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Some background info: CS and Philosophy major; Asian; intending to study in the US or Europe.

I am currently doing research related to CS (computer security in particular) and intend to pursue a PhD in CS and look for a tenure-track position in the future. It doesn't have to be in the West, in fact I want to go back to my home country, it's a wonderful place. I know it's ignorant and naive to say this as an undergraduate, but I like doing academic research more than industry jobs. I have some research experiences and publications, though none of them are considered exceptional.

But I have a dream that in the future I can do research related to (political) philosophy. I'm currently doing a double degree in philosophy, and then I'm super into that field, as much as I'm into CS. Sounds even more ignorant and naive, if I get a research position in academia someday, I can do interdisciplinary research in philosophy and CS.

As far as I can tell, doing research in philosophy is far from doing research in CS, and I do not think getting a PhD in CS make me a good philosophy researcher, let alone a "philosopher."

Here are some of my concerns.

  • It's probably not a good idea to do a interdisciplinary PhD. I have heard that doing a interdisciplinary PhD will make it harder for me to find an academic job and eventually get a tenure-track position. People in CS departments still prefer traditional CS PhDs. Is this true?
  • Doing two PhDs is probably too much. Life is too short for multiple PhDs.
  • Maybe I should get an MPhil in Philosophy before getting a PhD in CS. But will this hurt my application, since I will have done much less CS research in the last two years by the time I apply for CS PhD? And even if I get the degree super fast, I will be 35 by the time I get the PhD. I have heard that age affects the chances of getting a job in academia, though information are equivocal (ref1, ref2).
  • Or maybe doing an MPhil in Philosophy after a PhD in CS? It might affect the continuity of my research. Getting a job in academia is hard enough, and I would probably be less active in the CS research community for two years while others are doing postdocs. Also, I am concerned that doing a Master's degree when I have a PhD will sound strange to most people, including my potential employers. (ref3, ref4, although in both cases two disciplines are related, which is not true in my case) And the previous concern also applies, I will be 35 when I finish my MPhil.
  • Is it even a good idea to do multiple degrees in completely different fields in the first place? Maybe I should only consider doing interdisciplinary research after I get a tenure-track position? Some professors told me that cross-disciplinary research is for tenure-track professors because they have full freedom in their research, especially in my case, we all know that many people think Philosophy is useless.

In conclusion, the main questions are: whether I should get an additional degree in Philosophy, and in what order should I study one, before or after CS PhD?

I understand that there are many individual factors. I have tried to refine the question so that the answers would be applicable to other students who are also interested in doing super-far-away interdisciplinary research.

There is a related question, but the fields they are interested are not as far apart as in my case, and in that post the author was already doing a PhD so he/she did not have to worry about the order of getting degrees.

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  • Cai-- my gut feeling is that there are reasonable questions for the SE format here and you've made a laudable effort to fit them. But there are still too many for one question. If you can break them up into concise individual queries, that's both within the rules and more likely to get you cohesive answers to each.
    – user137975
    Mar 29, 2023 at 5:59
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    Hi Anonymous M, I know that the post is long. However, the problem is that most questions in themselves are trivial. Of course finishing PhD earlier is better; of course having a degree to prove my research ability is better. The problem is that I can’t get the CS PhD early while have an additional degree in philo. So the problem become whether the advantages of getting additional degree in certain order compensate the disadvantages. Or, if getting an additional degree worths it, in what order should I get one.I believe that this is a single question that cannot be further separated.
    – Cai Fang
    Mar 29, 2023 at 6:23
  • I slightly updated the post to clarify my question. Thanks for pointing out the problem of the post.
    – Cai Fang
    Mar 29, 2023 at 6:30
  • Have you investigated the background of the people who are doing the kind of interdisciplinary research you're interested in? I would suppose you have, as this seems to be something you'd be somewhat aware of even without extra investigation (e.g. being familiar with the work and background of some of the well-known researchers for things you're interested in), but regardless of what you know in this regard it would be helpful to indicate in your question what you know in this regard. (continued) Mar 29, 2023 at 8:56
  • Incidentally, it occurs to me that relatively recent researchers would be more relevant for how helpful their background education would be for your concerns than those beginning several decades ago, since moving to or from CS was likely different in the 1970s and 1980s than the 2010s (due to the rapidly changing nature of CS as an academic discipline in the last few decades). Mar 29, 2023 at 8:56

2 Answers 2

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At one point in my career, an administrator in my university said (paraphrased) "Being able to promote yourself with qualifications in interdisciplinary areas is nice, but after all .... interdisciplinary is just a word." Which is to say, often the only ones who seem to appreciate the added talents required to be truly interdisciplinary are those who themselves also are.

With this example, recognize that interdisciplinary is not the norm, it is the exception. In this regard, when you are at a PhD level, have a keen interest in what is otherwise considered as interdisciplinary studies, and have an eye on going into academic fields later, focus on one discipline where you find your greatest passion. Allow that you also demonstrate how your focused studies can be used in the interdisciplinary field. Follow up with post-doctoral studies that broaden your experiences in the companion interdisciplinary field.

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If you really want to do this, find the professors who are doing the kind of work you want to do. Then apply to the programs they teach in. There is a lot of overlap between CS and Philosophy (although probably not political philosophy) and if you follow these things you even see that philosophers sometimes get NSF grants.

I think you should talk to your faculty in both fields and get their suggestions. You might want to look into summer programs or research opportunities in both. Being a graduate student or professor in either of these areas is really different from being an undergraduate. I don't know about if any of these programs takes international students but this is a list of some for philosophy. summer programs

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