I want to quit my PhD. Advice and Reassurance.


Hi all. First time user, first time poster.

Here is my situation -
I think I want to quit my PhD. I am a fourth year, History PhD student who is currently supposed to be writing up their thesis. However, I am in a situation where, after several topic and scope changes, and complete loss of inspiration, motivation and engagement with my project, I don't think I want to or even can finish. I am burnt out and looking to move on. Not to mention the fact that my mental health is taking a serious hit from the stress and exhaustion I feel just thinking about the work. The obvious answer is to just quit, I know, but I am hoping for some advice or reassurance that I am considering doing the right thing.

So many times I have heard people say things like "Oh you've come this far, you may as well finish." I know I have sunk a lot of time into it, but I cannot begin to express how unhelpful this is. I don't want to be involved in academic or university life now or in the future, so I also feel as though completing my PhD is a somewhat pointless and an ultimately damaging experience.

Apologies if this is a retread of other posts on here. And even more apologies for sounding so whingey.

Any help is greatly appreciated.


Hey, it's OK to walk away. It's your life and if it's causing you too much grief, it's OK to make that decision.

Just make sure it is the right decision, not a reaction to stress. Sleep on it, take a week to think it through and then decide.

Would you want to perhaps go for an MPhil? Or take an extended break in learning?

If this in genuinely what you want, then go for it. A PhD is not worth your mental health collapsing


It's understandable as you'll probably get very mixed advice on this.

Probably your uni don't want to lose a student they've either stipended, or who is a paying customer. Whether your supervisor tows their line or is impartial can be 50-50. There is a logic to 'just write it up and stick it in'. The bar for success with corrections at viva is typically lower than people think. But that's the uni caring about having a completion, not your future.

I'd think there's a deeper issue here that's probably rooted in the fact you don't want to be an academic. You really need to throw yourself in hard in the first few years, which takes a lot of initial passion, for the last few years to not be an excruciating catch-up against a looming deadline.

A PhD is of limited value outside of academia, so if you don't want to be an academic, there's little reason left to pursue it. But the logical thing to do - especially if you're stipended, is to get a job offer then quit to accept it. It's considerably easier to explain you're a PhD student but open to other opportunities, than it is to explain a 'failed' PhD or 3 year gap in a CV. In particular if you're worried about mental wellbeing and don't have another job to move into you should consider the potential negative effect of doing nothing, or applying for jobs (with the inevitable consecutive rejections that everyone goes through), whilst unemployed.

In short - move on, but formally quit the PhD the same day you sign the contract for your new future. Until you have that contract, prioritise applying for jobs and work on the PhD to keep you occupied in the meantime.


CanIStopNow, whatever you decide to do, it's important that you do it for yourself and your own reasons. Obviously it's shame you want to stop at this late stage but honestly, you should not feel guilt or pressure from anyone else to complete.

I would also add that it doesn't matter whether you want to go into academia or not. I had no real intention of doing that either. For me it was solely about reaching the pinnacle of what our country's education system can offer. I'll never use the actual stuff from my thesis but that was never the point.

The real risk for you is that you make a snap decision which you end up regretting.

One option you have is that you could ask to take a formal 12 month break and find a job in the meantime. That would give you space to think.

Do you need to make your final decision now?

Avatar for rewt

It is completely your decision and you can quit if you want. I don't like sunk cost fallacy where you have to continue something because you have already done so much work. If your PhD is destroying your mental health it is not worth it. However if you do decide to stop or take a break, consider spending some time updating all your notes and writing as much as you can down. That way, if you do want to finish at later date when you are in a better position, it is far less difficult.


I agree with em, pm, and rewt. I would add that I were you, I separate two questions:
1. Do I want to continue? what is the point of completion, what am going to do after finishing?
2. Can I really finish?
If the answer to question 2, is really no and you need to "repeat" your PhD in one way or another, I would advise quitting. But if what you have done is satisfactory in terms of data collections and analysis, I would consider writing what I have already and try to finish it whatever comes next. It took me five years thinking of quitting and eventually fund ran out and left without PhD. You are not alone. No need to regret anything but think carefully.


Hi, CanIStopNow,

If you want to quit your PhD because you are burnt out, having poor health, and not wanting to pursue an academic career, you have strong reasons to quit and no one should judge you.

If you still have the energy to, perhaps you could see if you could change it to a MPhil.

If you are on paid PhD and don't wanna bother with the MPhil, look for a job first before you quit so you can continue to support yourself financially