I'm in my second year of Mathematics. I would like to take a PhD and if possible also a master. However, I was thinking to take a master in Machine Learning, work for a bit in that industry (5-10 years) and then go back to use Machine Learning in a PhD in Mathematical Physics.

However I would like to know if any of you had the experience of , or knew anyone with that experience, taking a PhD after say 5 or 10 years from taking the master or BSc.

Would it be possible to be accepted? Would it be possible to get funding?

I am talking especially in UK, but also the rest of EU and America are fine.

If you are indeed an educator, would you accept someone with that background?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about academia, not math education. As such it belongs on the academia stackexchange site. Perhaps it could be migrated? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenGubkin if you think it rather belongs there can you tell me how to migrate it? Also, I think here there are many educators, so probably they'll know the answer $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Euler_Salter you cannot do it by yourself. Either enough high reputation users will vote for the migration, or you can flag it for moderator attention to ask yourself for the migration. $\endgroup$
    – M'vy
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


There is no absolute rules on age for doing a Ph.D. The underlying ideas are the following:

  • You need a subject for your thesis
  • You need a thesis advisor (that can support your thesis problematic)
  • You need funding

If you manage to get all of these, there is a priori no obstacle for the doctorate school to accept your application.

The origin of the funding is (normally) not a concern for the university. Of course, while not being part of a continuous scholarship, you probably disqualify for applying to the common funding opportunities. There will be other opportunities opened to you though.

It is, in some cases, possible to do a Ph.D while still a working full-time job. This might require a bit of work with the head of the doctoral school, to clearly define how things are going to work, how long etc. But provided you are getting a pay at least for yourself, there should be opportunities.


Yes, we have many old consultants in applied math as PhD. Our professors have been at the industry and it is only a good thing that you have some actual experience how things really work instead of blindly staring at those Big O:s, which do make a good article but in reality fail because they do not scale for parallel or memory operations are too slow.

  • $\begingroup$ thank you for your answer, I didn't hope to receive one this soon! Can I ask you in what country your University is in? Furthermore, do you think someone should apply through the same channel, as graduate applicants? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Finland, but it should hold true anywhere. M'vy has a good answer. Process of applying may vary. We had a council that decides who gets a PhD student place. Some apply for grants, some professors get huge grants to hire people, some companies pay for partnership (really common for example in Germany), military pays for its own projects, the university has some money to hire few etc. whatever sources you can invent. And that's only the full-time options as a student at the university. Some make their thesis as employees in a company. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 21:51

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