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Leaving academia after graduate school

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This page considers questions such as:

  • If you're nearing the end of a Ph.D. program, and expect to finish it in the near future, what factors should you consider in deciding whether to continue in academia or leave it?
  • If you're in the early stages of a Ph.D. program, or have completed a Masters and want to continue to the Ph.D., and you are not interested in continuing in academia, should you finish the program, or quit immediately without a Ph.D.?

Books with advice

Relevant experience articles

  • Get a PhD—but leave academia as soon as you graduate by Allison Schrager, February 7, 2014, Quartz, advises people interested in academia to complete their Ph.D. but quit academia after that unless they can find a good post-doctoral position and have strong interest in continuing in academia. She argues that the low retention rate in academia and the "pyramid scheme" need not be viewed as a problem with academia, as long as people starting on graduate studies are explicitly aware that they are unlikely to continue beyond that.
  • Some of the answers to the Quora question Why did you leave academia? explicitly discuss people's decisions to leave academia after completion of the Ph.D.: Vipul Naik's answer
  • Why I Left Academic Mathematics by Brian Mann, February 13, 2014, on his personal blog describes his decision to leave academia after obtaining a mathematics Ph.D.

Discipline-specific resources

The professional societies for your discipline might have information and advice on the options for leaving academia after graduate school. However, it's unlikely to be a focus for them.

For instance, with mathematics, the page on Advice for New Ph.D.'s has two articles on non-academic jobs, compared to over a dozen about academic jobs.