Employment on a doctoral studentship is the most common way of financing third-cycle studies. The doctoral student is employed by the higher education institution (HEI) and has the same social benefits as other employees.

Doctoral studentships may last no longer than eight years,  but the total time of employment may be no longer than the equivalent four years of full-time third-cycle education.

The employment period may be extended if there are exceptional circumstances, such as the doctoral student taking parental leave. Read more about this in the section about Rights and Support.

Extending a period of study

In 2014, 62 per cent of all active doctoral students were employed on doctoral studentships.

Hourly pay

Hourly pay is the compensation for hourly teaching work. Employment as an hourly paid teacher may be for no more than 20 per cent of full-time. Hourly-paid teachers are employed for a year at a time, but the position can be renewed. Hourly pay is sometimes used when a doctoral student has temporarily undertaken more teaching than that included in his or her post. This may also be settled by reducing the number of teaching hours in the following year.

Because a doctoral student must spend time on his or her research and not work more than 20 per cent of full-time on other duties, overtime compensation is not normally paid. In practice, compensation is sometimes made through hourly pay. Thesis work does not normally provide any right to such compensation.

Part-time studies

A person appointed to doctoral studentship shall primarily dedicate time to his or her studies. If a research student so requests, the position may be for part-time work, but no less than 50 per cent of a full-time post.

Pay and agreements

The monthly pay for a doctoral studentship usually varies between SEK 23,000 and SEK 29,000. Engineers and natural scientists are the best paid. Those who receive the lowest pay are doctoral students in humanities and the arts. However, pay is decided on an individual basis and the differences can therefore be significant.

Pay is decided through local pay negotiations between union representatives and representatives of the HEI. The majority of HEIs have agreements for pay scales for doctoral students, which can also be used by doctoral students who are not union members.

For hourly paid teachers, pay varies depending on their duties and formal education and experience. How far they have come in their third-cycle studies and relevant professional experience after their Bachelor’s degree must be taken into account.

Collective bargaining agreements

Doctoral students’ rights as employees are governed by collective bargaining agreements that apply to all state employees, known as Villkorsavtal (previously ALFA, Allmänt löne- och förmånsavtal).

About Villkorsavtal on the Swedish Agency for Government Employers’ website (in Swedish)

About Villkorsavtal-T on the Swedish Agency for Government Employers’s website (in Swedish)

Gradual increases

According to the collective bargaining agreement, pay increases when the doctoral student has been awarded 120 and 180 credits, or after a certain period of employment – a step up the pay scale. The doctoral student may be required to prove that a particular level has been reached. It can sometimes take a long time to get a pay increase.

The doctoral student can use the individual study plan as support, and this should be designed so it is possible to follow how progress is being made. A statement from the supervisor can be helpful and it is also possible to contact the local union organisation.

Working hours

Doctoral students have a set number of annual working hours and are entitled to annual leave. Annual working hours are governed by a collective bargaining agreement and used as a template for departmental duties, sick leave and calculating annual leave.

Annual working hours are

  • 1756 hours until the year the person turns 29 (28 days of annual leave)
  • 1732 hours until the year the person turns 30 (31 days of annual leave)
  • 1700 hours until the year the person turns 40 (35 days of annual leave)

Local agreements on working hours

The number of working hours that should be included for various types of teaching are governed by local agreements on working hours. Conversion factors vary between HEIs. For example, at Uppsala University a “senior lecturer’s hour” is normally equivalent to four working hours, while Linköping University has a guideline that it is equivalent to two to seven working hours.

Annual leave

Annual leave should normally be taken during the summer, but exceptions can be made. The general rule is that you should take annual leave as time off, but in some circumstances you may save annual leave until the following year. When employment at the HEI comes to an end, any remaining days of annual leave must be financially compensated, in accordance with legislative requirements and collective bargaining agreements.

Leave of absence

Opportunities for leave of absence are limited but can be granted in certain cases, such as leave for a trial period in another job.

