the future.