After six years, I recently finished my PhD, while the average in the field is 3.5 to four years. Personally, I think it is mostly my supervisors fault by letting me work on irrelevant tasks and poor communication regarding what the actual goal is. Obviously, I do not want the interviewer to think its all my fault, but I feel like blaming entirely my supervisor in a job interview is not a bright idea.

I thought about answering by giving multiple reasons. Some things that come to my mind are:

  • Admit that the delay is to some extent my fault
  • Give a few examples of the irrelevant tasks mentioned above
  • "I enjoyed working at a university and was not in a rush"
  • Working on a second degree in parallel
  • Mention colleagues that took as long as I did

However, I am afraid that giving too many reasons may sound overly defensive and I do not want to sound like I have to have a good reason (like its a big deal). Ideally, I want to give a concise answer and then we carry on.

  • 6 years is actually common these days
    – jessica
    Apr 12, 2021 at 2:35
  • 2
    An average is built from values above and below the average. So there is no general problem to be above. It's common for students to work besides their studies or thesis to earn their living and if your PhD subject is an interesting field, why shouldn't you extend that and work more than the minimum required for your graduation? All this is possible and is no reason to devalue what you did. Last but not least changing directions of your PhD work or unexpected results requiring new orientation also isn't so uncommon.
    – puck
    Apr 12, 2021 at 6:11

3 Answers 3


First of all, don’t mention it unless someone asks. If it does come up in an interview, I would recommend giving an honest but neutral answer that avoids admitting fault or ascribing blame. You can incorporate some of your bullet points (assuming they’re true).

I really enjoyed the research I was doing and ended up doing a lot of work in areas that weren’t directly related to my major such as ... I was also simultaneously working toward completing my [other degree] in [field].

  • 1
    Agreed. There's no reason to mention taking more time to complete a degree of any level unless asked why. You finished the coursework. You have the credentials, and if you truly learned from the experience, then you have the skills expected as a result.
    – Carson
    Apr 14, 2021 at 20:39

An interviewer once mentioned to me that he thought it took me quite a while to finish my master's (a valid observation). My answer was mentioning some unspecified problems along the way but also using it as an argument to show my grit, perseverance and determination. In the end I was hired at that company and worked there for about 10 years.

Maybe a similar answer might help you when they bring up your above average time to finish your PHD.


There is nothing to be defensive about: You earned a PhD, and PhDs take varying amounts of time.

As you have nothing to be defensive about, there is no reason to bring this up preemptively.

If someone were to ask you about it (which I doubt will happen, unless you are applying for an academic position), I think the best answer is just to say that PhDs are unique, that they take varying amounts of time, and that yours took 6 years.

For an academic position, you might need a different approach, and you should ask on the separate academic stack exchange.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .