Is an MPhil like a "millstone"?


Hi guys,

Quick question - would you say an MPhil will actually be a black mark on your CV (or a millstone round your neck!). Have been thinking about quitting for a while and spoke to my second supervisor about the potential for getting an MPhil. He basically told me not to bother even if I was going to quit as it's just a symbol of a failed PhD and will look bad on my CV. I totally see where he's coming from in terms of a career in academia but since I'm thinking of quitting I think it's safe to say that I don't consider my future to be in academia!

So what are your opinions of an MPhil on a CV as opposed to 1.5 years of laboratory based research?

Cheers :)

Avatar for sneaks

I have to say in the snobby world of academia, in my experience an MPhil is regarded as a failed PhD, but depends on what you want to do next. If it is change direction, or go into the 'real world' then its only another qualification and as long as you have reasons to explain in an interview, then I don't see why it would be an issue. However, any university, or research organisation is probably going to want an explanation about why you dropped the PhD.


I've been trying to find out the same thing lately. I've heard it said a couple of times that it would be seen as a failed phd, but having said that a lot of people do a masters from the outset and have simply completed their research. I've asked some non-academics what their view would be if it was on a CV, and the general consensus was that, first, a Masters is a qualification and you must have decent skills and abilities to do that, and second, if you have a valid reason for not finishing off the PhD then it should be no problem ('couldn't be bothered' might not strike the right note, but a decision to actively change your career path or focus on other specific interests could be valid reasons). I posted on a jobs/work forum a while back to see what people would say and it wasnt seen as a bad thing, seeing as in the grand scheme of things the number of employees holding a PhD would be in the minority.
I know a couple of people who quit to go into the 'real world' and consider it the best decision for them. If you don't consider your future to be in academia then it would seem silly to waste your time and effort on doing something you dont want to do.
Im not sure exactly what area of research you're in, but I personally feel that continuing my PhD wouldn't give me any more useful skills than those Ive already acquired when I consider the kind of work I would prefer to be doing, but thats because I cant see myself staying in the area I'm in now.
Sorry if that doesnt really answer your question, just my 2 cents!


When I was quitting my PhD I found a lot of divided opinion on this. Half the people said, 'don't bother, it's not worth it' and the other half said that I ought to get something out of the effort I put in. In the end I decided not to bother as I didn't feel I had enough data and I wanted to get away from the situation quickly. I didn't think it was in my interests to spend the time on it. That said, I've heard that some supervisors discourage it because it reflects badly on *them*.

I think it really depends on what you plan to do next. If you're going for a non-academic career I think you could 'sell' either option successfully on a CV. The important thing is that you were doing *something*!


Of course some Universities only offer MPhils as taught masters (e.g. Cambridge and Oxford), so its very rare to be awarded an MSc etc. I'm sure the hundreds of masters students who get churned through these places would hope their employers view them a bit better than a failed PhD!

Someone I knew a while ago got kicked off their PhD after 3 years, and went for a job interview unrelated to academia - despite it being on their CV, they didn't ask anything about the PhD, but were interested in skills and interest in the job etc.


A colleague of mine (arts and humanities, so not your area) dropped her PhD and completed it as an MPhil so she could take time out to have a baby. It was subsequently published as a book, so it wasn't wasted. She remained in academia and continued to research and publish in the same area. She was already established in her career at the time anyway, so it didn't really matter. Quite a few others at my uni with her level of experience don't have PhDs and say they'd never do one now anyway, it's not worth the grief as they're already where they want to be with their working lives. Same with others who have left academia and are working quite happily in the arts. Sounds fair enough to me - why bother if it's not essential?


I don't see anything wrong with have an MPhil on a CV. Obviously, if you want an academic career it will look poor as they'll expect a PhD, and want to know why you didn't pursue through to PhD level, but for outside of academia there is no problem. Lots of people do just sign-up to research for an MPhil and not a PhD.

Also if there was such stigma attached to an MPhil, would Cambridge be granted those letters for their masters programmes? I would think not.


Thanks for all your replies guys, think I just have to get my backside into gear and make some decisions now!