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A doctorate (DPhil/PhD/DM) 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.

In 2023 we launched a new Doctor of Medicine (DM) degree which is a flexible, variable intensity, clinical research-based doctorate open to doctors employed by the University of Oxford, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, or in Primary Care within Oxfordshire.

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. 

The DM can be combined with variable intensity cinical work.

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.

The same applies to the DM although the degree is not eligible for most funding bodies. 

There are many opportunities for doing research and building a strong DPhil/PhD/DM 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 Specialised Foundation Programme (ASFP) 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.

The DM can be combined with clinical training/work over a longer period so will not necessarily need time out of training/clinical work.

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/DM 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.