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How to prepare for a career in science at Corvinus

2023-04-04 14:50:33

Who is a PhD for and what career paths does it open up? Economist Online interviewed Dr István Kónya, Dean of the Corvinus Doctoral Schools.

Kapcsolódó hírek

Kapcsolódó események

photo: Hegedüs Krisztián

Who is doctoral programme for? 

If someone is already thinking about a career in science after completing a master’s or bachelor’s programme, the choice is obvious, as a PhD is essential in this field. The issue is more difficult if the person does not have this strong vision, or if they are hesitant because they are unsure about the length of the training and are not aware of their future career prospects. According to Dr. István Kónya, it is also worth starting even at this stage, as this is how people can really experience whether this career is right for them, but they should also be ready to leave it if it is not suitable for them. One thing is for sure: getting a doctorate as a hobby is not worth it, it takes perseverance and diligence to be successful. The head of training described the process of writing the doctoral dissertation as a rather Sisyphean task. It is a long, sometimes stressful process, during which the doctoral student must work independently without regular feedback or external motivation. However, if someone is open-minded, inquisitive and enthusiastic about the problems to be resolved, it is definitely worthwhile to go to the doctoral school. 

Gate of the Doctoral School 

One of the basic requirements for admission is that the applicant just have a Master’s degree. Although it is not a requirement that the field of training completed should be closely related to the topic of the chosen doctoral school, Dr István Kónya recommends that in such specific situations the person concerned should seek the advice of the head of the programme before making a decision. Although it is an advantage to start with relevant prior studies, it is relatively easy to move between some of the different fields. It can also facilitate catching up that a broad range of subjects are taught in the first phase of the course, but the supervisor can also help if further tutoring is needed.  

Another important part of the application process is the submission of a research plan. This is not closely related to the dissertation to be written later, prospective doctoral students only need to show that they can think through a topic with the help of the relevant literature and add methodological foundations. 

Key milestones 

The first two years of training are the training and research phase, during which doctoral students acquire a comprehensive amount of knowledge. They attend classes, study literature and then demonstrate through exams that they have successfully mastered the relevant knowledge. Meanwhile, they also need to refine the topic of their dissertation, so that the final direction is clear as soon as possible. They are assisted and supported throughout this process by their supervisor. This two-year phase is closed by a complex examination of what they have learned during this period, and they must also produce a detailed draft dissertation, which is similarly assessed by an examination board. Once these requirements have been successfully met, the independent work begins, ending in a dissertation of international standard. Before the final deadline, doctoral students must also prepare a draft dissertation, a kind of draft. They receive feedback on this through internal discussion, which helps them to improve their dissertation. 

During the four-year course, the university also gives students the opportunity to gain their first experience of an academic career. Involvement in the educational activities of Corvinus is an expectation for all doctoral students, as it is important for them to practics how to express themselves in a way that allows them to pass on the knowledge they have acquired in their field to others. They may also want to get involved in ongoing research projects at the university. 

Academic and expert careers 

The Corvinus Doctoral School trains experts in addition to teachers and researchers. There is no difference in the knowledge content and requirements for teaching groups preparing for academic and professional careers. The two directions are distinguished by the goal to be achieved, which the doctoral student should decide upon before starting to write the dissertation. For those who want to move along the expert line, the dissertation is the end of the line where they show that they are capable of independent research, while for those with academic ambitions it is more of a career starting point.  

International line 

At Corvinus Doctoral School, teaching is in English, so Hungarian students can study with their international peers. Around a third of all trainees are of foreign origin, and the number of foreign trainers is growing. The university encourages doctoral students not to settle for the diverse environment of Corvinus, but to try themselves in international waters. There are centralised opportunities to do this, one of which is Erasmus+, which gives students the chance to spend an extended period as a visiting student at a partner university abroad. Another option to consider is participation in conference trips. The university has its own budget for this, which is sufficient to fund a conference trip abroad for all doctoral students during their Corvinus career. Dr. István Kónya also mentioned that there are a number of grants from external sources that can be applied for, and they encourage students to do so, as this is how they can cover their participation in similar events. 


Doctoral training requires a huge investment of time and energy, which makes it difficult to find a job during the four years. However, doctoral students have nothing to fear as there are many sources of funding for this period. One example is the state study grant, which is around HUF 150 thousand per month. This is complemented by the Corvinus Doctoral Study Grant, which doubles the amount of the state study grant for many students in the first two years. In the second phase, only a select group of students may be eligible for financial support from the university, so they will receive a higher level of funding. Students can also apply for other study grants to support researchers. One option is the New National Excellence Programme (NNEP), under the Ministry of Human Capacities, which helps PhD students to smoothly complete their studies. The Co-operative Doctoral Study Grant has a similar aim, but it involves a greater commitment, as participants undertake to support an external company or institution with their research. Students will also be compensated for their teaching activities if they undertake more than the required number of hours, and may be rewarded for their research work within the university, if there is a budget for it in the project. 

Opportunities opening up 

The most obvious step on the research or teaching career path, after obtaining a PhD, is to become an assistant professor. Compared to the previous practice, however, there is a much higher transit rate: candidates with a doctorate from Corvinus are welcome to apply for similar jobs at any Hungarian university. In addition, the gates of Hungarian and foreign research institutions are open to PhD graduates. The university has a clear aim to encourage more of its graduates to go abroad. Although not required, a PhD is also an advantage in international organisations such as the UN, the European Commission or even the World Bank, as it multiplies the chances of the candidate and often allows them to start in higher positions than their competitors with lower qualifications. 

Author: Réka Sie 

The article was first published on Economist Online blog. 

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GEN.:2024.04.16. - 19:14:02