How Common is it to Quit PhD? | Understanding the PhD Journey

Posted on – Embarking on a PhD journey is not for the faint-hearted. It requires grit, hard work, and dedication to push through the rigorous academic demands and research challenges. However, despite their passion and commitment, some PhD students choose to quit their degree before completion.

But how common is it for students to quit their PhD? What are the reasons behind their decision, and how does it impact their academic and professional future? In this article, we will explore these questions and shed light on the realities of the PhD journey.

Why Do Some PhD Students Quit?

Why Do Some PhD Students Quit?


PhD or Doctor of Philosophy is a prestigious degree that requires years of hard work, dedication, and research. It is a long and challenging journey that not everyone can complete. Many students who start their PhD journey may not finish it, and the reasons vary. In this article, we will explore the common reasons why some PhD students quit.

Lack of Motivation

One of the most common reasons why some PhD students quit is a lack of motivation. Pursuing a PhD requires a high level of motivation, self-discipline, and determination. Without these qualities, it can be challenging to stay focused and committed to the research project. Some students may lose interest in their research topic and struggle to find the motivation to continue.

Poor Supervision

Another reason why some PhD students quit is poor supervision. A supervisor is a crucial part of a PhD journey. They guide and support the student throughout the research project. However, some students may have a supervisor who is not supportive or lacks the necessary expertise to guide them effectively. This can lead to frustration and lack of progress, ultimately causing some students to quit.

Financial Burden

PhD studies can be expensive, and some students may face financial challenges that can hinder their progress. The cost of tuition, research materials, and living expenses can add up quickly, and some students may struggle to meet these expenses. This can lead to stress and anxiety, ultimately leading some students to quit their PhD studies.

Personal Circumstances

Personal circumstances can also play a significant role in a student’s decision to quit their PhD studies. Some students may have family responsibilities or personal issues that require their attention. Balancing personal responsibilities with the demands of a PhD can be challenging, and some students may choose to prioritize their personal life over their academic pursuits.


Pursuing a PhD is a challenging and rewarding journey that not everyone can complete. Some students may face obstacles that make it difficult for them to continue their studies. However, it is essential to remember that quitting a PhD does not define a person’s academic or professional success. It is okay to take a break or pursue other opportunities. Ultimately, the decision to quit a PhD should be based on personal circumstances and goals.

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The Reality of Quitting a PhD Program

Quitting a PhD program is not an uncommon phenomenon in graduate education. According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, around 50% of PhD students in the US leave their program before graduating. The reasons for quitting can vary from personal issues, lack of motivation, financial struggles, or dissatisfaction with the program.

How to Avoid Quitting Your PhD Program

While quitting a PhD program may seem tempting at times, there are ways to avoid it and make the most out of your graduate education. Here are some tips and tricks:

1. Set Realistic Goals

It’s important to set achievable goals for yourself during your PhD journey. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your research, while also allowing you to celebrate small victories along the way.

2. Establish a Support System

Graduate school can be mentally and emotionally challenging, so it’s important to have a support system in place. This can include friends, family, classmates, professors, or even a therapist.

3. Develop Good Time Management Skills

PhD programs require a lot of time and dedication, so it’s crucial to develop good time management skills. Set a schedule for yourself that includes time for research, writing, and self-care.

4. Seek Feedback and Guidance

It’s important to seek feedback and guidance from your professors and colleagues throughout your PhD journey. This can help you improve your research, stay on track, and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

5. Take Care of Your Mental and Physical Health

Graduate school can take a toll on your mental and physical health, so it’s important to take care of yourself. This can include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and taking breaks when needed.

Final Thoughts

Quitting a PhD program is not uncommon, but with the right mindset and support, you can overcome the challenges and make the most out of your graduate education. Remember to set realistic goals, establish a support system, develop good time management skills, seek feedback and guidance, and take care of your mental and physical health.

How Common is it to Quit a PhD Program?


Pursuing a PhD program is a major academic and professional undertaking that requires a great deal of dedication and commitment. However, despite the significant investment in time, effort, and resources, some students do choose to quit their PhD programs. But just how common is this phenomenon?

