Monday, March 2, 2015

Why You Need To Leave Academia

Since I promised that I would do this in my last's a new(ish) article I ran across today that has some very good (and strong!) sentiments about why leaving academia is not just a good option, but might be the best option for a graduate student in 2015.

This site seems to be offering services for helping you "rebrand" or reorient your life for postacademia. I certainly can't vouch for their services - and in fact, I've gone on record several times as being somewhat skeptical about some of these services - so please don't take this as an endorsement of the services offered on the linked site. Again - I know nothing about their site and have not been asked to write this post, so be cautious if you start exploring their services.

But I read this piece this morning and it struck me as exactly the kind of thing I was hungry to read in 2011 and 2012, when I was newly leaving academia:
Academia is broken. The time to leave it is now. If you don’t leave, you will be poor, mistreated, and unhappy. There’s a myth in academia, perpetuated by other (mostly unhappy) academics that says you can only be a successful PhD if you become a tenured professor and continue to publish in academic journals. This myth survives by encouraging young PhDs—postdocs and PhD students—to look down on anyone who expresses a desire to leave academia. As a result, a kind of feedback loop is created in academia. Once you’re in the system, the system keeps you there by weakening your mind and eroding your confidence.
You’re told over and over again that nothing else but staying in academia is respected. You’re told over and over again that you can’t do anything else—that there is nothing else. The academic system makes you so dependent that you get used to being treated poorly. You get used to your advisor yelling at you or making you feel small. You get used to believing that there’s nothing else for you in the world.
So if you're finding this site and you're new to the possibility that you might leave academia, let me just say that as a long-term veteran of the leaving process, I agree with every word of this essay. And I agree that if you're really, truly considering leaving academia, you are probably leaning toward making the right choice for yourself.


  1. Hi, I just wanted to say that I stumbled upon your site today. I am currently trying to figure out whether I want to stay or leave academia. I am a junior tenure-track faculty that has become exceedingly jaded with academia culture and the publication process. Your site has been really helpful in providing links/resources, emotional validation, and your experiences. Thanks!

  2. Sad how academia as a system marginalizes those who wish to seek to move out of their oppressive circumstances. The way students get treated, once again, reminds me of how academia as a broken down system seeks to maintain status quo, creates a system of injustice, and is more likely the rite of passage for the already privileged.

    1. Funny how that works, isn't it? This is the same system that preaches fairness, equality, etc. but in reality it's more like "I got mine, to hell with everyone else!"

  3. I bought into the same lie that more institutionalized education provided for more opportunities & made you more developed. The only things I developed was a severe panic disorder, anxiety, depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, debt, and regret. Most of the anxiety stems from knowing that I have to pay back loans over 25 years for a degree I can't complete and that has also made my life a living hell. I have already been paying on my student loans for four years and I am still not done with the darn masters degree! The graduate work has never been a problem for me; the arrogance of one man holding my future in his hateful hands is what changed my views on education. A system that has not been designed by you will never work for you. I wanted to puke when I saw Kanye West, an undergrad dropout, being awarded an Honorary Doctorate. Even he knows that education is a joke! Here we all are struggling and suffering when all we needed to do was dropout and spit a few rap lyrics. He avoided the work and the debt! LOL. Looks like I was the real dummy because I actually worked hard and maintained a 3.78 and passed my examinations, but can't get passed the damned paper! Wow, if someone had only told me that reading books, conducting research, and catching hell would not benefit me in the long run- I would have never gone into debt for this headache. However, I may begin to fight for educational overhaul in which students who don't pass, don't pay! Don't pay for a car you can't drive. What this does is places the ethical obligation back on the professor. Let's see if they will be willing to keep their so-called ethical obligation to fail undeserving students if they know that the institution will not be paid! Let's see if they will be willing to put their jobs on the line to remain ethical. See, we have been placing all of the responsibility on the wrong people, students. Just like public school teachers lose their jobs now when students fail, professors should also be factored in, because they think they are smarter than everyone else anyway. Please, excuse the typing errors but I have been so sick lately. God bless!

  4. I'm leaving! I thought long and hard about what I wanted during my PhD, and I landed a job doing policy work in a trade association, starting this fall. :) My PhD supervisor was very supportive of this - my lab has a lot of industrial ties, though, so I think they are generally fairly open-minded. My program director tried to convince me to do a post-doc, but I'm not going to pass up on this exit opportunity!!

  5. I can't wait to leave. Am submitting the thesis in two weeks' time. I currently have a part-time job with a charity which has a research arm at my school.
    I want to leverage that 'charity' thing and re-brand myself as a researcher outside academia, for charities, government, even (ethical) business. I really hope I can make the break within the next 12 months. I am so badly suited to academia and it has led to the worst mental health problems of my life!