Twilight zone of a PhD

Twilight is the time between daylight and dark night. It is the time when it is too dark to do something that needs daylight, but it is too bright to do something that you want to hide from the daylight. It is the time of mysteries. In detective stories it is the time a murder is committed. It is the time vampires awaken… Well, you get my point; it is not day, it is not night, but something in between.


I would like to say, this is the same for doing a PhD; it is not a study, it is not a job. It’s the twilight of being a PhD candidate.

This is a mystery PhD candidates have to solve on top of their project.




This comic shows very entertainingly the position of PhD in daily life.



I find it very confusing to be an employee on the one side and a student on the other side. Sometimes the rules for students or staff are applied as the institute pleases. I cannot blame them, because I do the same; I have a student discount at the gym and when I’m visiting a museum I’ll ask for a student discount, on the other side I do receive a salary and not a stipend.


Difference between PhD candidates

Between PhD candidates there is also a big difference, which is mostly caused by type of funding and country of performing their PhD. I know that in The Netherlands most of the PhD candidates will have the status of an employee. This status has some legal benefits, for example you can get a mortgage – If you would like to have that..!

Other types of funding cover living costs only. In some countries it is even quite common that a PhD candidate funds his/her own PhD. This can be done by external funding or by having a personal student loan. All this different types of funding and employee/student status makes it very confusing for both inside and outside academia.


Independent scientist

In the end a PhD is about being able to perform science independently. So I think that ‘student’ is not an appropriate term for an independent researcher (in training).

Some alternatives:

  • PhD candidate
  • Researcher
  • Post-graduate researcher
  • Scientist


Starting to call yourself ‘PhD candidate’ instead of ‘PhD student’ will not dissolve twilight into bright daylight, it just might shine a new light on your occupancy. People will start asking how that is different to a PhD student and then you can explain why ‘student’ is a confusing title.


Let’s get out of the twilight zone, let’s make our way towards bright sunlight. 🌞


What do you think?

What are your experiences?

Did I skip a viewpoint here?

Please comment!


Comic from / Featured image taken by myself.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s