I'm working as a software developer in a company doing product R&D consulting. I've been here for 10 months and it's my first full-time job after graduating with a Masters last year. For various reasons, I have started to consider pursuing a PhD, starting in the Autumn of next year.

I am pretty sure I want to communicate this desire to my employer for several reasons:

  • Honesty - they are investing in me in the form of training and knowing I might leave might alter their desire to do so;

  • Letters of recommendation - I will definitely want my employer's assistance in getting into a desired programme, probably in a form of a letter of recommendation. I am on very good terms with my manager and technical lead so in general I don't think there would be any problems with asking them for that;

  • "Returnability" - because of the R in the R&D of my company (and because plainly my company a great place to work), I can see being seriously interested in coming back here in a different role after being done with my PhD (or if I change my mind during it).Thus I want to keep friendly relations with the company and not just pull off a surprise quit on them.

What I'm not sure about is when would be a good time to communicate this potential plan of mine to the employer. On one hand keeping this thought to myself makes me feel dishonest, on the other hand I'm concerned that once I make my intention clear, even if it's not certain, my career will stop (no more training, no more interesting projects etc.).

So hence the question: When should I communicate this thought of mine and should I be mindful of anything I haven't considered yet when I do it?

  • 1
    Right now it is a potential plan. Tell them after you get accepted and have decided for sure.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 17:11
  • 1
    @Paparazzi I do need their assistance in order to get accepted though. I won't be able to get three letters from my University and I'm pretty sure the one I get from my TA would be glowing (if it's anything like my review feedback)
    – SaladButt
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 17:13
  • 1
    Then you statement "keeping this thought to myself makes me feel dishonest" does not make sense.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 17:24
  • 4
    Could you still work there while attending your PhD program?
    – JasonJ
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    Why on earth do you need a LOR from people outside academia? Those won't count for anything if your university requires them. And frankly you should be more concerned about losing your job than your career. What country are you in?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


Risk analysis

It is not worth putting your job risk

If you cannot get into a PhD without a LOR from company then so be it

Most PhD candidates went straight from academia

If you cannot get in based on academia LOR than not likely an industry LOR will put you over the edge

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .