Skip to content

Coping With a Quarter Life Crisis

Posted in: PhD Survival
Coping With a Quarter Life Crisis

7+ years’ training-a batchelor’s and a PhD-and for what? Starting at the bottom in a profession that offers repetitive work, poor pay, long hours and frustratingly hard-to-come-by successes. And to make it worse, you can’t afford a decent apartment, your standard of living is low and your relationship is suffering.

Sound familiar?

If so, then you may be suffering from a quarter-life-crisis, a phenomenon that is being increasingly recognized by psychologists.

Like it’s more established cousin, the mid-life-crisis, a quarter-life crisis is about adjusting to a major life transition.

But instead of being all about the feeling of youth slipping away, which we all know is easily cured by getting a tattoo and buying a fast car, the quarter life crisis is about dealing with the transition from being an aspiration-filled youth to a twenty-something experiencing the mundane reality of everyday working life.

Bioscientists, are particularly prone to the quarter-life-crisis because they normally spend a prolonged time in education. In this bubble, life is filled with a heady mix of pursuing a passion for science, camaraderie amongst peers and continuous positive feedback from educators. This, of course, contrasts starkly with the real working world so when the time comes to transition to a job, the bump to earth can be hard.

In a saturated job market, (post)-graduates are likely to find themselves unemployed, under-employed and/or poorly paid. Of course, this leads to disillusionment; the feeling that all of that hard work was for nothing. This can be compounded by the financial pressures that come with trying to maintain a decent standard of living and pay off college loans on a small salary.

And to top it all… having to come to the same place, to do the same job EVERY day? With no summer break?? That’s just like being a cog in a wheel!

When reality bites, it bites very hard indeed.

So if you are suffering from a quarter-life crisis – where do you turn? Well, there are several good books that can help you through. Try Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties and Managing the Quarterlife Crisis, for instance.
Of course, you may have identified with the opening paragraph of this article even though you have been out of college for many a year. In that case I would say that you are just suffering from “being a scientist”, for which there is no cure! 🙂

Share this to your network:


  1. serenity on May 29, 2009 at 7:36 am

    i agree with catswym. i also had mine in grad school–at the start, actually, and it wasn’t just a “being a scientist” crisis. it was like a where-am-i-heading-in-life crisis? don’t think i’m happy or good enough for this profession kind of a thing. but it passed and i’m ok now 🙂

  2. Robby G on April 4, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Great post. Sad to see that many people suffer from this and as we seem to be developing and advancing in North America, we lose sight of truly important things and become enthralled in this constant strive for success, and once we don’t achieve what we want…. well there’s Fight Club for that.

  3. catswym on September 5, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I actually think my quarter life crisis happened in grad school and not “the real world”, as you call it. I get much more positive feedback and guidance now that I’m at a “real” job as a research scientist than I ever did in my phd program.

    oh, and grad school is just as much of a cog in the wheel type environment only with less pay and less respect.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll To Top