My situation is like this: I have tried to obtain an MS in CS/CSE but failed. Now, I am studying an MA in Education and planning to get a Ph.D. in Education. After that, my plan is to get a Ph.D. degree in data science.

Now, why this strange plan? The answer is, STEM pays money, but STEM research is hard. So, first I need to have a guarantee that if I fail to obtain a degree in data science, I always have something to fall back on.

Suppose, you are seeing my resume, what would your first thought be? Is having PhDs in two different disciplines counterproductive to each other? If I apply for a job in academia/research, would I be seen as a pariah in both education and/or STEM?

  • 2
    (assuming a US perspective) Why do you need a Ph.D. in education to fall back on, rather than just an MA in education? Other than principals at large schools, or most superintendents of school districts, an MA in education is plenty for most school administrative positions. Or are you wanting to pursue actual research in education? FYI, I think most Ph.D.'s in education do not go into education research. May 2, 2020 at 12:44
  • @DaveLRenfro, you almost certainly need an education doctorate to teach in a school of eduction, whether research is a big part of it or not. But not at the elementary or secondary level, as you note.
    – Buffy
    May 2, 2020 at 12:46
  • Have you considered doing a masters in data science when you finish the first masters, then do your PhD using data science in some education topic?
    – JenB
    May 2, 2020 at 15:39
  • @JenB, I have an anxiety disorder. STEM education puts a lot of pressure on my emotional state. That is why I failed in MS in CS.
    – user366312
    May 2, 2020 at 15:44
  • 3
    If STEM education may not be a good fit for you, why do a PhD in data science? If you are set on doing a PhD in Education, why not make it a computationally focused one? Educational Data Mining (EDM) is a pretty active field.
    – kjacks21
    May 2, 2020 at 17:47

4 Answers 4


My initial questions would be: What is it that you're trying to do? Why are you both a doctor of Education and a doctor of Data Science? What is your end goal?

First of all, these fields aren't unrelated. It's certain enough that pedagogy and technology are not the same subject matter, but Data Science as a skill is so pliable that it really fits anywhere you put it and is supplemental to basically any other field of study. Research in general requires data. You could put both to use, for example, as an academic performing big data research on whatever level of education your studies focused on. Maybe you really care about finding trends in, say, early childhood developmental strategy success by querying methods from a large pool of pre-K and K-12 environments and evaluating their degree of success. You might care to do this to find what works and what doesn't work for the sake of publishing literature on effective teaching strategies.

I'd expect that someone with a degree in education and data science would be looking for a position that marries the two disciplines. Secondarily, attempting to fill a position where one is used and the other supplements. Most commonly, you'll find yourself applying where one fits and the other doesn't, but this isn't so out there. There are always soft skills that can be transferred from one discipline to the other. Not to mention, if you have both degrees, that speaks volumes about your dedication in general.

Once those initial questions are evaluated, the follow-up would be: Is the position you've applied for a good fit for you? If you have that wealth of knowledge and mean to use it, are you under-applying yourself by working here?

I think that, less than your resume making you look like a fool, at that level, not fully applying all your academic skills would be the thing that would make you look like a fool. If you cared enough to go to the pinnacles of study for the field, why would you not use it, or at the very least, place yourself somewhere where you can draw on the less important of the two to your work to enhance your work?

As someone looking at your resume (and assuming I have the time to review it in detail) those would be the things I'd focus on. If the questions I have can answer themselves by nature of what you've applied for and your experience in a positive way, then you wouldn't look like a fool at all.

  • I provided an example where Data Science complements Education in this answer, but for those wondering how Education would complement Data Science, attempt defining quantitative measures suitable for data mining WITHOUT in-depth knowledge of the field of Education and all that can be assessed and boiled down to metrics. For extra pepper on this particular topic, while never having been a PhD student for either of these two fields, all the way down in undergrad I performed some research for a PI at my university that gave me some insight that others might not have.
    – psosuna
    May 4, 2020 at 16:27

I think you're planning too far ahead, and are definitely overthinking this. Most people find a PhD a pretty grueling process, generally well beyond expectations. My feeling from having gone through it myself, and knowing many others who have, is that the odds are very high that you'll have no interest in going through it a second time.

