Apart from its educational side, the preparation of a doctoral thesis is considered a full-time activity and the first genuine work experience for the postgraduate. Just like in the job market, the applicant is hired for a specific doctoral position. When the position is not a continuance of a placement from the master’s or engineering programmes, applicants usually have to search for an offer. They pass through a selection process that often includes interviews before being accepted.
Find a doctoral position
Like job offers, open doctoral positions are posted on many websites:
- Doctoral schools, institutes of higher education and research, laboratories.
- The ABG website.
- The French Research and Technology Agency (ANRT) offers doctoral positions linked to companies and funded by the CIFRE scheme.
- Public body websites: the CNRS employment website.
- APEC and recruitment pages on company websites.
It is also possible to search for a doctoral position abroad, in or outside Europe (for example, on the European Union’s EURAXESS website). Many foreign universities publish open positions on their website. The conditions and preparation for such positions (funding, preparation time, examination procedures) vary according to the country.
Funding for a doctorate in France
Doctoral positions are funded in several ways.
Doctoral contracts are employment contracts governed by public law. They are signed by a public institute and the doctoral student for a three-year term. They can originate from various bodies.
State-supported doctoral contracts
Every year, the French Ministry of Higher Education allots doctoral contracts to doctoral schools which distribute them among their establishments. Over a dozen new doctoral contracts are thus available every year at École Centrale de Lyon. Applicants are examined by the doctoral schools according to their own schedule and procedures (submissions, interviews, etc.).
The gross monthly salary is €1,768 (as of February 2017), which can be supplemented by teaching tutorial classes.
Doctoral contracts attached to a research project
Research projects funded by public bodies, such as the ANR, BPI France, ADEME, DGA, European agencies or the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, sometimes seek to recruit doctoral students to conduct a part of a larger research work. The topics of the thesis are proposed by the project leaders in the laboratories. These project leaders interview the applicants. Applicants are then hired on a doctoral contract.
Other types of projects also enable positions to be funded, such as projects financed by the Carnot Institutes.
As these projects usually involve multiple partners, doctoral students tend to have the opportunity to work closely with other laboratories or even companies with a stake in the project.
CNRS doctoral contract
The French National Centre for Scientific Research offers a doctoral contract under the same conditions as École Centrale de Lyon. The thesis research is carried out within a CNRS-endorsed laboratory. The gross monthly remuneration is €2,135. The doctoral student is hired by the CNRS. The application process is carried out by the host laboratory in conjunction with the CNRS. The successful applicant can also carry out supplementary activities.
Industrial Training Through Research Contracts (CIFRE)
The CIFRE scheme, administered by the French Research and Technology Agency (ANRT), allows doctoral students to prepare their thesis within a company while conducting a research and development programme with an external academic laboratory. The company and doctoral student sign an employment contract (indefinite or for a three-year fixed term). The doctoral student is thus on the company’s payroll during their thesis preparation. The contract also delineates the amount of time the student should spend at the company and in the academic laboratory.
Contracts with research bodies
Research bodies, such as the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME) and National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) offer funded doctoral positions linked to an academic laboratory that supervises the thesis. The positions are posted on the bodies’ websites and are generally reposted by the laboratories.
For more information: see the doctoral funding page on the government’s website.