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Can someone with a Ph.D in field X get a job in academia or industry in field Y, even if the job posting says "PhD in field Y required?". If not how will going back to get a second post graduate degree be looked upon by academic and industry employers in field Y?

Background:

I am finishing my PhD in Mathematics and am currently on the job market. Ideally, I would land a math post-doc position, however, I have also been looking at industry jobs (as some of these would be more satisfactory than say a 4/4 teaching load or 3/3 or whatever it would be), but most of these seem to indicate that I would need a M.S. or PhD in Computer Science.I have a background in math as well as in C.S. (B.S. in C.S., B.A. in Math).

If I don't get a post doc offer, I am considering attending a school for a master's in C.S. in machine learning or a related field. Considering I have all the math background, I believe I would be a good candidate for a M.S. or PhD in C.S. And there are a lot of interesting problems where the two areas overlap.

Is it reasonable to return for a second degree if I don't get my dream post-doc offers, especially to make myself more marketable to industry? I am seriously considering this option.

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    Going back is always a choice, and you'd almost certainly be able to thrive in it. Reasonability on the other hand is a hugely personal question. Voting to close unless this can be edited to be more general. – Matthew G. Jan 22 '14 at 1:10
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    Oh, and one more thing, don't put so much stock in the indicators of requirements: If you're seriously considering these kinds of positions, put your resume in. With your background, you probably could find your way into some of these positions without the CS graduate degree. – Matthew G. Jan 22 '14 at 1:13
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Is it reasonable (your original question), yes. Is it necessary to get the job you want, probably not!

"Requirements" for a job are often just loose guidelines, and in some cases are used to scare unqualified, untalented, or under-confident people away from applying. Good employers will usually loosen these requirements (or sometimes even outright ignore all of them) for the right candidate. Someone with a B.S. in computer science and a Ph.D. in math is exactly the type of person who could potentially qualify for a position that asks for a Ph.D. in CS. Requiring a Ph.D. in CS might be used to scare away all the coding ninjas who might otherwise apply. It is all about the story you are able to tell in your resume and interviews. Make the skills you have learned while completing your math Ph.D. appear as transferable as possible. Talk to math grads who are now in industry and peck their brains. Your degree is lucrative if you know how to sell it. I wouldn't recommend getting a second Ph.D just to go out into industry. At the very least apply to a bunch of jobs and see if you get some interviews before you go off and spend 4-6 more years in school.

I know of several people who have Ph.Ds in math and applied math without a B.S. in CS who went into industry. Many of the jobs they took said Ph.D. in CS required. Some companies just want really smart mathy people in these positions.

  • Thanks! Let's say that I want to be involved in other areas of research that overlap in computer science but that have deep underpinnings in theoretical math (i.e. using tensor algebras in quantum theory, etc.). What's the best route to become abreast in other areas beyond my main discipline (and be accepted by the academic community)? I am trying to think ahead years (not too many!) down the road after the postdoc so that I have projects to offer graduate students. – nagniemerg Jan 22 '14 at 2:35
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    I'd say get active in the CS community at your school (while you are still in math). Go to the relevant CS seminars. Make friends with CS grad students, postdocs, and faculty. Chit Chat with CS professors after the seminars. Tell them your research interests and how you want to go the C.S. route. Ask them about the journals/conferences you should be reading/going to. You can still go to a C.S. conference as a math student/postdoc! – WetlabStudent Jan 22 '14 at 2:54

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