Dropping out my PhD -- now what?
November 21, 2012 8:04 AM Subscribe
So after quite a few years in my PhD program in computational biology, I'm dropping out with a Masters. Where do I go from here?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am in a PhD program in an Ivy League university, in computational biology. I had a conditional pass on my A exam last year, but my last special committee meeting ended with my committee coming to the conclusion that I had passed the A but that I should leave the program with a Masters as they deemed it unlikely that I would be able to finish my PhD in a respectable amount of time. So now I'll be graduating with a Masters by the end of the Spring semester. I'm torn between relief and disappointment. Relief because this thing has been hanging over my head for so long and it's good to have some decision even if it's not the one I wanted. Disappointment because this PhD has been my one big solitary goal and it feels bad to have failed. I think it was a combination of a number of factors -- my own lack of passion for the topic, the fact that I was my advisor's first student so he was not very experienced at guiding people, my own program was new as well. Basically, I fell off the right schedule for things at some point and it has become impossible to get back on it.
Where do I go from here? I have not intended to stay in academia for some time now, but am at a loss for how to explain this huge hole in my resume to prospective employers. I am also unsure about the direction I want to go in career-wise. I have about six months while I'll still be a student and capable of taking classes and utilizing Career Services so I want to use this time to explore as many options as possible. Other complications: my fiance just got a job in a consulting company in Boston and it would be nice to to find a job there if possible. Also I am on an F-1 student visa and my continued residence in the US will depend on my finding a job or an internship (well I could also get a dependent visa if I marry my fiance (who is not a US citizen, nor a citizen of my home country) but we don't want to go that route just yet).
So what are your suggestions for paths to explore for me? I have excellent mathematical and statistical skills and can write well. I have published articles in newspapers and magazines in the past. I have about a year of teaching experience which involved teaching classes, labs and testing and tutoring students one-on-one, all of which I enjoyed. While I can program if necessary, I don't think this would be a good long-term career for me as I really don't like coding all that much (as I discovered a bit too late into my PhD program). My computational biology work was more in the area of neuroscience and less in the area of bioinformatics which makes finding jobs more difficult. I can take coursework to improve my resume once I figure out what path I'd like to take. I got through four rounds of interviews with a quantitative marketing company whose work I found extremely interesting, but this was when I was still thinking that I would get my PhD. In the non-work realm the big passion I have is cooking, but I feel that the long hours and low pay of cooking as a career are not for me. I think what I'd really like is a structured job environment with decent pay (> $60000). I don't mind working extra hours in the beginning but would like to eventually be able to take weekends and evenings off. I enjoy working with people and am definitely extroverted. Teaching jobs don't really appeal to me though, because I just think they're not worth it in the current environment. Things I have thought about -- becoming an actuary, popular science writing, some sort of machine learning job that's not in finance. My Myers-Brigg type is ENTP if that means anything to anyone.
Financial status: I don't have any debt and neither does my fiance. We have about $20000 in combined savings. He will be earning ~75000 in his new job in Boston, which is about double what our individual stipends in grad school are right now and is willing to support me while I find my feet. I can count on financial support from my parents, who are fairly well off, but not indefinitely. They would also probably be willing to pay for a graduate degree in something -- a masters or an MBA -- if necessary.
Anyway, I'm kind of at a loss here and am trying to look at this as an opportunity to figure out what I'd really be interested in long-term. Any and all suggestions welcome!