Get a PhD in the field you actually want to work in. Finishing a PhD is hard; finishing a PhD in a field you're not very interested in is even harder. Put your energy into doing one field well, rather than spreading your energy out and doing two fields at a lesser level.

But to disregard that and answer your question, I think people without PhDs would probably be impressed, while people with PhDs would think it very strange, and not necessarily good. But I suspect there would be pretty wide variance in opinions, depending on surrounding circumstances.

Edit: I should add that Master's Degrees make a pretty good supplement to PhDs. So if you finish this MA in Education and then move to a different field that you can plausibly supplement with Education, that would be normal and probably pretty effective. But again, plan to do your PhD in a field you're interested in.

  • "So if you finish this MA in Education and then move to a different field that you can plausibly supplement with Education" --- what do you mean by a different field in this sentence? I am doing my Masters thesis on Early Childhood Education.
    – user366312
    May 2, 2020 at 15:27
  • 1
    @user366312: Why not get a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education, with a thesis and research focused on heavy data analysis? Even in literary criticism there is this, and see the comment by kjacks21. I would imagine that there are not many education researchers who have a good command of quant methods, which will likely be increasingly important in years to come. May 2, 2020 at 18:37
  • @user366312 I mean if you finish your current MA and then move onto a data science PhD (or any other), then it will appear much more sensible than two PhDs. Especially if you intend to teach. Not to mention being far, far less work.
    – Jeff
    May 2, 2020 at 23:08
  • I agree with the spirit of your answer, so sorry for nitpicking, but this is a pet peeve of mine: Odds are not probabilities. You get high odds for unlikely events, and low odds for likely events. You're essentially saying that OP is likely to have some interest in doing a second PhD.
    – Anyon
    May 6, 2020 at 3:06

To be honest, your internal reasoning would be invisible to me. Why you did what you did can be speculated about, but you don't need to reveal it.

Many people change fields. The difference between Education and data science is wide enough that most of us would just assume you had a change of plan. Nothing wrong with that.

But, of course, your plan may fall through, and your plans may change. But for the main question here, don't worry about it. Worry about doing a good job in moving toward and evaluating your goals.

I might worry more about someone who had don't degrees in two very closely related fields. In such a case, the first degree gives you the skills to be productive in that field and in the related one. I might worry that you just wanted to be a perpetual student. But Education and STEM use different research methods and require very different insights. Having two degrees, either for changing fields or for wanting to work at the cusp, seems much more natural to me.


Suppose, you are seeing my resume, what would your first thought be? Is having PhDs in two different disciplines counterproductive to each other? If I apply for a job in academia/research, would I be seen as a pariah in both education and/or STEM?

My first thought - amazing, let's have a close look.

A phd is a title, a document. The process to get there may be more or less hard, satisfying or not. The two title documents will not be in a counterproductive relation. How could they? These are documents. What you are concerned with is the perception of the documents by others.

  • A CV consisting of just two lines, each for one PhD, maybe + a name - that would never cut it.
    • reading you CV will be very much shaped by which university, country you are from
    • by a contextualising letter that makes a case for how the reader should read your documents
  • in my experience of applicant assessments, multiple titles from different disciplines, are seen as an advantage - they demonstrate the capacity of the applicant to engage in diverse logics. If you have 2 PhDs in quite different fields, you can assume that these are an indicator of your broad range of capacity and thinking. Ask yourself whether you want to work for an employer who does not appreciate that broad capacity.
  • If you have 2 PhDs you probably do not want to have a job that would penalise you for your broad range of capacity and thinking. ---- what do you mean by this?
    – user366312
    May 5, 2020 at 3:52

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