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I've been a PhD student in a STEM field for less than year now. Before embarking on this journey, I was pondering between electrical engineering and computer science for my MSc studies, which I completed before starting a PhD (It was possible to branch from BSc to either field). However, even after completing a MSc degree and working on a PhD in electrical engineering, I still find myself intrigued by the field of computer science.

Would I be spreading myself too thin / hindering my PhD project severely if i started working on a master's degree (2 years) in computer science as a free-time hobby during my PhD studies? I have already completed some coursework related to the degree and there is some synergy between the fields.

I have a strong feeling that studies in computer science would be valuable in my future career. On the other hand, I do not know if I will have to increase my working hours on the PhD project at some point to the extent that I don't have sufficient "free-time".

I would like to hear if you have had similar experiences/plans and what did you do. thanks for reading!

  • Does the university allow registration in more than one program? – ZeroTheHero Oct 2 '19 at 15:48
  • You made me laugh. I totally agree with @GrotesqueSI. Also if you have so much time (which i don't have although i am also a Phd Candidate) something is wrong with your Phd, cause as GrotesqueSI said the Phd is a full time job, and if you say you are in the first year, you should already probably done the "Related Work" field, and you should probably have many question in you of how you will proceed your Phd.... – George Stavrou Oct 18 '19 at 7:49
  • @ZeroTheHero Yes it does. George Stavrou, so far I have not felt the necessity to work 12 hour days (consistently) nor during the weekends, as my advisor thinks that my work is progressing well. Thus, I have some spare time each evening and the whole weekends to work on my own projects not related to my phd, i.e., MSc in CS. I have no issues regarding how should I proceed with my Phd. I opened the question to read opinions regarding time use during ones phd studies. As GrotesqueSI wrote, another (great) alternative would be to attempt to speed up the Phd instead, which I am considering. – Cfzeps Oct 19 '19 at 10:00
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Would I be spreading myself too thin / hindering my PhD project severely if i started working on a master's degree (2 years) in computer science as a free-time hobby during my PhD studies?

Everything else being equal and all things considered: YES! Unless you are specifically doing a part time PhD, a PhD is a full time job and there normally shouldn't be enough free time to take on master's level study in another subject. If you were my PhD student and you came to me with the idea of doing extra study unrelated to your PhD project, I would tell you it was a distraction from what you should be doing and could very likely lead to your PhD taking much longer than either you or I want it to. If you told me that you had a large amount of free time that you want to fill with academic study, I would help you find ways to apply that time toward your PhD so that you might advance faster on it.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to bring this idea to your supervisor and see what they think. They know you and your project, they will know if you are not being realistic about your available time.

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  • Thanks for the reply. I am indeed a doing a full-time PhD. Perhaps my view on the PhD process is slightly twisted, as I consider it to be a "regular" full time-job to some extent, i.e., I do not spend excessive number (but still more than a regular 9 to 5 job) of hours per week on the topic (as many PhD students do). Instead, after "clocking out" and going home, I use most of my free-time to study math/cs topics. Alternatively, I could go all out on my PhD topic with great intensity, but I'm afraid i will start to despise the topic. – Cfzeps Sep 15 '19 at 10:20
  • One thing to note is that PhD time commitment may vary across different countries. In the UK there is an extreme amount of pressure to finish a PhD in only 3 years and it is often impossible to treat it like a "9 to 5". If you have all the time and all the funding in the world, perhaps risk delaying the end of your PhD, but otherwise it's a huge risk. Are you unable to audit relevant courses at your Uni? That way you could sit in but not be bound to assignments etc. – GrotesqueSI Sep 15 '19 at 13:03
  • For me, the time is four years. The concept of auditing is not used in my uni, so I have to take part in the course activities to get a mark. I recognize the risk of this plan and this is why I am very hesitant. – Cfzeps Sep 15 '19 at 19:18

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