What's beyond PhD?


Hi all,
I'm currently a PhD student in science, and I want to ask for help and advice from people who went through the PhD experience. Maybe you stopped, maybe you finished it and you're working as a post-doc, maybe you went to a company, maybe you created one, etc.
I happen to find many things that I dislike in my PhD, and although I am about hitting the 3rd year, I am very seriously thinking on leaving, mainly because I don't find a clear reason to continue and stopping simply feels sensible. Right now I hold a VERY cynical view of a PhD, so it could be that my thoughts are biased, partly because of the soul-weariness caused by doing a PhD.

These are the most painful facts:

- I know for sure that I don't want to be a professor. As a matter of fact, I realized that I don't want to stay in academy, and I don't want to be a researcher. And very sure about that. I do not know about industry, because I have never been there. What my feelings and knowledge tell me is that I want to be an entrepreneur.

- I find research very dull and boring. I dislike most of the activities involved, like reading papers, the whole process of writing scientific documents, or listening to talks. However I find some joy in programming, and I find task automatization an amazing concept.

- I hate the unsocial environment. No one ever seems to be happy (in fact almost everyone seems to share some degree of a cynical view about their work), and overall the working hours are detached from any interesting social interactions.

- I have a constant feeling of worthlessness. I can't seem to find any motivation on what I'm doing. The whole thing seems pointless to me, and this makes me feel like I'm wasting my life.

- Most of all, I am afraid that I am wasting time and not learning any useful thing at all, and that in another job in the "real world" I could be learning much more relevant and important lessons. So overall the feeling of life-wasting is overwhelming. My mind warnings tell me to quit immediately and run away as far away as possible and fast. I believe that the only thing I'm learning is to value my time and what I do with my life.

I came to the idea that I only want a PhD if it is going to be really USEFUL, with a reasonable high chance, even if I change completely my job. Otherwise, I am probably better getting out of here, getting some real training and trying a brand new experience.

So, what I'm wondering that maybe you more experienced people can answer is:

- Do you believe that all these are biased thoughts due to me having a hard time?

- Really, how useful is a PhD in the "real world"? What jobs would it allow me to apply to that I couldn't without a PhD? Can it make other jobs more accessible? Can it make jobs LESS accessible??

(continues in next post)


- Let's take the answers from the previous question, these bunch of jobs, maybe in industry, or in the market place in whatever position. What I want to know is: if I stop my PhD before finishing, will people offering these jobs will still considering my nearly 3 years of PhD as useful experience? Or will it be as if it never existed?

- If you did stop your PhD half the way, or left academy to pursue a completely different career, what did you struggle with during the change? For how long?

- Am I giving just too much importance to the whole thing? Do you think that I should just stop my PhD and see what happens? After all, life is an experiment, or is it?

Thank you very much for reading so far down here. I know that these are a lot of questions, but if you can answer even one of them, or give me a bit of your personal experience on the matter I'll be most thankful.

Thanks a lot



I can relate to much of what you've said with my own PhD. Despite how youre feeling I certainly wouldn't quit at this point. Even if you are absolutely sure you don't want an academic career. even a 'useless' PhD is better than a gaping big hole in you're employment history. .

I had a very stressful and angst-ridden 3rd year, and I became convinced academia was not for me, but after the PhD I landed a post-doc job which I love and my opinions about academic life completely changed. I'm not saying this will be the case for you, but a PhD opens up many more door s than the absence of a PhD.

You say you want to leave to get real experience, well I think a PhD can offer a great deal of practical experiences. You mentioned joy in programming. The skills you built up in that will be very useful outside academia. As you are unsure about what you want to do, maybe visit your uni's careers advice people and ask if there any organisations you could visit for a day to see what the working environment is like. I spent a couple of day in a local hospital when i was considering a clinical career after my PhD and it was very illuminating.

The bottom line is, even if you feel desperate to quit, you should stick with it. Regardless of what career path you take in the long run, you will be thankful you did it.

Hope this helps