Postgraduate study: a comparison

Recently I’ve been thinking about what I want to do after finishing my Masters of Biology program next year. Do I go back home, or do I stick it out here with a postgraduate degree? What is a postgraduate degree and how does it differ from Norway to Australia?

PhD in Latin is Philosophiae doctor, which translates to a Doctor of Philosophy in English. It involves research in a specialised field over several years (3-4), with the end goal of writing a thesis and hopefully obtaining research journal approved results for publication.

In Australia, at least at The University of Melbourne, the main requirements for obtaining a PhD are high academic grades at Masters level and the capacity to demonstrate research. The numbers of entrants often depends on the number of positions a research group or supervisor can handle and if funding is available for that field. Students usually only apply if they can obtain a scholarship, which provides approximately 25,000 AUD (approximately 140,000 NOK) per annum. It is also exempt from tax. Students are entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave throughout their tenure if they have held their stipend for at least 12 months. Coursework and teaching is required, and the end point requires a thesis and a general presentation of your work.

In Norway, PhDs are either employed by the university or funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NRC), meaning that positions must be advertised and all students must be screened before they can be accepted into a position. PhDs provide students with a salary and benefits, and entitles students up to year’s maternity leave. Coursework and a percentage of academic teaching (usually 25%) are requirements if students are employed by the university. Students must also submit a thesis as well as 3 academic papers of publishable merit (in manuscript, review, press or published format), and defend their thesis against a panel of sensors: usually one within in the institute and one external. Income varies, but a quick search of available jobs at my institute shows a position for metal toxicity in seafood ( with a starting salary of 75,000 AUD (421,100 NOK)! While this income sounds high, it is also before tax, which takes more than 33%! Add on top the cost of living and things start to even out!

Of course these are not the only differences, but I thought it would interesting to compare how the programs differ between each country. I wouldn’t mind sticking around and doing a PhD in Norway, but we’ll see what happens after next year!

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