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Is a PhD worth it for me?

If your long term plan is to have an industry career or start your own company, continuing to gain strong work experience in your current company would be best.

If I quit my PhD will I struggle to be accepted on another course?

No one is silly enough to write abandoned PhD on their CV. And no one will know unless you volunteer that information.So, no, you will not struggle to be accepted for a PhD if you quit your PhD, go back and do an MA and then reapply in a year.

Funding, however, is another matter. I would advise against doing a self-funded PhD. Getting a competitive funding for your PhD is seen as a plus, and you do not want to be in debt before you work. In addition, finding work after a PhD can be a bit of a challenge as well, so don't set yourself back financially by doing a self-funded PhD.

Can you do a job, maybe research assistant in English and use that to apply for your PhD? I don think a second MA will really be that helpful. You can also apply for another PhD and quit only after you have that offer in hand. Do think as well what you want to do after your studies so that you can choose what is right for you.

Considering dropping out of engineering ms.c

You have very low motivation in continuing with your msc and are very unhappy with the issues in your studies. And you mentioned that you have no interest in a research or academic career. In my opinion, you may wish to consider stopping now and reenrol at a later date.

In addition, if it is industry that you are ultimately aiming for, then job experience matters more than your MSc. You may wish to get a job and work your way up. You can always do a MSc later on. Get you foot in the door first.

Quitting PhD


Luckily I don’t feel like a failure, in fact I only feel sad because it seems like I was the only one taking this PhD seriously. Yesterday I heard my codirectors talking and one said to the other that it is not official yet, so maybe on the day I am supposed to leave I will say I am staying instead. This hurts a lot, because it means they’re not taking me seriously yet, even after I resigned.

I really hope other students won’t find themselves in the same situation, as wanting to study should be a good quality and not a burden.
Thank you again, and good luck to all of you too.[/quote]

Hi, SmilingHippo,

Your decision to leave is absolutely correct. As a student, you have the right to receive supervision and to be taken seriously. Clearly, you were not treated right. Being bullied and unsupervised are unacceptable. Unfortunately, it appears to be more and more common these days, so much so that some people are normalising it as part of the PhD experience.

I do not expect your supervisors to change if you stick with them. Doing a PhD with no supervision and financial security sounds like a nightmare. Walking away to cut your losses now is much better than potentially doing so after investing more time further down the line.

I wish you the very best in your future undertakings. In your future PhD, be sure to talk to the current students when deciding on your supervisors. Good luck.

Quitting PhD

Hi, SmilingHippo,

It was a difficult decision to make, but you know what is best for you. You have tried your hardest. Walk away knowing that this PhD was not suitable for you, but you have learned a lot of important lessons during this time.You are now stronger and more mature than before, and that matters. Please do not be disheartened. Something better will come your way and you will look back at this experience as part of life's journey.

I find it disgusting and totally insincere that they offer to find solutions only after you say you want to quit. Perhaps they thought that they can entice you to stay a few months at a time by dangling a carrot but never actually giving it to you. I am glad you are wise and not tricked into it.

Project with first time PhD supervisor

Generally, the supervisor will not put the best idea forward for a PhD project until the second or third student comes along, since he/she knows that that his familiarity with the academic system and more grant funding will ensure a higher rate of success for the pet project. You also do not have any other student in your group to discuss your work with. There is also very limited prelimiary data for the project you do, if there is any at all.

Since you do not have a solid group yet, your chances of having more publications through collaborations with other group members are very low. Most successful academics I know come from big established groups with big name profs and lots of resources and papers to kick start their career. A PhD student is supposed to be independent and not rely on others, some may argue, but when you are competing against other PhD grads who had lots of help and papers, you know how low your chances of success is when it comes to future fellowship, jobs and grants.

These are our experiences. It may not be how your experience will turn out. Yours may very well be excellent. Good luck.

