I am in a bind. I just decided to take a voluntary leave of absence for medical reasons (also partly financial reasons) from my PhD program and I need to look for a job. I have stupendous credentials and recommendations but most of my recommenders are academics who recommended me two years ago for this doctoral program. My urgent worry is how to brand and market myself on my CV. If I list that I am enrolled in a PhD program there is always the risk that I will be asked to provide a transcript (which at this time shows failing grades for the last semester)? Also, if I don't list the program on my CV it looks like I have 2 gap years because I took a year to travel between the last employment and the start of the PhD. However, the benefit of listing my program is that because it is very prestigious, it is likely it will push my CV to the top of the applicant pool for interviews. If I list my PhD program on my CV I am almost guaranteed interviews, but in doing so, I run the risk of having to go into detail to explain my extraordinary poor performance and decision to suspend my study for a year. What should I do?

2 Answers 2


I recommend you list your PhD studies on your CV. Industry is full of people who have left a PhD program for one reason or another! It's also unlikely anyone will look down on you for your poor grades in one semester.

There are two issues I would give some thought to: (1) how will you describe your reasons for leaving the programme (temporarily), and (2) will you tell them about your intention to return to the PhD programme. It's best if you can describe (1) in a way that won't give potential employers concern that you might not be able to handle the job. Being honest about (2) may discourage some employers from hiring you if they want a long-term employee, but others may be willing to gamble that you'll change your mind and stick around.

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    I agree, but I'd go further: leaving the PhD studies off isn't even a viable option. Surely any employer will ask what you've been up to for the last two years. Then you've got a choice between lying (and risking being fired when you're found out) or explaining why the PhD studies didn't seem worth listing. Both options are bad. Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 17:28
  • Well, the way I am thinking of explaining it is by saying that I've had family and financial responsibilities that were difficult to handle while being a student. As far as my intentions to return to my program, I also have an explanation for that. On the heels of the financial responsibility and the financial strains of living in New York City, I plan on telling the potential employer that I will be resuming studies but on a part-time basis. Many folks in my program do so, so I don't think this should be a big obstacle. What do you think? Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 19:54
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    "Surely any employer will ask what you've been up to for the last two years." Or just reject your application immediately and move on to candidates without suspicious gaps in their resumes. Figuring out how you will explain those gaps isn't very helpful if you don't get far enough into the interview process to actually explain anything to anyone. I agree with @AnonymousMathematician that you really must include your studies on the CV; then be ready with an explanation as to why you have suspended them and how/when you plan to resume them. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 5:25

You are only in your first year. By the time you are wrapping up your dissertation, it will likely be five to seven years from now. Ancient history.

Postdocs are more interested in your research, publications, and letters of recommendation than in your grades. Many won't even ask for transcripts.

Same goes for jobs.

Grad school is a marathon not a sprint. Pace yourself and try to keep good energy reserves at all times. Steady Bs with occasional Cs and finishing is better than a semester of As followed by a flameout.

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    I think the question is about how to handle the CV right now (e.g. while still on leave), not after finishing. At this point the OP is presumably applying for short-term industry jobs, not postdocs. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 5:20
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    Thanks, I read it too quickly. Will try to revise when I get a chance.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 5:33

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