Understanding the PhD Attrition Rate

The attrition rate for PhD programs varies widely depending on the discipline, institution, and other factors. According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, the overall PhD completion rate in the United States is around 50%. This means that approximately half of all students who start a PhD program end up completing it.

However, the attrition rate varies significantly by field of study. Some disciplines, such as engineering and physical sciences, tend to have higher completion rates, while others, such as humanities and social sciences, have lower rates.

Reasons for Quitting a PhD Program

There are numerous reasons why a student may choose to quit a PhD program. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Financial concerns: Pursuing a PhD program can be expensive, and many students struggle to cover the costs of tuition, living expenses, and research materials.
  • Lack of support: PhD programs can be isolating, and students may struggle to find adequate support from their advisors, peers, or academic departments.
  • Burnout: The intense and demanding nature of PhD programs can lead to burnout and exhaustion, particularly if students are juggling other responsibilities such as work or family obligations.
  • Personal reasons: Students may choose to quit a PhD program for a variety of personal reasons, such as health concerns, family issues, or a change in career goals.

Implications of PhD Attrition

PhD attrition can have significant implications for both students and academic institutions. For students, quitting a PhD program can be a difficult and sometimes costly decision, particularly if they
have invested significant time and resources into their studies. For academic institutions, high attrition rates can be a sign of deeper issues such as inadequate support or unrealistic expectations.

Addressing the issue of PhD attrition requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including students, advisors, academic departments, and institutions. By working together to identify and address the root causes of attrition, we can create a more supportive and sustainable academic environment for all PhD students.

Why Do People Quit Their PhD? Understanding the Common Reasons


A PhD is an academic degree that requires years of dedication and hard work. It is a long and challenging journey that requires passion, motivation, and resilience. However, despite the significant commitment required, many students fail to complete their PhD. In fact, according to recent studies, the attrition rate for PhD students is surprisingly high. This article aims to explore the common reasons why people quit their PhD and shed light on the challenges that students face during their doctoral journey.

What is the PhD attrition rate?

PhD attrition rate refers to the percentage of students who leave their PhD program without completing it. According to a study by the Council of Graduate Schools, the average PhD attrition rate in the United States is around 50%. This means that half of the students who start a PhD program do not finish it. The attrition rates vary across fields and disciplines, with some fields having higher attrition rates than others.

What are the common reasons for quitting a PhD?

There are several reasons why students quit their PhD. Some of the most common reasons include:

  1. Lack of motivation: A PhD requires a significant amount of motivation and dedication. Without passion and interest in the research topic, students may struggle to stay motivated and engaged in the work.
  2. Financial difficulties: Pursuing a PhD can be expensive, and many students struggle to make ends meet while also paying for their education. This financial strain can lead to stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact students’ mental health and academic performance.
  3. Personal reasons: Life events, such as illness, family emergencies, or relationship problems, can disrupt a student’s ability to focus on their PhD. In some cases, students may decide to quit their program to prioritize their personal life.
  4. Academic challenges: The academic demands of a PhD can be overwhelming. Students may struggle with the coursework, research, or writing. Additionally, the pressure to publish can be daunting, and not all students may feel up to the task.
  5. Poor supervision: A supportive and competent supervisor is crucial for the success of a PhD student. However, not all supervisors are created equal, and some may not provide the necessary guidance and support. This can leave students feeling lost and frustrated, ultimately leading them to quit their program.

What are the consequences of quitting a PhD?

Quitting a PhD can have several consequences. Firstly, students may feel a sense of failure and disappointment. The years of hard work and dedication may seem like a waste of time and effort. Additionally, quitting a PhD may limit future career opportunities, as some jobs may require a doctoral degree. Finally, students who quit their program may struggle with debt or financial difficulties, as they may have taken out loans to finance their education.


Quitting a PhD is a complex decision that should not be taken lightly. It is essential to understand the common reasons why students quit their program and the potential consequences of doing so. However, it is also important to remember that pursuing a PhD is a challenging journey that requires perseverance and resilience. With the right support and resources, students can overcome the obstacles they may face and successfully complete their degree.