Project with first time PhD supervisor

Hi, emeroz,

I will share some of my own personal experience and the experiences of a couple of friends. All of us embarked on a PhD with a first time PhD supervisor who is starting up his/her new lab.

We all had rather unsatisafactory supervision. Instruments were inadequate, and there was very limited technical support wihin the group. Postdocs, if present, were also newly hired, and so were trying to find their way around and may not understand your project. The new supervisor does not know the PhD processes, and so it is entirely up to you to find out what, where and when to do at various stages of your PhD. Your supervsior may also be very stressed out with the logistics of setting up a new lab and be crazily writing grants to sustain his/her own career that you may not have the supervision you would need. One of my friend was tasked to help set up the lab aka help in identifying the instruments to be purchased, and another had to work on the supervisor's own side project to "finish a paper to apply grants with".

Quitting PhD

Hmm... So you are essentially stuck, funding and project aspect wise in this university.

If you wish to continue:
1) Identify another experienced researcher(s) as your co-supervisor. At least you will have a go to person to discuss data.
2) Ask your supervisor to send you for some relevant training somewhere.

You have three options, if you decide to cut your loss:

1) Finish up as a master WITHIN the 2 year period, not the ridiculous 4 years which is the norm in the group you are in.

2) Start looking at other universities and applying for relevant projects. Since you are in the country, you have the opportunity to look around and meet potential supervisors rather than just emailing them. Find those with funds or at least happy to support your application for scholarship. Do not quit until you have something else to go to. FindAPhD.com, internationalscholarships.com and JASON database are good websites to search.

3) Withdrawing candidacy. This is the absolute last choice. If you feel that your PhD will not give you the training you need, losing one year is nothing. Some have lost 4-6 years or more due to complete lack of supervision.

Only you know what is best for you. I wish you well.

Need ventilating..Clock is ticking towards failure and shame with my PhD

Hi, heinasirkka,

You said that you "receive no guidance, and have pressure put on you to build a huge and complex experimental setup from scratch. Two senior PhDs entitled to supervise you just ignored you and officially said that they don't want to help." No offence, but you need to take major action if you want to cross the finishing line.

1) Get another co-supervisor. Identify a senior and experienced researcher with the expertise to help you. This person may know the machine or may be able to sit down with you to listen to your PhD plans, to see if you are going down the right route. No point working hard on the wrong things. Amongst the 3 actions I listed here, this is by far the most important. You may worry about rocking the boat and angering your supervisor. However, what point is a good relationship with your supervisor if you fail your phd.

2) Get counselling. Speak to someone who is able to listen to you vent. You need to get it out of your system. Or you will break down.

3) Contact machine manufacturer/ application specialist. Can you get help from the manufacturer/ application specialist to get the machine to work? They are normally very helpful. For all you know, you may need to change a part of the machine which has broken down. Or maybe the settings were incorrect.

You may feel that you don't dare to deal with such stuff, especially no. 1. However, if you do nothing, your status will not change, and indeed you may fail your PhD as you posted on your title. By the sounds of it, you really have nothing to lose if you take actions.

I wish you courage and all the best.

Quitting PhD

Hi, SmilingHippo,

Your director of PhD program should not have informed your supervisor that you met her. There is supposed to be confidentiality.

To completely have no support during your PhD is a disaster. Your supervisor is supposed to supervise, not redirect you to the technician under the excuse of being busy. Without a PhD supervisor's guidance, it is extremely difficult to obtain a PhD since you will be stressed, doing a lot of trial and errors and wasting lots of time. You will also be at a disadvantage compared to other students under good supervisors who will have more publications and hence, better chance at securing future postdoc funding. It is unethical that they are asking you to do all the field operations and other unrelated jobs, on your minimal pay. And there is nothing wrong wanting to visit your family back home.

