5

Suppose a couple of years into a PhD program one gets a job offer he/she is quite happy with and decides to take it. This could be for one or several reasons such as:

  1. You are at a point in your life where you need some money and its financially more secure to work rather than being a graduate student.
  2. It's a good idea to experience what the work force/industry/"real world" is like for a bit.
  3. You may not be satisfied with your research topic/advisor at your PhD institute.

Assume also that during this couple of years one has acquired enough credits to get a masters before leaving.

My question is after working a couple of years, how would it be viewed by graduate committees if I decide to reapply for PhD programs in case I decide I really want to finish the PhD now that I am financially at a better place and have a good first hand experience of what its like being at both sides of academia.

  • Is this about those combined master-PhD-programs? At which point would you leave? I think it would be highly unlikely to be offered a PhD position again after leaving for those kind of reasons, especially by the same professor. If you do a new PhD somewhere else you would have to start from scratch and won't be able to continue where you left off. Though that might depend on your field. – Mark Sep 8 '17 at 20:13
  • 3
    Most PhD programs in my area give you a masters if you decide fo leave after acquiring enough credits/requirements. Yes by "continue" I mean either resume at my previous institute (could be possible if I leave on good terms with my advisor and informing them about my situation) or restarting at another place. – Job seeker Sep 8 '17 at 20:16
1

Through the computer science point of view, all three reasons you've listed above tells me that you are better off in the industry.

You are at a point in your life where you need some money and its financially more secure to work rather than being a graduate student.

Indeed. But the point of doing research as a grad student is having less money for more time. Even though most of the PhD comics disagree with me, I find conducting research at a good university gives you a lot of time to spend for yourself. You will have the deadlines, not the working hours. Thus, either working at your office, or at home in the night, is completely up to you.

Also, not to disagree every single thing, but you have way more financial security as a researcher compared to the industry. Unless you behave very unethical, it is an extreme case that a university cuts out your funds.

It's a good idea to experience what the work force/industry/"real world" is like for a bit.

This reason speaks for itself. If you're thinking the industry is the real world and conducting research is imaginary(?) world, then your choice must be very clear by now.

You may not be satisfied with your research topic/advisor at your PhD institute.

The solution to this is simply changing your research topic and advisor. This is another point in academia, that you have all the freedom in the world to work whatever you want. Opposed to industry, where usually your boss tells you what to do and what not to do.

As I've discussed this topic earlier, I believe having a PhD degree cannot be measured by how much extra money you've missed, or is it really worth it.

1

Caveat: I've not yet done admissions, so be skeptical of my answer and use your own judgement.

My impression is that admissions committees are really only concerned about a two things:

  1. Is an applicant capable of handling the technical work and coursework necessary for obtaining a PhD?

  2. Is an applicant likely to stay through the program and finish?

Leaving a PhD program and then coming back later really only influences their analysis of that second question. As long as you can appropriately explain why your current PhD program wasn't working out, why switching to industry was a good thing at the time you did so, and most importantly describe why you're committed to following through on a new PhD program, then I don't think that leaving with a master's will be much of a disadvantage.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but the attitude you describe does not sound surprising at all in my field (computer science). If a prospective student told me some variation of this story it wouldn't dissuade me one bit:

"I didn't understand how my work was valuable or would fit into industrial practice, so I left academics for a few years to gain that experience. Having seen how things are actually done in the real world, I'm really eager to come back and make specific contributions with that knowledge in mind."

0

If you leave with a master's you can't use the same material again for another degree. It is also likely that the state of the art will advance enough in the intervening time that the research would be out of date/already done by someone else. Thus, you can't "resume" a PhD.

However, if you graduate with a master's in hand now, it is quite possible to apply for a PhD after a few years working. But you will have to start again and spend the full study period producing enough new research to be worthy of the degree. (This might be shorter, e.g. in the UK-style system students with a research master's are expected to complete their PhD in 3 years compared to 4 years for students with a bachelor's or a taught master's.) This is quite normal and will not be viewed negatively (although the fact that you started a PhD and "bailed out early" by taking the master's might, depending on the circumstances - but this is only likely to be known if you reapply to the same institution).

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.