Important questions to ask during your PhD interview

Condoleezza Rice was the 66th Secretary of State. She has a PhD from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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Have you locked down a PhD interview? You’re likely feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. 

While interviews can be a nerve-wrecking process, they play an important role in the admissions process, particularly for competitive schools and programmes. 

Preparation entails more than being able to answer common PhD questions with confidence, and discussing your research interest in detail. You’ll want to be come prepared to show your potential, and this includes putting together a list of questions that reflect your research interest and motivation. 


A university’s website won’t likely have all the answers to a PhD candidates’ questions, which is why your PhD interview is an opportunity to ask the right questions to demonstrate your motivation, but also help you solidify your decision.

While the interview is your first hurdle, the efforts may be well worth it. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in doctoral and professional-level occupations is projected to grow by about 13%, faster than the 7% average projected for all occupations.

A PhD is the crowning achievement in academia. It also demonstrates graduates strong communication and critical thinking skills, their ability to conduct research and present their findings, among others.

If you’re ready to get started, here are some of the basic questions you should consider asking at your PhD interview:

What skills do students typically gain from the programme?

This question shows you’re interested in development. It is also a good way to address your strengths and weaknesses. Study the programme page and ensure the answers you’re looking for are not already there. 

Will I have opportunities to teach?

Some schools have explicit teaching requirements, while many others do not. That said, if you are interested in gaining experience as an educator, you’ll want to make sure the programme you’re selecting will let you do so. 

Will I be able to publish?

Whether or not you’ll be able to publish during your PhD varies. Some programmes will enable you to, while others do not. If this programme encourages the publishing of research papers, you’ll want to make sure you will have the right support throughout. You could also ask your interviewer how many papers are typically published by students by the time they graduate.


What funding is available for this project?

This is an important question for any aspiring PhD candidate. Some websites do not go into detail about funding, stipends, or opportunities for additional funding, so now is the time to find out. Understand how long your funding will last, and whether this money will require you to carry a heavy teaching or service load.