This story about leaving graduate school is from "P"; it has been lightly edited for formatting.
I quit graduate school (not chemistry but a closely related field) after 3 years, around the time I was starting to write up my thesis.Thanks to "P" for their story.
Why did you leave?
A combination of reasons:
I wasn’t enjoying my project. This had been getting slowly worse over time and I was at a stage where it just didn’t interest me at all.
I was already pretty sure that I wasn’t going to stay in academia long-term. Job security, pay, work culture were all rubbish.
I was offered a good job in another field on about the same money as I would have been looking at as a post-doc.
Your thought process in leaving? Was it deliberate (over a period of time) or sudden?
Pretty sudden. It happened over a couple of weeks, from job offer, approach, interview, then making the decision to leave. In hindsight I think the job offer was crystallised a number of things that I’d been thinking about in the background for some time.
Where are you now?
At the same place that offered me the job, now in a higher position.
Are you happy after leaving? How does the decision look to you now?
Very happy. If you go by Vinylogous’ criteria then it was the right decision at the time, and nearly ten years on it’s looking like an even better decision.
It’s funny looking back at it, literally everyone who I talked to treated my decision as some sort of mistake and told me that, oh, I must write up my thesis and that I would regret it if I didn’t. No-one said anything positive about it or treated it as if it could have been a good decision under some circumstances. As it currently stands, all of these people were wrong. It is possible that my lack of a PhD might cost me something later on, but it hasn’t been an impediment so far. I am now happier, love what I do, am paid better and have way better job security than if I’d tried to stay in academia.
I hope that reading this makes people realise that sometimes quitting grad school can actually work out to be a good choice.