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PhD and MD(Res) for clinicians

Our academic clinicians form a vital link in our translational research, bringing knowledge of clinical practice into the laboratory and taking the knowledge of laboratory research back into the clinic and using it to help cancer patients.

What it's like to study at the ICR

In this video PhD students and clinical research fellows talk about their experiences of studying at the Institute of Cancer Research. The ICR has two sites – one in Sutton and one in Chelsea. This video footage mostly shows our Sutton site.

Which degree should I choose?

There are two options available for clinicians who wish to pursue further qualifications in medicine:

  • Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
  • Doctor of Medicine (Research) - MD(Res)

In both degrees:

  • You will receive expert supervision from the ICR’s top-class Faculty and participate in the highly successful translational research culture of the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust;
  • It is expected that you will make a substantial contribution to knowledge in your clinical area through hypothesis-driven original research, normally leading to published work;
  • You are required to submit a thesis (a written report) and pass a viva (oral exam) at the end of your course.
  • Both degrees are aligned at Level 8 of the framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ).

However, a key difference is the degree structure:

  • A PhD is often lab-based and a fellowship will typically last three years;
  • An MD(Res) lasts a minimum of two years (or part-time equivalent) and combines a student's research with clinical practice.  The expectation is that the MD(Res) thesis is submitted within three years.

Also, consider your career ambitions. The following are general guidelines and not a definitive distinction. The final choice will depend on your individual circumstances and the project itself.

  • If you’re looking to take your career into a laboratory research-based direction, then you may wish to study on a PhD programme. These three-year fellowships are intended to develop the applicant’s potential to pursue a career as an academic clinician.
  • If you’re looking to progress your career in a clinical role, using your specialist knowledge to diagnose and interact with patients, then an MD(Res) may be the best option for you. These research programmes provide clinical specialists the opportunity to work in a unique multidisciplinary environment alongside world leaders in cancer research and clinicians from The Royal Marsden

There are two main routes to applying. Firstly we have a number of clinical PhD fellowships through our ICR and Imperial Clinical Academic Training Partnership, funded by Cancer Research UK. These prestigious fellowships aim to support the training of future clinical academic leaders in cancer research. Other PhD opportunities for clinicians will be advertised on our funding options for clinical research fellowships page.

You can also register for a PhD or MD(Res) outside of this process as long as you have funding which covers the duration of the programme, meet the entry requirements and successfully complete the pre-registraton process. More detail can be found under How to apply.

Course essentials

Funding options