This fall, I will be a 2nd year PhD student in Microbiology. My ultimate goal is not to work in academia, but industry or government. After being a year in the program, I started to realize a masters degree may be more aligned with my future career goals. I find I like clear cut goals for my laboratory work, and very applied research. However, I would still like to keep the option of a PhD available. I have now found out, that I may need to move to a new program. My fiancee is a 4th year medical student who has matched into a residency across the country. While I never thought I would leave a program for a person, I can't imagine spending 4+ years long distance. Would leaving with a master's degree from my current program burn bridges with professors? Is it even feasible to start over at a new program? I have not yet advanced to candidacy. Would it be wise to wait until after? Any advice would be wonderful.

professors are people and understand that life happens. I do not think I would enjoy working with a colleague who would have a vendetta against a student for wanting to leave the program in order to move with their soon-to-be spouse. Be open with your supervisor and ask for their advise.

Also, if you want to go into industry/government, do not underestimate the importance of a phd. The ability to apply for grants or oversee a lab is valuable.

  • Thanks for the response! Can I ask you another question regarding industry/government. I don't know if this is the case in your field, but I find it very hard to talk to professors about careers outside of academia. Inquiries about industry are often met with comments such as "selling out". aka not doing science for the purpose of sheer curiosity. Do you have any advice for finding out about outside careers? – Elle Jun 11 at 20:16
  • I suppose it depends on the university. I work at a top 10 US university and there are major pipelines into industry at the university, especially in the biomedical sector. Even in basic science, there is a tremendous amount of support. Within the university, it is far from uncommon for faculty to straddle between the university and industry. For example, I really cant imagine top talent in machine learning being told that they are selling out for reaping the rewards of industry. – JWH2006 Jun 11 at 20:34

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