Should I quite my high paying job for a full-time PhD



I am an IT professional with over 8 years of experience. I am currently a senior in my position. I am 34 years old, married and have a kid.

My dilemma is as follows. I am very well paid in my position (much higher than avg peers with similar number of years of experience) but I don't really have any passion for what I am doing anymore. I am very good at what I do (according to my reviews + manager) as I have done it for a long period of time now and my speciality is quite niche.

I applied to do a PhD in something I am interested in (still in IT) and got accepted to two programs. Both are very reputable universities (not Oxford or Cambridge, but not far off). The programme and supervisor I am really interested in working with will only take full-time PhDs. The other programme will take me part-time.

I am faced with a difficult decision. If I do the part-time PhD there is a very high risk of not finishing as I will have to juggle study + family + work. Also I am not sure if doing the PhD part-time will allow me to pivot into the other direction I am interested in pursuing, since I am really accumulating more years of experience in what I am currently doing.

Doing the PhD full-time will have a crazy financial impact, which can be withstood (i.e family can still be provided for) but yea, we will be very poor. I would have to postpone many plans for settling down etc but on the other side I am totally devoted to the PhD with the freedom to intern in areas I am interested in. Of course prospects after the CS PhD are unclear as with any PhD really.

Anyone here been a similar position or have any advice for me ?


Hey there,

This is coming from someone not in your position at all... : )

From what you have said, if you think there is a high risk of not finishing it NOW, then you are probably being realistic with yourself, and so have to decide whether that is a risk you want to take. Worst case scenario, you quit and find another job, I guess.

It sounds like you definitely want a change. Is there no option to go do and learn new things in a new (equally high paid) job? (Just to avoid or at least substantially reduce the risk aspect).

I'm just thinking that leaving full time employment and starting a PhD isn't the only way to have more freedom in what you do?

While I said I'm not in your position at all, I did leave my fairly well paid job in 2009 to pursue further education. It was the only option for me at the time - I wasn't qualified to find a different, more interesting job (especially amid a recession), and there was no way I could continue in a job that I hated so much. So the risk was substantially smaller - I had everything to gain and not much to lose (no family to support etc).

I'm not sure if this helps at all, but I just thought I'd reach out anyway. Good luck in your decision!

Avatar for rewt

Similar to Tudor_Queen, I have zero relevant experience

Why do you really want to do a PhD? You mention passion and that you want work in areas you are interested in, why do you need a PhD to do that? Couldn't you get a new job or start a few Github projects in your spare time to challenge yourself or do you want the structure/environment of a PhD? I am asking because a PhD project can be fun and challenging but at the end of the day, it is still a huge pile of work with commitments. If you get that challenge or interest going without a PhD, I would do that over the PhD.

A part-time PhD can be easy to drop out of but if you are truly passionate, I have seen a few people do it. Just set clear boundaries and goals, then stick to them, a part-time PhD is a lot of self-discipline but if you think you can do it, go for it. One of the things with a PhD is that you have a lot less direct instruction from your boss (normally) so you have got to have that self-management skills, especially with a kid.

An idea, would it be possible to go part-time at your job, so you have 1-2 days a week to work on the PhD? It might be easier financially than full-time and you will have dedicated time for the PhD

Though if you do go full time, I bet you would finish it on time or even early as you will probably have a better work ethic than most PhD students (and maybe most lecturers).

Just my thoughts, hope it helps.

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi Bananas, what impact would quitting your current position and taking up the full time PhD have on your family? How does your partner feel about this and would having reduced your income (to a PhD stipend) mean that your child would be appropriately provided for? When you say 'very poor', does this indicate that housing, food and clothing, health, safety and wellbeing would be placed at risk in any way?

If so, then my belief is that you only have two viable options. No PhD and look for another job or another way forward that helps ignite your passion in your work again and/or take the risk of not completing the part time PhD and go for that option and commit to completing it, while working and still being there for your family, emotionally and with regard to the shared responsibility of being one of the providers for your child.


What you need is a health break, not a PhD. Several months, probably. Enough to make space in your brain that urges to be filled, and then you'll know your next passion in IT, and probably remember why you started it in the first place. I'd go for some therapy as well. Adding stress (which making a PhD is) to the burnout may turn out ugly.
If you yearn for intellectual development, and are bored, it's better to try to attend free lectures and some courses, and take in novelties without commitment to deliver. This will also boost creativity and help to break out from overspecialization. You may also join some projects as a freelance if you know people.


Hi, bananas,

On this matter, I agree with starryeyed that you need a break not a PhD.

It sounds like you are bored of your job. Could you take a break of a couple of weeks and then discuss with your manager if you can work on another area of work of your interest in addition to your niche area? Tell your manager that you want to grow. In fact ask to be sent for courses or maybe a short term program. Or maybe you have outgrown that job and it is time for you to switch to a different company.

You have additional responsibilities as a married person with a child. To have no financial stability during your PhD studies and no guarantee of a job after your PhD can have very big impact on your family's well-being and put stress on your marriage. Only you can decide if it is worth that risk.


I agree with the other posts. It is quite easy to be carried away buy an interesting PhD project, but at the end of the day, you also spent a lot of time on routine tasks that are not necessarily thrilling or challenging (depending of the field of study) and that are just like any other job. One should be careful to not "romanticize" a PhD as this constant learning and exploration of new ideas. As you have a family that I assume at least partially relies on you financially, I would think hard about this. Not that you get into something that does not meet your high expectations.
First of all, I would look for other job opportunities. There are probably more challenging jobs out there that offer a good salary and the option to explore new ideas (R&D etc.). Maybe this is already enough to get you excited about your work again. Second, it is probably easy to drop out of a part-time PhD but if you are really passionate, you can probably do it. Maybe there is even a way to go full time after the first year when you have a better idea of the PhD experience. Is it possible to reduce the hours in your current job and do two things part-time? Third, many companies offer the opportunity for employees to do PhDs (often in collaboration with the industrial partner). I actually met multiple people during internships in companies who did that (they were in the life sciences though). People who worked for the company for several years and after some time got interested in doing a PhD. They found a way to make it possible. Similar things also exist for people who like to do an MBA.