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I am in my 5th year of a PhD program, with the deadline for my dissertation just a few months away and barely any results to report, never mind writing an entire dissertation.*

I am considering quitting this program and working for some time. I already have a job, and they have made it clear that my PhD or the lack of it are not going to make a difference in my employment.

I am wondering if ther is anyone who has found themselves in similar circumstances and, years later, has succesfully applied for another PhD position, and how did they present the fact that they left the program just a few months before the deadline.

Thanks

*After browsing for a bit, I believe some people may be tempted to say things like "if you are on your 5th year, surely you do have enough material for your dissertation". While I appreciate it, this is not what I want to discuss here.

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    Not a real answer, but probably harder to return than it was to get in the first time. And, what do you think will change over the interim that will make success more likely than now? But it may not matter if you are happy where you are. – Buffy Feb 13 at 16:41
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    This might be very locale dependent. Also, it is one thing to be accepted in the program and another to obtain grants. I'd expect failing one PhD while receiving a government grant is pretty much enough reason not to receive a second grant. Depending on the country, if the only stipend students may have is their grant, professors will sometimes ask how the student will keep himself during the years of study, precisely because they're afraid the student will quit as soon as he gets a job. Good for the student, terrible for the advisor. – Mefitico Feb 13 at 18:59
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It will be very difficult indeed.

Having a second-class undergraduate degree I was unable to get any PhD position and was advised to take a Masters course to improve my grade. If you fail the PhD or abandon it then you will find it almost impossible to get a funded place again - you would need to fund yourself, and to demonstrate successful completion of whatever you did in between. You might be successful if you had to withdraw early on for health reasons, but not as late as the 5th year. I presume that you are already past the usual finishing date, which in itself is a negative indication.

You will do far better to apply for an extension or a suspension of studies. You will have to re-register every year but this could give you the time you need to reassess what has gone wrong and how you can steer your PhD to a successful conclusion.

The starting point is to have a thorough discussion with your supervisor and the tutor in charge of the PhD programme (assuming they are not the same person), to discuss the options. If at all possible avoid taking a major break because it can be a huge obstacle to get back into it, and the field will move on while you are away so that your research becomes less relevant and harder to "sell".

In the end you just have to grit your teeth and get the work done, regardless of how dissatisfied you are with the outcome. Lack of a PhD may not make a difference in your current job but it will make a difference to your career progression, and will probably close off options of moving into an academic career later on.

The fact that you have a job might be a distraction which is keeping you from completing your PhD. It might be better to ask your boss for 3-6 month of unpaid leave to complete your PhD, or at least get it back on track.

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I am wondering if ther is anyone who has found themselves in similar circumstances and, years later, has succesfully applied for another PhD position, and how did they present the fact that they left the program just a few months before the deadline.

As somebody who has sat on graduate committees, it would be an uphill battle but not impossible. You should be honest in any future application. What we would be looking for was an indication that circumstances have changed and that you now had the ability to successfully complete a PhD.

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