I’m three years into a Ph.D. program in scientific computing and I’ve just received my M.S. I’m thinking about leaving school to go to a programming bootcamp and become a software developer. I’ve done pretty well with my coursework, I enjoy learning (at my own pace), and I’m good at teaching, but I have doubts about my ability to do solid research. I’m working in an interdisciplinary area and I don’t really have a deep understanding of any of the fields involved, so I am pretty dependent on my advisor for direction and ideas. I’ve put in a lot of (mostly coding) work on a project, but haven’t published yet. I always tell myself that if I stay, I will dig into papers and textbooks and learn as much as I can, but it feels like a pretty big mountain to climb at this point. I’m already in my thirties, having been a teacher for many years, and the lack of money is starting to get to me. I also have a serious hobby I’d like to pursue, but I’m not sure how realistic that is.
So why would I stay? Partly a desire to finish the project I’ve started. Partly a conviction that this research is at least tangentially related to some very important problems (climate change). Partly a fear that my domain-specific (mostly mathematical) knowledge will go to waste. Partly a bias for academic over business pursuits (my parents and my sister are all scientists). And partly a longstanding habituation to an unstructured schedule, with freedom to study what I want when I want. Are any of these good enough reasons?