How do I tell my supervisor "I quit"?!?


Hi everyone,

Really need some help on this. Basically I'm doing my phd in psychology and have decided I want to quit. The main reason for this is that I no longer want to do anything related to academia or psychology - I want to work in the fitness industry instead. This is something I've always wanted to do but have felt 'pushed' (by family mainly) to do something more academic. Now at the age of 28 Ive finally realised that I should do what I want to do - not what others expect. However, I tried to tell my family the other day and my nan got all upset and told me my late grandad would be so disappointed in me if i quit! So that just made me feel a million times worse than I did already. So the whole situation is a bit of a nightmare really!
There are 2 things I need help with here 1) how do I tell my supervisor - I don't think she has any idea how I'm feeling & this will be a complete shock for her. She's a bit of a control freak ("a bit" being a massive understatement), and only the other day was saying how bad it would look on her if I didnt finish on time! So i think she'd be pretty mad at me for leaving. I'm going to have to send her an email before I meet with her (theres no way Im brave enough to break the news to her face to face!), but what do I write in the email?
And secondly, how do I explain my decision to my family without them being massively disappointed in me? The whole situation is making me really depressed so I just need to get it sorted ASAP.
Would also be good to hear if any of you have had similar experiences and how you dealt with it.




Hi Katie

I think you need to hold off from doing anything rash, or in the heat of the moment, and take a while out to consider the situation. There are a lot of issues at play here. How long you have left on the course is a major one. If it is just a year or two, it could be worth sticking with the project. It will not be for ever.

Getting a PHD does not mean you have to work in Academia. There are not enough jobs in Academia anyway, and an over-supply of people with PHDs.

Yes, you have a very difficult supervisor, but do not let that be the deciding factor. There are a lot of unpleasant supervisors in the non-academic workforce - believe me!

Is there any way you could combine doing your PHD with a part time job in the fitness industry - eg in a gym? You could gain practical insight into the industry that way.

I would hold off from sending any e-mails until you have had time to consider calmly what is best for you - and to talk it over eg with University Counsellors - or people who are not directly involved.

Sometimes just having a good moan about the situation to impartial people can be a real help.



i agree, you need to take some time to think this through properly. the idea of doing something part time would be good, so you can see what it is really like. I'm not sure there are that many places going in fitness, everywhere seems awash with trainers at the moment, but you could well find that getting the Dr bit would be an asset anyway, especially in psychology :$, and of course once you have it, you have it for ever and if you happen to get lucky and get onto TV...well it would sound really good. So, think of ways in which it would be useful to stay on and finish your studies as well as the downside of doing so and then make your decision.



I agree - take a step back. Take a week off if that's what it needs! I make a rule with myself that I'm not to send emails about quitting etc as a reactionary thing. Always step away for a while and if you do feel the same way later, then maybe start thinking what to write.

In terms of your supervisor - she can' t MAKE you finish a PhD that you don't want to do, and you shouldn't feel obligated too either. Your PhD is about you - she's there to guide and advise, it's not her writing the thesis at the end of the day or gaining the doctorate. Of course she may be disappointed you don't want to continue - but I think this is a discussion you need to have face to face. Write a list of bullet points that you want to discuss and talk to her about your future plans. Sometimes a coffee and a chat are a good antidote for some clarity and perspective.

Regarding your family - they're still your family at the end of the day and probably (misguidedly) don't want you to throw the work you've done away. A PhD is no small feat, so I'd really think carefully about giving up. In terms of not wanting to go into academia, there are other options! Do you have a specific plan for the fitness industry? I'd maybe do as others suggest and do something part time or voluntary to see if that IS what you really want to do and not a case is 'the grass is greener there'. Sometimes I look at other people's careers and think 'wow I would love that' - but the reality is often hugely different!

Anyway, I hope you get sorted - try not to stress! :-)


All I can say is what I say in all "I quit" threads: don't quit unless you have something else concrete lined up.


Ok, so rather than choose one or another is there any possibility of combining your psychology work with the fitness industry. As sports become more and more scientific the psychology angle must become more relevant. I am guessing that have not researched sports psychology but what if you continue with the PhD, get that done and then move into the Fitness work.

Given you are only 28, you have plenty of time to do everything you want. Having a PhD is much more likely to allow you to work in the interesting bits of sports. There are lot's of personal trainers with easy to get qualifications, but perhaps there are less with more advanced qualifications.

Take time off, try to look at the big picture. Let's face, you'l probably be working for another 30-40 years so a year or 3 here and there probably does not make to much difference.

What ever you decide will the right choice, what's the worst that can happen?


Hi all,

Just wanted to say thank you so much for all your advice. To update you, I took a week to think about things and had a chat to my supervisor about how I was feeling. I was completely honest & she was really nice about it. Anyways, we agreed that I'd keep going for another few months and then see how I feel. And now I'm feeling a lot more positive about it - I may as well at least try and finish now I've started.
When I posted the first post I was 100% sure in my mind I was going to quit - it's amazing what a difference some time & an honest chat can make.
Thanks everyone & good luck to you in your PhDs and future careers

K :-)