I am going to be taking a Ph.D. program in statistics, and I kind of want to have two people for my supervisor (for my Ph.D. research), but I don't know if this would be a good or bad idea. I have two questions:

  1. What are the pros and cons of having two supervisors for my PhD research?
  2. In case of having two supervisors, would I be expected to choose the one of the two professors who will act as my "main supervisor" (can both supervisors be my "main supervisor")?

I have never taken a Ph.D. program before, so any answers would be appreciated.

  • 1
    In some places it's mandatory to have more than one supervisor. – astronat Mar 25 '18 at 18:31
  • What are your reasons for wanting two supervisors? – Lawrence Mar 26 '18 at 7:14

I was co-supervised during my own Ph.D., and have since been a co-supervisor several times, and I find that if your circumstances are such that co-supervision makes sense, it can be an excellent thing.

Co-supervision makes most sense when either:

  1. You are doing cross-disciplinary work, and each supervisor provides expertise for their own discipline, or
  2. the two supervisors already work together so closely that working for one means you are de facto being supervised by the other already, and you might as well acknowledge it.

This can help in providing two perspectives (especially valuable for cross-disciplinary work) and in allowing you to get help from one when the other is busy or unavailable. The down side is that you may also find yourself being pulled in two different directions, and that it can be difficult to coordinate things that require approval from both two supervisors, especially if both are busy.

Most programs, however, will require precisely one person to be the primary supervisor, while the other is either listed as a co-supervisor or merely an unusually active member of your committee.


It is a good idea to have a co-supervisor, which only comes into picture when your work is interdisciplinary, but in some case, it doesn't work.


  • You will get different ideas form people with different expertise.
  • Your research can get interesting as you can have helpful discussions with both experts, and can approach other if one is occupied.


  • It may take more time to finish your PhD
  • More problematic if both don't have mutual understanding and don't agree on something related to your research.

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