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I recently completed a mathematics BA and have started 4 year ROTC commitment in the US military. The military has offered to let me get my PhD in Operation Research(OR) while being on Active Duty(full pay and benefits) starting in August. I had planned on becoming an academic after the military and my research interests are in Theory of Computation and Logic. Originally my career plan was getting a PhD in Math(logic or theory of computation), CS(theory of computation) or even Philosophy(logic), but getting in a PhD program right now fully paid for is very tempting. I am interested in OR, but I will eventually focus on Logic or Theory of Computation. If I do not purse an OR graduate degree I will be doing mostly managerial functions for the next four years. I think getting the PhD in OR and doing technical work might be a more efficient use of my 20's, than doing a traditional military leadership. I have noticed some very well respect Professors do not have their PhD in the exact field they are currently doing research.

To my questions:

Would getting a PhD in operational research immediately preclude me from tenure track position in Math, CS and Philosophy Departments? Even if I have a solid amount of publications?

If so, would already having a PhD hurt me if I applied for admission to a PhD program in Math, CS or philosophy?

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    Based on your comments to answers below, I would add that a masters or PhD at one of the military post-graduate schools is a different beast than at a more traditional university. The demand is for, say, AFIT, to award the degree after a fixed period of time, and to make the student useful in their next (military) assignment, not prepare the student for a professorship at MIT. That being said, there are still a variety of schools that would look favorably on your career experience plus such a PhD. (Basis - collaborations with such schools/students). – Jon Custer May 1 at 14:02
  • The Ph.D won't extend your commitment? – mkennedy May 1 at 19:18
  • Yes mkennedy. However I will likely be teaching or doing something technical after the PhD program. – DeonLarry May 2 at 18:57
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Would getting a PhD in operational research immediately preclude me from tenure track position in Math, CS and Philosophy Departments? Even if I have a solid amount of publications?

It would not preclude you from applying, but your success would depend on whether your research profile matches the position as you would be competing with many candidates who might be a better match. The number of publications is important but it's not the most important criterion.

If so, would already having a PhD hurt me if I applied for admission to a PhD program in Math, CS or philosophy?

I can't see any reason why already having a PhD in OR would decrease your chances to get admitted for another PhD program later. But will you still be motivated for that after getting your first PhD?

An alternative option would be to progressively switch topics after the PhD through one or two postdoc contracts.

  • Thanks your your answer. I have read that 2nd PhD's are highly discouraged. But I think post-doc is the rout to go – DeonLarry May 1 at 19:51
  • @DeonLarry I suspect that in general a 2nd PhD can be seen as a sign of lack of clear objective, but that wouldn't be your case since you can explain it. But I think the main reason that it's so unusual is simply that going through one PhD is enough of a challenge, and the opportunities you get once you have your first PhD make going through a second one look much less appealing. – Erwan May 2 at 9:25
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What type of research will you be doing in OR? Unfortunately, you will probably not be performing the type of research required in a CS PhD, for instance. Is there any reason why you applied for a PhD in OR instead of one of the topics you're interested in?

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    I didn't apply. There are military graduate schools(AFIT, Naval Postgraduate school). I have the grades and GRE scores they want to sent me there for the next four years. – DeonLarry May 1 at 0:53
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    OR is a sub-field of applied mathematics I would be doing research in: mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, and mathematical optimization, finding optimal solutions to complex decision-making problems. – DeonLarry May 1 at 0:55
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    To further answer your question I can't renegade on my commitment to the military since they paid for my undergraduate degree. Basically I am being offered a spot in a OR PhD program or go do military contractor project management for four years. Those are my only options available for the next four years.The military will not pay for me to get a CS/Math/Philosophy PhD until my initial commitment is completed. – DeonLarry May 1 at 1:00

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