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I am 2 years into my experimental physics PhD and I'm considering dropping out.

The main reason for this is that I am unsure whether I want to continue in my specific field (optics and photonics). I do enjoy the research day-to-day and working in the lab. It is mostly the loss of passion for the particular project that I feel is the problem here.

I have been thinking lately that I would enjoy the renewable energy field more. I want to find a job in industry that will let me explore other areas of research - I wouldn't want to enter another PhD with the same outcome.

Are there any research jobs in industry I could apply for, that don't require a PhD? What do you think is the closest to research you can get without having PhD? I am also considering doing internships, any advice? How much would my PhD be worth if I applied to different fields? Thanks a lot, I appreciate any input.

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  • 'Are there any research jobs in industry I could apply to without a PhD?' Of course! But it's likely you'll be competing for those positions with applicants who do. May 1, 2023 at 13:24
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    Jobs outside of academia are off-topic on Academia.SE. If you look at positions within R&D, you'll find most do not require PhDs. Whether you like those jobs or not is up to your preference.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 1, 2023 at 14:08

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Yes. Without thinking too hard, I can come up with 5 people who were grad students at the same time I was, quit the PhD and are now doing research. One of them supervises a team of PhDs even though he only has a master's. Just as interesting, I think that the majority of the people I went to grad school with are not doing research now, PhD or not. So finishing the PhD is not even a guarantee of being able to do research later.

Quitting the PhD is always an option, for a lot of reasons.

You get into the system, then climb your way up. One thing that industry has going for it over academia is the focus on results above everything else. If you deliver the goods, you go up. There's a lot of politics, but politics are where humans are, and academia is not exempt.

Having said that, don't discard the possibility of changing projects or advisor. Two years is not a long time, and they are not "wasted". A close relative of mine works as HR manager in a scientific industry, and she tells me that they require PhDs not because a PhD is necessary, but because it shortens the applicant pool. Again, that does not mean that you won't be able to get a research job without a PhD (see my examples above), but evidence that it might help you get your foot in.

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