Two years ago, I got my degree from a master's programme in theoretical physics. After graduation, I took some time off as I felt burnt out after completing my studies away from home during the pandemic. I was encouraged by my thesis supervisor and other people around me to pursue a PhD and I intended to do so as I truly enjoyed the challenges of doing research while working on my thesis.

However, I ended up spending the last two years helping out in the family business in an unrelated field. This was needed because of a relative's health issues. Still, I did not give up my dream of working in academia. In my spare time, I worked on smaller coding projects, revisited some basics and learned new skills thanks to online classes and workshops.

I am still motivated and passionate about doing science. I miss being part of the process of unravelling how our world works, and I feel like I have something to offer. However, I am getting too much into my head about the gap in my CV and have started doubting my chances after getting my first rejection. I understand that it might be difficult to get into academia now and that my application is weaker than those of candidates who just graduated.

Now, as to my question(s): Is getting hired for a PhD realistic after so much time away? How do I go about this? Should I try for an internship or an industry position in a related field first?

Thank you in advance for your advice.

  • 2
    Welcome to Academia StackExchange! I think it would be important to specify the involved country/ies (where you did your Master's degree, where you are living now, and where you would like to do your PhD). Sep 27 at 11:05
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    Do you want to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics also? Would it be possible to ask if your thesis supervisor has an opening for PhD?
    – IGY
    Sep 27 at 11:14
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    2 years off will make close to no difference, especially if you have a good reason as you do (helping the family business). The success of your application will depend on the usual - GPA, recommendations, etc. I know a stem professor who spent 10 (sic!) years dropping out (harvesting apples) prior to continuing his academic journey, and he's not the only case I've come across. Getting one rejection means little. People apply to 10+ places usually. Talk to your old mentor about how to produce a good application package. Sep 27 at 15:15
  • 1
    This would be no problem at all in the US, but it doesn't sound like the op is in the US
    – stochastic
    Sep 28 at 7:52
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    @JochenGlueck Sorry for the late answer: I did my Master's degree in Germany and I am currently living in Austria. I would like to do my PhD in Europe.
    – tmp99
    Nov 5 at 15:49


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