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First steps of PhD

The life of a PhD student is not easy, especially the starting point of your journey is a challenge. That’s why following a rough summary of important steps are given 🙂

More (and detailed) information can be found in the PhD NAWI – Welcome Guide 🙂

As a teaser you are employed at the university (get paid) and as a student (need to take some courses 18 ECTS compulsory and 6 ECTS elective) – 2 email addresses.

Open positions:

Most of the time you can find such open positions at the news from the university (“Mitteilungsblätter”) or you can also get information from the professors directly if there are any open/upcoming positions. Those positions are typically ranging from 20-40 hours/week and are paid accordingly.

Such positions can be either “University Assistant” or “Project Assistant”. The first one is paid by the university and includes some teaching beside the research, whereas the latter one is just for research on a project, which can be paid by a company or other third funding agency.  


You can send an email to the group leader or group members and ask for additional information. 

Then you need to send you application documents like curricula vitae, certificate, letter of motivation to bewerbungen@uni-graz.at.


After a positive feedback from the university, you will have to go to the university and sign the contract in person. There will also be a rough number of your hours/week splitting in teaching, research and management (planning events, administary, etc. ). 

Starting the work:

You will get to know your office with your desk and other group members. Furthermore research stuff and a working plan will be discussed with your supervisor.

You will typically also obtain the email address and the uni graz online account for employees (containing things like lectures, calendar, salary, holidays, intranet etc.)

Bureaucracy stuff: (can be found at the doctoral school homepage)

Application for the doctoral program: sign a document related to your PhD thesis and proposed work/time schedule. There you can choose your doctoral school, which belongs to your institute of working, but there are also areas in between two areas, where you can choose then (as long as your supervisor belongs to that school too).

Thesis advisory committee: consists of 3 persons – supervisor + 2 others (at least doctoral degree), whereas one is belonging outside to the working group/area of you. They meet up after 6 months and then follow every 12 months to monitor the progress of your work and give advice/feedback.

Abstract of you planned PhD thesis: some doctoral schools also want a abstract about your planned work 

Following is important: (often asked questions)

  • Planned subjects related to your work are not fixed and can change
  • Mentor: can be any person belonging to the institute
  • Co-supervisor: can be added but maybe this will crystalize out in later stages 
  • Work/time schedule: is for 3 years and just a rough picture of your PhD (even though your contract lasts 4 years)

Important: beside your work at the university you need to sign for your doctoral studies (in our case “doctoral natural sciences”) at the Studienservice. There you will also get your student email address. Similar to your employee email address just with less features and you can take your lectures. Depending on your nationality and other stuff you need to pay every semester an ÖH fee (typically 20.70 €) – if you are late or don’t pay you lose the right to go on with your doctoral study.

For completing your doctoral studies and obtaining your PhD degree you need to take 

  • 18 ECTS from compulsory subjects – 9-12 are from “Seminars for Postgraduates” (Dissertant*innenseminare) + 6-9 from a pool of subjects on the PhD level and 6 ECTS from elective subjects – typically from master level or PhD level (can be also an additional “Seminars for Postgraduates”). Those courses belong to your field of research and can be found on the different doctoral school websites.
  • write and defend you PhD thesis

Additional Infos:

Uni-START Wiss: is a small program (only some half days in the lecture-free time) for university assistants about  topics such as teaching, research, and mental health. In this program you can also take special courses about specialized teaching or project management.

Every year in December you have a meeting with your supervisor about the stage of your work and problems (also personal once) “Mitarbeitergespräch”. Then you sign this and just accept it on the intranet.

Enjoy your PhD 🙂