I don't want to stay in academia after finishing my PhD. My current research field is not exciting to me anymore, but also I am too old to change fields. Although my research and my interest were so far quite theoretically focussed, I would like to find a more applied job in R&D in a big prestigeous company, helping improving future technologies.

Now: How do I tell my supervisor? I want to avoid leaving the impression I think our research field is boring. My supervisor tries already finding Postdoc positions for me, and probably thinks I'm quite qualified for staying in academia. So I fear to be disappointing.

  • 29
    I suggest “I don’t want to stay in academia.”
    – JeffE
    Apr 18, 2013 at 0:29
  • 2
    If you find a Job at a "big prestigeous company", that would be considered a plus for your advisor in some fields. Also JeffE's comment.
    – David MR
    Apr 18, 2013 at 0:39
  • 14
    I wouldn't consider anyone "too old to change fields" unless they are near death, but if you'd rather not stay in academia, you don't need to worry or feel bad about it. Apr 18, 2013 at 4:09
  • 1
    If you don't want to say "That stuff bores me", say "I am no longer excited about my research", which in itself is sufficient reason not to do it, imho.
    – Raphael
    Apr 18, 2013 at 8:39
  • 4
    @jjdb just say what you said in the question: "I want to do more applied research in industry"
    – Suresh
    Apr 18, 2013 at 16:37

5 Answers 5


How do I tell my supervisor? I want to avoid leaving the impression I think our research field is boring.

The other answers are already very good. You don't have a specifically academic problem, yours is a communication strategy issue.

  1. be honest: in your specific case, tell your advisor as soon as possible in order to avoid a situation when too individuals want/wish each other only good and due to a misalignment it ends up in a clash;
  2. focus on the positive side: Communicate that you are motivated to go for an industry position. It's easier than to focus on why you don't want to stay in academia.

There are always two sides of a coin. Your question sounds as if you wanted to avoid something (staying in academia) and that is always difficult to communicate, since it pushes you to defend your decision. Try to formulate it as if you were positively pulled to somewhere else. Then it's not you who is on defense, you took the active part in the conversation and usually it will be the other party to defend their position why not to do something (going to industry) is a bad move. As pointed out by others, you own a decision to do something (subjective, hence any reason is good enough), but there usually arises a need to explain why you don't want to go the default route (calls for more objective arguments, which are much harder to formulate). Your motivation for being pulled somewhere can stay vague, I wouldn't even hesitate to invoke emotions, such as I feel like I would like such a job and want to give it a try.

  • 6
    +1 for "running toward industry" instead of "running away from academia"
    – JeffE
    Apr 19, 2013 at 17:01

Different fields have very different attitudes about academia vs industry. In computer science, for example, research jobs in industry have a lot of respect (and pay incredibly well). Moreover, given how few academic jobs there are out there, it would be foolish not to look for opportunities wherever you can find them.

You don't need to go into academia just because your advisor thinks you should. And you definitely should not take a job that you're not interested in pursuing. As an advisor, I'm happy when my students get good jobs anywhere, and I'd imagine that your supervisor would be that way too.

Most likely your advisor is in "default mode" assuming that you'll continue in academia. If you were to tell him/her that you'd like to explore other options, I wouldn't be surprised if he/she had good contacts to help you find good industrial jobs.


Whatever you are going to do after PhD is your business. You own the decision. Nobody else does.

You want to avoid leaving the impression your research field is boring, then don't say it that way.

Tell him it is your will to go to industry. It is your future at stake.

You would like to find a more applied job in R&D in a big prestigious company, helping improving future technologies. This is good enough reason to go to industry. Tell him that. If he disagrees, ask him why.

If he had the impression that you are interested in staying in academia, it's time to tell him the truth. Honesty is the best policy. Tell him you will be much happier if you work in industry.

Be honest. Be frank. Be polite. He is your advisor after all. If he disagrees with you. let him convince you otherwise. Listen to him. He would provide the opinions from his perspective.

Use his advice as the opinion from your advisor (the person who advises you).

Then, make your own decision.

The most important thing for you right now is to find a job to do whatever you want to do.


The only way to mention it is to go ahead and actually discuss it with your advisor frankly. You should be prepared to explain why you don't want to go into academia.

However, it may just be the case that your professor assumes you want to go into academia because you haven't told him otherwise! It's quite possible that if you mentioned wanting to go down an alternate career path, he'd help with that, too. (Although that does depend on your advisor.)

You may also need to have this conversation more than once. I've known a few fellow graduate students who have had that issue with their advisors not "getting the hint" and continuing to recommend academic positions, even after they've moved on!


To be completely honest, I faced a similar situation towards the end of my PhD - I wasn't exactly bored with the research field but simply felt I should try out the non-academia. And I am glad I took that decision. But beware: there is a definite getting-used-to phase wherein you need to come to terms with your ego satisfaction etc. I also know of instances where people have gone back to academics after a 2-year stint at the industry. My 2 cents will be to pitch your am-getting-bored-of-this-stuff down and promote a wanna-try-this-out-too. HTH!

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