I am extremely dissatisfied with the Master's program I just began and plan on dropping out ASAP. I currently have no interest in finding another graduate program and instead wish to pursue a job outside of academia. As I see it my two choices are to either stick it out for the rest of the semester and just try to maintain C's, or to simply walk away from it and accept the F's because the drop deadline has passed.

The main question I have is how much more damaging is the option of just walking away mid-semester?

I realize that certain employers will view the situation differently, but I am just seeking opinions here. I have no idea of what industry I would want to work in or how that might affect your answers. Or if anyone has advised students in similar situations, I would greatly appreciate similar advice.

As for my records before this program, I got my BS in applied math and graduated with honors. I am hoping that I can bank on this earlier performance and explain the reasoning behind dropping out to potential employers.

  • 1
    I'm in a similar situation. I just don't like it. i don't think the program lives up to the ideal i had in my head and, more importantly, i don't think the work i am/will be doing is what i want for the rest of my life (I only pursued the PhD because my intent was to be a professor). Once i realized i really dont want to be a professor, i see no reason to torture my soul further. I am consulting with all possible offices, and am understanding that dropping mid term hurts (financially and academically), but if you can wait till semester's end, there's almost no damage. And, you have winter/summ
    – user41264
    Sep 17, 2015 at 22:40

5 Answers 5


I would stick it out and get the best grades I can. I would try to monitor my stress level and do things I enjoy as well. The important thing is to finish things in a clean way and not let yourself get to the point where you drop everything and leave.

The job market is extremely competitive these days. A master's degree can have a big effect on what pay you receive and how far you can go in certain industries. You might not feel like a master's degree is worth it now, but you might want to go back to school for a different degree or even to complete the same degree. It's hard to predict what the situation will be for you in 5 years or 10 years. Bad grades now can restrict your possibilities for years to come. Who knows? You might be thinking about getting an MBA in a prestigious program in 10 years and find yourself stuck having to explain some bad grades from years before.

Your first one or two years of work, people might ask about your GPA as well, and leaving the graduate school off might be tricky as it might leave gaps in your employment. Although, I have seen it work to just not put what year you got your undergraduate degree.


I am going to have to disagree with some of the answers stating that dropping out of programs does not look bad. I have been on many hiring committees for a government agency. In general there are way more qualified (to over qualified) applicants than there are jobs and we are usually looking for reasons to take people's resume(CV) off of the stack. In my mind someone who has committed to a program and then quit shows me that they are willing to quit, whereas someone who only has a bachelors only means they have not really done anything yet. Don't get me wrong, there are lot's of reasons someone might leave a program, but you will usually not get the chance to explain what yours is.


I am a little surprised your professors won't work with you to allow you to quit gracefully. If it's for you and you're just moving on I would think they would accommodate you.

The shorter your time in grad school the less bad it looks for quitting, assuming the employer cares at all. If you have, say, all complete coursework and just didn't write your thesis/dissertation, that may be looked upon less favorably than just quitting after a semester. This might tell an employer you can't finish things.

Many more people walk away from graduate school than finish it, and figuring it out quickly won't reflect negatively on you if you can frame it as if you were moving on, instead of failing out. You can better form the "it wasn't for me" narrative if you've been decisive about that. It's good that you've figured out its not for you so quickly.

Unless you want to work in specialized fields or teach something, a Master's degree isn't required. Employers will nearly always take relevant experience over credentials when applying for a job, and I find they tend to prefer experience, with the credential being a nice plus.

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    I am a little surprised your professors won't work with you to allow you to quit gracefully. — what makes you think (1) that they won't, and (2) that OP wants their help?
    – JeffE
    Nov 29, 2013 at 4:24

It's important to understand the advantages of pursuing a postgraduate qualification especially in a quantitative subject like mathematics. The truth is the job market is very competitive and whilst an undergraduate degree shows that you are hardworking and you've been through formal education and can think logically, it doesn't necessarily equip you with all the skills you need to thrive in industry. Hence most undergrads still need to be retrained on the job. This largely depends on what type of job you are aiming for but most mathematical jobs in industry require additional skills like programming and advanced numerical skills which not all undergraduates have enough time to develop. I guess you must ask yourself the question "what additional skills will I possess by completing this masters degree?"

Employers are not only interested in a string of degrees on your cv, they are interested in the skills you have to offer their enterprise. I agree that quitting a degree is not a good attribute for the cv and you should have a strong reason for doing so.


Dropping out mid-class is a red flag. It marks you as somebody who has left unfinished business behind, with no clear, compelling reason. I would hesitate to hire you, as you might do the same in the middle of some critical task.

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