13 XRDS • WINTER 2016 • VOL. 23 • NO. 2
important, his parents supported his
decision. Not every student leaving a
Ph.D. is so lucky.
During his transition, Faulkner
kept his decision quiet from other
Ph.D. students. He began taking
classes in his new master’s program
to be able to graduate sooner. But his
Ph.D. classmates knew something
was wrong. He wasn’t in classes with
them, and they began to question
him. Faulkner felt that being a “dead
man walking” in his department
wasn’t a good move, so he refrained
from telling them and tried his best
to blend into his new department.
The administrative, family, and
social pressures were difficult, but by
keeping the information on a need to
know basis, Faulkner was able to make
the transition with minimal stress.
THE PROFESSOR’S POIN T OF VIE W
In Faulkner’s case, he came to the decision to leave his Ph.D. after understanding the work he was doing wasn’t
satisfying. But there are many other
reasons to leave a Ph.D. and other reasons to stay. I spoke to Professor Siegel
about these reasons.
Students should think about leaving
their doctoral program if they have ma-
jor life changes that alter their goals, if
they lose interest in their topics, or if
they are generally unhappy. Professor
Siegel specifically mentioned he looked
for ward to coming to work everyday. He
would recommend anyone who dread-
ed doing their work as a Ph.D. might be
a good candidate to leave.
However, there are also bad reasons
to leave your Ph.D. For example, if a
student has writer’s block, or problems
with procrastination, those are in fact
correctable issues with good support.
Other correctable issues include
funding concerns, feeling isolated,
and not understanding the papers
in your field. These are all issues
that can be resolved by getting more
involved in your Ph.D. community
and sharing your concerns with
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
Ph.D.s are not easy, but that is by design. Leaving your Ph.D. isn’t the end
of the world. If you’re good enough
to get accepted to a Ph.D. program,
then you’ll be in demand for a lot of
positions. Spending your life in a
field that you don’t enjoy working in
is not worth whatever benefits might
come from gaining the degree. Ph.D.
students should carefully consider
their motivations and the pressures
around them before accepting an offer, but even more importantly, they
should be willing to reexamine those
motivations and pressures regularly
to ensure they’re on the right track.
Quitting a Ph.D. is hard, but staying in
a Ph.D. that doesn’t suit your needs is
likely to be even harder.
— Andrew J. Hunsucker I m
The number of workers who will use Amazon’s Mechanical
Turk or Upwork to find work during the next decade.