PhD - before, during and after

What’s involved in a PhD?

A PhD is an academic degree, but as a PhD fellow in Denmark, you are also an employee. Hence, a number of employment law terms and conditions apply. We have compiled the most important points on working and employment conditions regarding PhDs here.

Terms of employment

PhD fellow employed at a state university? 

Your employment as a PhD fellow is a 3-year fixed-term appointment. At the same time as being employed, you will also be enrolled at the university. 

When enrolment as a doctoral student ceases or is terminated, employment ceases without special notice, unless otherwise agreed. 

The period of employment may be extended in the event of absence due to maternity/paternity leave, adoption leave, or prolonged illness. When enrolment as a PhD student ceases or is terminated, employment will be terminated without notice unless otherwise agreed. 


When you are employed by the state, your salary as a PhD fellow will consist of a basic salary, pension contribution and non-pensionable allowances. You will be placed on a basic salary scale. Your salary scale placement depends on your seniority after completion of the Master's programme in accordance with the relevant collective agreement for government employees. 

The current salaries for public sector employees can be seen in the IDA public salary tables (In Danish). In addition, there is the possibility to agree on further individual function and/or qualification allowances in specific cases. 

Working hours

You will have an average working week of 37 hours as a publicly employed PhD fellow in the state.  

A PhD fellow is obliged to provide the study effort described in the established plan for the programme. 

If you are employed as a PhD fellow at a university, you are obliged to perform work for the employing institution as instructed by the latter, to the extent that, for a 3-year employment, this corresponds to a total of 840 working hours. 

You are not covered by the general provisions of the collective agreement on the remuneration of overtime. An exception to the above is if you are assigned work by the University which exceeds the 840 hours in 3 years. 


As a PhD fellow in the state, you earn the right to holidays and special holidays according to the Danish Holiday Act (Ferieloven) and the state holiday agreement (Statens ferieaftale). Entitlement to paid leave must be accrued over time – otherwise leave is taken without pay. 

Holiday arrangements are usually agreed between the PhD fellow and the employer, but it can sometimes be a challenge to arrange holidays. 

You may therefore experience that the employer gives notice that the holiday must be taken – both during and at the end of the employment. In this case, the employer must comply with the notice rules in the Holiday Act. 

Read about the holiday rules in Denmark

Maternity leave and paternity leave for PhD fellows 

As a university-employed PhD fellow, you are entitled to absence and pay in connection with maternity and paternity leave under the state maternity/paternity agreement (Statens barselsaftale). 

If you have been absent due to maternity/paternity leave, you are entitled to an extension of your period of employment equal to the length of the period of absence – but only for the part of the leave that falls within the period of employment. 

If the employment ends during the leave, the employment is extended for the remaining period of the leave. Your employment will also be extended by the amount of time you have been on leave before its scheduled expiry. 

Learn about the rules for parental leave

Illness when you are a PhD

There may be a possibility of extension in case of demonstrable study delay. You are not automatically granted an extension, but you must apply for one. The extension does not necessarily correspond with the sickness period, but with the period that the employer considers the illness has delayed the study. 

Read about illness and leave here

4+4 employment or employment in municipality, region or private sector 

You can also be employed as a PhD fellow on a 4+4 scheme (also known as a flexible PhD programme), in a region or municipality under the rules of the regional or municipal collective agreement, or on an individual contract in the private sector. 

Contact IDA for further advice

PhD Plan

When you enrol, you and the university will work together to draw up a PhD plan. The plan includes a schedule, a plan for PhD courses, and a financing plan. Throughout the process, you and your supervisor can follow up regularly and adjust the PhD plan if necessary. 

If you don't follow the plan, you will be given time to get back on course. This is crucial. If it is not possible to rectify, your enrolment – and therefore your employment if you are employed by the University – will end. 

A PhD programme consists of the following elements: 

  • An independent research project under supervision (PhD project) 
  • PhD courses of a total scope equivalent to approximately 30 ECTS credits 
  • Participation in active research environments, including stays at other, mainly foreign, research institutions, private research companies, etc. 
  • Gaining experience in teaching or other forms of knowledge dissemination related to your PhD project 
  • The PhD thesis itself 

Get assistance throughout your PhD scholarship

IDA offers assistance relating to legal advice, professional support and a network when you do a PhD.