I would really appreciate to hear some other people's thoughts on my situation. I am going into my third year of my PhD at a UK uni (paid studentship) and am thinking of quitting (80% sure) and finishing with MPhil. I have an undergrad, masters degree in Psychology (1st class) and after uni started as a research assistant in a nonpsych group. After umming and ah-ing for years I eventually took on a PhD and now i've just finished my second year.

I have been thinking of quitting literally from day 1 for the following reasons:

1- my PhD doesn't really match my background so I have always felt I am pursing the 'wrong' topic or that it doesn't suit me.

2- The original PhD outline was cellular research but was changed to suit me and my background, which has been good in a way as I had more freedom to do what I want but also means the research aims/objectives have been pretty wool-y from the start.

3- my supervisors have said that I can focus on the behavior change aspect of the project so it better suits my psychology background but none of my advisors are experts in behaviour change.

4- I don't want to pursue a career in academia or research due to the fixed term nature of the contracts. I appreciate permanent research jobs are possible in some fields (biochem, engineering, pharmaceuticals, statistics etc) but after constant job searches it seems limited with my background and not worth the anxiety that lifestyle causes me to pursue the small % of jobs that are available.

5- My reasons to quit are not supervisory- they are very supportive and almost friends due to being colleagues for so long- which makes difficult

6- I have extensively researched psychological wellbeing jobs that I think would suit me skills and interest's wise and and would have permanent career progression.

7- I am nearly in third year but because of Covid am a year behind so still need to analyse write up my second study.

8- The toll on my mental health and general health ( I have a chronic health condition) I was having panic attacks over this- I have had counselling for this.


  • Despite this I am still doubting if this is the right choice to leave early with an Mphil or if I should just stick it out for the whole PhD (1-2 years)?
  • Is it true that a PhD can help with higher up NHS jobs- e.g. either in research or patient care? ( I have been told this but am dubious as I cant see this anywhere on many job specs)
  • Is it better to just finish a PhD to get the qualification for the chance I might need it in the future even if the subject isn't the field I want to go into?

Thank you so much for reading this and for your help!

  • 1
    Thank you Captain Emacs for your comment. I think the trouble was I am interested and have experience in researching Parkinson's Disease so it seems logical at the time but I was naïve about the diet side of things. To be honest I feel that counselling can only do so much and of which I already have sought in the past. As you say I need to work out how to stop it from affecting me or stop, that is a good way of thinking about it, thanks for your reply :)
    – Anonynon
    Sep 1, 2021 at 10:03
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    I wish you luck, careers can be difficult to navigate. It might prove helpful to others in the future to explain why, if you were doubtful from Day 1, you continued on. What was the rationale, what were the reasons you gave yourself, for not exploring alternate paths earlier? I suspect many people here in similar situations would benefit from your insights. From a practical perspective, @CaptainEmacs is spot on, you need to play the ball as it lies. Sep 1, 2021 at 15:58
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    Thank you Rural Leader. I continued because I wanted to allow myself enough time to see if my thoughts changed and if I could change the project to better suit me, rather than just quitting at the first negative thought. Due to Covid I had to wait longer to actually see any progress on my project on which to make a valid conclusion whether my situation had changed if that makes sense. It is hard to work out if the so-called potential benefits of finishing the PhD are legitimate or rather coming from biased sources (people who have invested interest for me to continue)....
    – Anonynon
    Sep 1, 2021 at 20:05
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    In terms of alternative paths I did look into this in depth when I first had PhD doubts and still am wanting to pursue this path. But I keep being told that a PhD could potentially help in management roles for these jobs- senior management etc. So this is what is making me worried that it may bite me later on if I don't finish.
    – Anonynon
    Sep 1, 2021 at 20:08
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    @Anonynon: "But I keep being told that a PhD could potentially help in management roles for these jobs- senior management etc." It's true that a PhD could indeed lead to senior management roles at some point in the future, in no small part because in the sciences a manager needs to have the respect of his or her direct reports, and a PhD is one step towards facilitating that. One of many though. And whether it's clear or not, that role might take many years to get to. You'll be competing with others who've started before you. The advice is good as far as it goes, but one piece of the puzzle. Sep 1, 2021 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


Any advice we give needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

First of all, a PhD is not something to enter lightly. To be honest, if you say you regret it from day 1, you should not have entered it. Even more, you should not have picked a topic you do not like.

Of course, now it's too late. So, most important is how much more do you have to work. 1-2 years, you say. The next criterion is if it depends on your motivation or you think you will make it work, no matter what.

If the latter, you might consider pulling through, it may open doors in the future. But if you think your work output is unpredictable and it may take longer, or it takes a mental toll, you need to reconsider it.

For mental toll, one thing that I usually do not like as advice, but may pertain to you in case you decide to continue, is to seek professional support. An activity that damages you is an activity you either need to to find a way to stop damaging you, or stopping it altogether.

[As for whether the PhD is useful in your field, I cannot tell, this needs to be answered by someone in the field]

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