My situation is as follows. I started a PhD 5 months ago in a reputable university. However, I am not happy with my lab and supervisor and do not want to spend 4 or more years here. I shared my thoughts with my supervisor and he told me it is better to stay one or more years and finish with a MSc than quitting now, and if I like it then I can just stay and complete my PhD.

I already have a MSc but from much smaller university unlike my current one, what is the best action to take now?

Is staying and having two MSc a good option, or quitting now would look better on my CV as I did not spend too much time in the program and start looking for other opportunities?

If it matters, the reasons I am not willing to stay are:

  • The current projects in the lab do not interest me and I do not want to be working alone, specially my supervisor told be it is better to work in the same line or else he would not have much time.
  • My supervisor has joined this field recently and does not provide useful feedback with no post-doc or other seniors to help. Much of what I will do would be completely on my own.
  • After working for one semester, the research we are doing in the lab in far from the state-of-the-art and mainly focuses on getting papers accepted in a coming conference, (Is this reasonable motivation to quit? I prefer to be working with people more involved in the field.)
  • Are your MSc and the PhD program in the same field?
    – Nobody
    May 13, 2017 at 4:18
  • Close but not exact. My MSc is in Software Engineering and PhD is in Computer Science.
    – KM158
    May 13, 2017 at 4:26
  • 1
    At a minimum, you should check with your graduate program director whether a second MSc is even possible. My university would not grant a MS in computer science to someone who has an MSc in software engineering.
    – JeffE
    May 14, 2017 at 14:50

2 Answers 2


Look for other opportunities whilst still continuing with your PhD. Hopefully you find something by the end of your masters year and you can part ways then.

If you can go to an employer and say you're in the middle of a PhD but have realised it isn't the path you wish to follow and are looking for other employment it looks better than dropping out and then looking for work.

Also, not that I'm trying to change your mind but, I don't know a single person doing a PhD who hasn't doubted it was the right thing for them at some point. Make sure quitting isn't something you would regret later in life and think about the reasons you chose to apply for a PhD in the first place.

  • 1
    I agree with you. I do not want to quit PhD for good, but if I am not doing it in the right place then it is not a good investment of time and effort. I would still like to do my PhD in a more specialized lab. I figured the university is not a big factor, the supervisor and the lab you work at is more important.
    – KM158
    May 13, 2017 at 12:43

Here are some possible courses of action:

  • Continue, status quo, as your advisor suggested, and see how things develop

  • Continue, but negotiate certain changes

  • Withdraw from the program as soon as the current semester is over (which I suppose will be in a week or two)

  • Withdraw from the program in a semester or two, depending on what you want to do next

  • Switch advisors

  • Inform your advisor you would like to concentrate on coursework next semester and take a break from the research project for the time being

  • Request, from your department, a leave of absence for personal reasons (which you need not explain)

If you decide to leave, plan your exit strategy in the context of a particular goal.

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