Departmental duties

Someone who is employed as a doctoral student must primarily work on his or her own research, but it is also common for doctoral students to work with administration, teaching or other research at the department. Departmental duties may not comprise more than 20 per cent of full-time, i.e. the equivalent of one day per week. This can be put together as a continuous period.

The employer may be entitled to decide that departmental duties are included in the post. When a doctoral studentship is announced, the employment contract often states whether departmental duties are included. See also Chapter 5, Sections 1- 7 of the Higher Education Ordinance.

Different formulas

HEIs apply different formulas to calculate compensation for teaching. The formula must be governed by the local working hours agreement, but doctoral students are not always mentioned in these agreements. Doctoral students’ hourly compensation is often calculated on the basis of “senior lecturer hours”. The first time a person teaches a course, the extra preparation that is required should be included. Before a doctoral student starts teaching, or working on other departmental duties, he or she should have received papers stating which formula is used.

It is important to differentiate between the time spent on third-cycle studies and that on work at the department. Departmental duties must be stated in the individual study plan. It is important that the doctoral student receives compensation and an extension to his or her employment that reflects the work he or she actually does at the department.

It can be difficult to decide how these working hours should be calculated. For example, how much time can be spent preparing tutorials and lectures? If departmental duties amount to 20 per cent annually, a full-time doctoral studentship can be held for five years.

Anyone who is unsure what extension will be granted by the HEI for departmental duties should request advance information. It is wise to investigate how compensation will be paid before undertaking departmental duties.

Social security

A person employed on a doctoral studentship is covered by collectively agreed benefits in addition to those that are legislated basic security net. These include sickness compensation and parental leave, as well as work injury insurance and an occupational pension.


A person employed on a doctoral studentship must immediately inform his or her workplace in case of illness. A doctor’s certificate is necessary from the eighth day. Sick pay is generally paid by the employer during the first 14 days of the sick period. After this, the responsibility for this moves to Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency).

Sickness benefit is based on the income you report to Försäkringskassan and amounts to 80 per cent of your pay. The first day of the sick period is a qualifying day and no compensation is paid.


Parental leave

An employed doctoral student has the same rights to parental leave as all other employees.


A person who is employed as a doctoral student also fulfils the work conditions for receiving compensation from unemployment insurance. In order to receive the full compensation when unemployed, it is necessary to be a member of an unemployment fund (a-kassa).

Unemployment compensation cannot be paid out during a period of study. A doctoral student is considered to have finished his or her education when the thesis has been sent to the printers. In order to receive unemployment compensation, someone who has not reached that point must permanently cease studying – i.e. deregister – and certify that they do not intend to resume studying.

In some circumstances, a person who has worked full-time and combined this with part-time studies may continue studying. Anunemployment fund may also permit part-time studies with retained compensation, but they normally only approve short courses at no more than half-time. Because of this, doctoral students can generally not count on receiving any compensation.

A person who has been employed on a doctoral studentship, had another state employment, or who was employed by the independent HEIs Jönköping University and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, may in some circumstances be covered by the state’s job security agreement for government employees. This may mean he or she is entitled to support from the Job Security Foundation in case of unemployment.

The Job Security Foundation

Detailed information about the terms and conditions for obtaining compensation from an unemployment fund can be provided by the Swedish Association of University Teachers, SULF, the Akademikernas unemployment fund, AEA and Arbetsförmedlingen (the state job agency).




Unions and unemployment funds


State employees have an occupational pension in addition to the general state pension, in accordance with the PA­03 collective agreement. This also applies to the employees of the foundation HEIs Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and Jönköping University.

Information about PA 03 on the Swedish Agency for Government Employers’ website (in Swedish)

A pension is based on the income of an entire working life. Long periods of study with low income may result in a lower pension, but this can naturally be compensated for by good income in the future. 

Page last updated 2017-09-01