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I am a Statistics PhD student.

I started my PhD upon the acceptance to my current university because this got so many people excited about me, and I didn't want to disappoint them. I finished my PhD coursework with excellent marks, and I made speedy progress in my research which made my PhD supervisor very happy. However, my supervisor's research area is not something that I want to work in for the rest of my life and I got depressed because as a PhD student, I am working so hard, day and night, towards the outcome that I don't really want. I am currently in 2nd year of my PhD program.

I expressed this to my supervisor and he told me that he doesn't want me to make spontaneous decisions since I am doing so well in my PhD program and that I am making a speedy progress. My supervisor suggested me to take 4 month medical leave, and I took that offer.

However, more I think of my issue more I want to pursue my dream of working in Clinical Research Organization (CRO) as a statistician/statistical programmer. Over the break, I have successfully acquired industry professional certifications that CRO firms often look for, and I am ready to apply for entry-level jobs at CRO firm. I am still on the medical leave from my PhD program, although the leave is almost over.

My questions are:

  1. Should I talk to my supervisor again and formally withdraw from the PhD program before I start applying for CRO jobs? or is it okay for me to apply for jobs even while I am on the medical leave from my PhD program, as long as I explain my situation well?

  2. Would including my PhD education as incompleted on my resume put me under disadvantage?

  3. If answer to 2 is "no", can I list my Teaching Assistant / Research Assistant positions as a part of my work experience, along with the information that I am a PhD student?

  4. When companies do background checks on potential candidates, what do they usually check? Do they go through/investigate every details that show up under my social insurance number?

Thank you, and I am sorry for so many questions.

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  • Are you open to completing a masters? Also, #3 is a yes because at least it demonstrates technical comunication skills. Dec 10 '20 at 18:25
  • Hello, I already have a Master's, in my country, Master's degree is a requirement in order to apply for a PhD program. So as a PhD student, I already have a Master's degree.
    – jschnieder
    Dec 10 '20 at 19:56
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because this got so many people excited about me, and I didn't want to disappoint them.

This is a really BAD reason to do anything. Figure out what YOU want to do with your life and let the other people think what they want

Should I talk to my supervisor again and formally withdraw from the PhD program before I start applying for CRO jobs?

As a general rule: no. Continue doing your current job (as good as possible), while looking for a new one. You have the conversation once you have an offer for the new job.

is it okay for me to apply for jobs even while I am on the medical leave from my PhD program, as long as I explain my situation well?

That is a legal question which depends heavily on your local labor laws and what specifically is in your contract. I HIGHLY recommend you carefully read your contract and the policies/handbook of your employer. Assuming they pay you in some way form or shape, you may already have violated policies by doing work-like activities while being on medical leave. If you did, talk to a local labor lawyer.

can I list my Teaching Assistant / Research Assistant positions as a part of my work experience, along with the information that I am a PhD student?

You can and should list ONLY information that's factually correct. If you did TA/RA work, list it. As long as you are officially a PhD student, you should list it as such. Medical leave complicates matters. In many jurisdictions, you can't work while on medical leave unless a medical professional has you certified "fit for duty". This may impact your ability to apply for and start a new job.

When companies do background checks on potential candidates, what do they usually check? Do they go through/investigate every details that show up under my social insurance number?

Depends A LOT on the company, the country/region, and the specific job. If planning to handle confidential or private date in the Clinical field, they may also regulatory requirements for background checks.

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  • thank you for your reply, I appreciate it. My graduate student medical leave is actually unpaid. All my TA/RA fundings as well as my scholarship funding has been suspended during my medical leave. Would applying for job in the middle of my medical leave be still be a problem? Thank you,
    – jschnieder
    Dec 10 '20 at 23:47
  • "Medical Leave" is in most jurisdictions a well defined legal term. The exact definitions vary a lot from one jurisdiction to the next, so there is no "one size fits all" answer to your question. If you have signed any type contract or agreement when you joined your employer: READ IT. . The university has quite likely an employee hand book or online store of their HR policies: READ THEM. Google a few articles about Medical Leave in your country/state and READ THEM.
    – Hilmar
    Dec 12 '20 at 13:19
  • I believe Hilmar may be confusing medical leave from a job with a university policy of medical leave. I suspect Medical leave in this case is just a leave of absence where OP may remain registered at the university while not attending. I would agree that OP should review their graduate college policies to see what is allowed, but from an employers perspective would not see any issue with a student on leave applying for a job.
    – user74671
    Jan 15 at 16:08
  • @user74671: You may be right you may be wrong. All I'm saying is: don't guess or assume: read the contract and the policies.
    – Hilmar
    Jan 15 at 17:24
  • Thats true. I think OP should also clarify what his concerns are with applying on his medical leave. If they are concerned with whether they are allowed to legally or by school policy, we are obviously unable to answer that. If the concern is the potential employers perception, we may try to answer that
    – user74671
    Jan 15 at 17:26

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