I've been offered a PhD position, but I'm forced to decline it due to family reasons. However, once the situation becomes more stable, I will re-apply again. What concerns me most is whether it's still possible for me to pursue a research career after a long (2-4 year) break?

I hope that perhaps once the crisis is overcome, I could look for part-time assistant/technician jobs in labs, which would allow me to still stay close in research before I would submit my applications for a PhD.

  • 1
    Some universities allow you to defer admission to a PhD program by a year (I don't know if more than a year is acceptable). If you have that option, you need not re-apply. Oct 5 '16 at 19:29
  1. Please contact the dean of graduate studies at the department that accepted you and describe your situation. Various creative approaches to this problem may be possible. For example, if the first stage of your degree program involves coursework to prepare for some qualifying exams, it may be possible for you to take some of these courses at a university closer to home, with careful planning, and direct communication between the two departments.

  2. If you are not already working with a counselor or therapist, I suggest that you find someone you like to get started with. When going through a family upheaval this can be helpful. Also, in the safety of the counseling relationship, you may gradually become comfortable about exploring different ways of balancing supporting your family and pursuing your own personal growth. Sometimes the stress of the situation one is living through at the moment makes it difficult to see all possible options.


There is no need to think you cannot pursuing a research career after a long break. You can (re-)apply for a PhD or research position whenever you want. You will always have your existing research history listed on your resume.

It is also not uncommon for people to first work in industry (after a Bachelor or Masters), and then return to research again.

A PhD research can be a posted research project, but also a research suggested by yourself. As such, your current offer might still be a valid research in a couple of years, if it was your own suggestion. If it is a posted project, often funding and time limitations exist, which means that someone else will perform this research. In that case, your future application will have to be your own suggested research, or an application to another posted project.

Of course, in your future application it is certainly useful to mention the reason of your gap in your research/working career (you mention 2-4 years).


I'm not sure what your background is so this is very general. One way to go about it is to test the waters before committing to a major project. I'd say start with a smaller project (e.g. 3 months) and see how it goes. Once you've gathered some momentum, you will be in a better position to take on a PhD project. Alternatively, a part time Phd might be more suitable for you.

  • My background is in Molecular Biology. This PhD requires me to move to a different city, very far away. Unfortunately my family suffered a major accident and I need to step in and take charge of the running business which is our sole source of income and is essential to cover medical treatments. With that, no matter how much I want, I cannot relocate.
    – HoldenDK
    Oct 5 '16 at 14:24
  • I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties in the family-I'm guessing your phd would involve a lot of lab work-not something you can do from home. Perhaps you should explore other options? Are you planning to go into academia after the PhD?
    – John_dydx
    Oct 5 '16 at 14:33
  • You're correct, my PhD is very lab work-based, which is something I really want to do. I hope to then progress to a Post-Doc position and set up own lab group. I don't know how long it will be before I can resume my further studies, let's assume 1-2 years, things are more stable, I can start with part-time lab positions to start building up the work expression again and then re-apply for PhD programmes. Or if not, take a Master research degree if that would help. I don't want to give up a research career.
    – HoldenDK
    Oct 5 '16 at 14:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.