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Quick background: I am currently pursuing two master's degrees, "Data Engineering and Analytics" from TU Munich and "Computer Linguistics" from LMU Munich. I am in my second semester and plan to finish both in 2 1/2 years. The time frame and work load seems reasonable as of now, I am having fun with it and don't work crazy times. Both degrees deal with quite different topics, though they might seem similar. My master's at TUM is very mathy and proof-based. The other master's is rather practical. For the first Master's I'm expecting a 1.7+- and for the second a 1.3+-.

My motivation to do this is mainly based on my wish to pursue a PhD: 1. LMU is very good in (deep) NLP (<- broad description of my research interest) and one of the Prof's work is very interesting, hence I am currently looking for touch points. 2. I personally don't think the Computer Linguistics programm is super sophisticated, the stuff we do is rather shallow so I think knowledge-wise it's not such a huge gain (I consider my TUM master's my "main" work). Here is my question: 3. I want to distinguish myself. I am looking for an internationally renowned Uni for my next step so I am assuming I have high competition. Under these circumstances could you confirm / give your view if pursuing two degrees is a good idea? Should I channel my resources to do something different (e.g. look for actual research experience, publications, etc.), I don't know many people in these fields yet, the Bachelor's programmes in Germany are quite anonymous.

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    Only a specific university evaluating all of your qualifications can give an answer to this. There are too many variables for a general answer. One issue I might raise is whether you are (just) a professional student or are dedicated to some particular academic/scientific goals. – Buffy May 25 at 12:17
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    You seem unfocused. That isn't a good place to be when applying for a PhD. I want to do research in "something". I'm finding "something" compelling and it drives me. – Buffy May 25 at 12:40
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    Spend some time imagining yourself being happy and fulfilled in 20 years. – Buffy May 25 at 12:42
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    There is no infinite space in a CV for a reason. Don't fill it with more of the same (Masters), try to add some variety (Master and internship at NASA, or at the statistical office of the health ministry of Bavaria, it may be even more interesting) – EarlGrey May 25 at 12:55
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    Early in an MS program is a good time to "go broad". In the US, in doctoral studies after a BS, you are pretty much forced to go broad taking courses in order to pass the comprehensive exams which are advanced but still broadly cover the field. – Buffy May 25 at 13:01
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I'd say, having two masters degrees could definitely help you if you consider the 2nd one as a back-up plan (in terms of research fields/directions) if you cannot find a good PhD position in the field relevant for your 1st (main) one. It should, of course, depend on the availability, so ideally, there should be higher competition in the field of the "main" one, and not vice versa.

If you already know that you only want to continue in the field of your "main" one, and see the 2nd as an additional line on your cv, I doubt it is going to help you much, maybe unless your 2nd one is more math-heavy than the 1st one (which is not the case, as I assume from your question). In that regard, considering your 2nd masters direction a back-up plan could be quite smart.

Yet, if your 1st one is more fundamental and your 2nd is more applied, one way I can think of how your 2nd masters could help you obtain a PhD position in the field of the 1st one is: if during your 2nd masters, you learned a specific technique, or software etc, which is highly relevant for the PhD project you are aiming at. There is always a bit of luck involved though, unless you make a thorough analysis of the PhD positions market a few years ahead.

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  • I am considering my "main" studies my main studies because they are much more mathematically fundamental, thorough and thus more challenging than my 2nd studies. I am considering my 2nd studies more like the application area of my 1st studies. In a way I see them kind of complementing each other. I like math (though I am not a mathematician) and TUM (my 1st Uni) gives me a strong math toolkit at hand, whereas LMU (my 2nd Uni) gives me stuff to apply my knowledge to. Thanks for you view! – MarcelB May 25 at 13:51
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Pursuing a dual Master degree to distinguish yourself is likely to be detrimental. You are doing good in learning the analytical foundations (i.e. the TUM master) then you want to apply these foundations somewhere (i.e. not the LMU master).

Have a look at https://www.s-a.uni-muenchen.de/praktikum/index.html and then propose yourself for an internship at companies or at the LMU department/professor of your interest. It will be much more effective in providing you additional insight and experience (well, it is an internship, it is designed exactly for that reason).

I am looking for an internationally renowned Uni for my next step so I am assuming I have high competition

You have only one competitor: yourself. PhD candidates applying to a certain position usually are not really compared one against the other, they are quite often evaluated in an absolute way, something along the lines "30 applicants, 4 are a good fit? ok, is there the perfect fit? no? keep on searching"

If, on the other hand, you are aiming at a PhD in the US, it can be slightly different, but PhD in the US is often a Master+PhD thing ... do you want to have 3 Master?

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    "detrimental seems a bit strong. – Buffy May 25 at 12:54
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    Normally you need to do "something" to add an MS to a PhD in the US. It isn't just a freebie, generally. I have a masters from one place and a PhD (only) from another, both in US. – Buffy May 25 at 12:55
  • @Buff y yes, I agree the MS is not for free, not at all, you have to obtain it ... exactly for these reasons I am asking if the OP want to put so much effort: the combined effort to get "only" 3 MS looks to me the premise to a very frustrating experience... – EarlGrey May 25 at 12:58
  • I wouldn't mind doing a PhD in the US, that would be a great experience and I've lived in the US for a year before. But besides the pros I heard of lots of disadvantages that come with it (possibly having to do another MS as you said, possibly heavy non-research duties to make up for fees, etc.) so right now Europe/Germany would be my first choice. – MarcelB May 25 at 13:05
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    I disagree on "PhD candidates applying to a certain position usually are not really compared one against the other" - on the contrary, a direct comparison is often the case, based mostly not on the degrees but specific skills (obtained during their e.g. masters thesis). Of course, it also depends on supply/demand ratio, as usual. – sleepy May 25 at 13:09
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If you want to work in industry:

A HR person is mostly tasked with sorting out applicants. They assign them to job candidacies and within the candidacies they assign them for follow up or no follow up.

The assignment to candidacies is already so streamlined to save the HR person's time that basically the candidate must tell the HR person exactly what job they are applying for. A dual master's doesn't provide leeway on "I'm applying for jobs A or B" as this creates the potential for unhealthy competition within the company over a single candidate. So, you'll only apply for a specific job, and if you apply for a different job with the same organization, you'll have to wait a grace period (to overcome their anti-application spam handling, where one applicant applies for dozens of jobs).

Assuming you have a job role that requires both of the disciplines, it could be of great benefit to you; but, most job roles will only have one discipline in mind, so you would likely be a "better" candidate only after all other factors were considered equal.

In academia:

The next step in academia is to obtain a PhD diploma, the effective minimum requirement for obtaining an Assistant Professorship, but in all honesty there will likely be one or more post-Doc research positions before you build a sufficient resume to gain such a position. After you obtain the PhD, your Master's degree details will be a curiosity at best.

There are teaching positions where you only teach, which don't require a PhD. A Master's degree will give you an advantage here, but an additional Master's will not give you much of an additional advantage, unless they want you to teach in both subjects. These kinds of positions pay extremely poorly and have little to no job advancement, but they are favored by those in industry who look to bolster their careers with "university credentials". Some consultants take this route to great success; but, you'll never gain the benefits of being a tenured professor.

In short, if the fields overlap a lot, it could be immediately beneficial in industry. It the fields don't overlap, probably much less so. In Academia, if the fields overlap a lot, the benefits will probably only impact your PhD Application and be long lost by the time you hit the wall of getting the Assistant Professorship (no tenure).

I'd only do it if it involved less than a semester's additional courses, or if the two programs combine with synergy to obtain an additional benefit not present in each one individually.

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