You have done what you can to speak to your supervisors about your concerns. Since they will not change their attitude, can you change project completely? It is so difficult for international students to secure a PhD project funding, so please do not let go if you can. Losing one year is better than losing the entire PhD. The funding is normally tied to the student. You should be able to take your fund to where you wanna go. Can you identify another good supervisor and project? Perhaps at another institute within the same uni? Switching supervisors and projects are so common these days because bad supervisors are also unfortunately so common.

Cannot afford PhD

Hi, samaylett,

I empathize with your situation. A few suggestions:

Unable to attend interview physically: Is Skype interview not an option? Did you ask for a possible travel cost reimbursement? You will be very surprised at what you can get if you are brave enough to ask.

Finance: This one is tricky. But, have you talked to your supervisor about this? Could you ask for a part time RA role in your group or within the uni? How about tutoring or other casual role in the uni? My friend got through her entire PhD (self sponsored) by working as a part time RA to pay for her tuition fees and as a tutor to get some money for her living allowance. It was really tough for her, but she made it. Another friend worked as a cleaner and restaurant waitress to supplement her cost of living.

These are just some of my suggestions. Good luck.


Hi, random_6772.

So they told you that even if you win a complaint, the University is likely to have their hands tied by RCUK rules? "Likely" is not "surely".

By the way, you have to understated that whenever PhD students have big problems, the uni tends to close ranks and protect its staff aka your supervisor. Seen it happen many times, even to myself. But guess what, even when they (a couple of very, very high ranking people of the university) told me to let go of my case because my supervisor did nothing wrong (despite the mountains of hard evidences), I persevered on and eventually won my case completely. And I got my PhD award later. In your case, the uni has to admit fault that your supervisor was not supervising. That is why they would prefer that you fail than them having to admit fault. Understand the underlining reasons for them not helping.

Go and seek advice from your students union and postgrad coordinator. Be warned, that as you lodge the complain, you may see the ugliest side of the uni to sidetrack you and prevent your from lodging (aka uni self defense mechanism). Another word of advice, collect and organise your documentations to prove your case. Be thorough in your documentation and stay calm in the face of adversity. Don't walk away from your PhD without even trying to fight. You have nothing to lose.

Toughen up, and fight for what you feel is right for you. Act FAST. I wish you the very best.

STEM teaching positions without research

Hi, impasse,

I completely agree with TreeofLife. Tutoring is a great way to teach and you can set how many subjects and therefore how many tutoring sessions you will have. You can always negotiate with the head of subject.

Besides that, I do think that you should consider the Associate Lecture role. You can give it a try and if it does not suit, leave later. Better having tried than never at all.

Good luck.

Jobless after a PhD

Hi, piya29in,

I think the question is, what is your long term goal? You mentioned setting up a plant tissue culture laboratory and doing postdoc fellowships. Are you wanting to stay in academia or set up your own company? They are very different career paths. Any do you want to do biomedic or plant science? Please make up your mind.

If you are really looking for post doc position, then NETWORKING is key. It means contacting Professors before they have funds so that they may remember you when they do have funds. My former colleagues got their post doc position sometimes up to a year before they start the position. Can your previous supervisors not recommend you to do a postdoc at his/her collaborator's lab? You probably got shortlisted because you do have the skills but lost to someone who has more experience and who is known to the professor. If you have never networked, I suggest that you start doing that now. You are going to need it.

Second Master's degree or PhD?

Hi, JJ_13,

I would ask that you sit down and consider what your aim in life is and importantly where you want to be.

1) If you want to be in South Africa and in academia, then please just continue on in your current project.
2) If you intend to leave and perhaps stay in another country, then you may wish to consider the masters as it gives you international experience which you can leverage in future to apply for jobs elsewhere or another PhD program. If you want to stay in Sweden, this may give you a chance at that too.
3) If your PhD in South Africa is highly recognised world wide and you want to leave for a different country one day, you may also do so after finishing your PhD.

No one knows your circumstances or your career and life aspirations. Decide what is best for yourself. Take care.