I hold a BS in Mathematics with a minor in Statistics and I've been out of school for several years. I recently began applying to part time online master's programs in Statistics and Computer Science. I've been accepted to the online MSCS program through Johns Hopkins University and I'm hoping to be accepted to the online MAS (Master of Applied Statistics) through Pennsylvania State University as well. My goal is to earn both degrees, and with expertise in both disciplines become the ultimate statistical programmer!

The catch here is that I don't want to (and can't really afford to) leave my current job to pursue school full time, hence the part time online programs. I could do one degree after the other, but that would be another 8-10 years I'd be in school, all the while working.

It's useful to note that I'm already a statistical programmer. Degrees are helpful, especially if at some point I'd like to transition to being a full-fledged statistician or a more general-purpose programmer. In my mind at least, it offers a level of career flexibility not readily attainable with just a bachelor's or even a single master's.

But my question is this: Is working 40 hours/week and taking two online master's level courses at a time in two different subjects from two different institutions completely insane? My family sure thinks so. Does anyone have experience or input they could share?

  • 5
    I'd say statistically it is likely to be insane. If you have the option to control the speed, you might start with both, and see how far you can get while maintaining a quality lifestyle. More likely is that you can leverage the attempt (not necessarily the completion) into a more rewarding career change. Your life is your own, but many people might think sacrificing family and work (and sleep, social time, whatever) for this pursuit would point to a form of mania. If you are serious about successfully integrating these studies into your life, get professional counseling offline. May 7, 2014 at 19:24
  • Many institutions have a policy that they will not award a degree to a student who already has a similar degree. Simultaneous enrollment might trigger a similar rule. So before even considering this, you should clear it with the relevant departments at Hopkins and Penn State. There's a fair chance that one of them says no and makes the whole thing moot. May 7, 2014 at 19:25
  • @NateEldredge: I'll look into it but I can't imagine it being an issue since the subjects are completely separate and credit from one program isn't being used for the other.
    – Alex A.
    May 7, 2014 at 19:29
  • @NotQuiteAnOutsider: I encourage you to post an answer to the effect of your comment.
    – Alex A.
    May 7, 2014 at 19:41
  • You might be surprised. At my graduate institution, if I'd had a PhD in chemistry, I'd have been ineligible to pursue one in mathematics. May 7, 2014 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


In my first semester as an undergraduate, I tried to take a double load of courses, and was dissuaded by the adviser assigned to me. I tried it anyway and failed one of the courses I had registered. (They let me do a big load in a later semester, with some success.) If I had stayed focused on my registered courses and let the courses I audited slip instead, I would not have that on my record. Also, I might have developed a different attitude toward that university.

Learning when not overachieve, or when not to make the attempt, is a hard lesson for many. Many years later, I am finding that I could have restructured my life, changed certain behaviours, and perhaps led a more efficient or satisfying or productive life. Fortunately, I still have some time to make changes.

In addition to the comment above about the proposed course likely being insane, and to seek help in real life (off the Internet) to pull it off anyway, I recommend a values inventory. The current program (one job, two degree programs) may seem feasible and cool and might nurture some internal aspect of pride; that doesn't mean it is good for you, or in line with how you will want to live your life.

Even if you don't know what you want to be when/if you grow up, checking in with yourself on what is important, and what you value, is a beneficial exercise you should repeat throughout your life. If you can (rationally and not maniacally) convince yourself that this use of time is in line with your current and possible future values, then go for it! It doesn't matter if you are crazy if you are enjoying yourself and not hurting yourself or others, but you may have to explain it to a judge or police officer; be prepared. If you aren't sure, ask for guidance, and avail yourself of the options that work and school might offer.

Either way, good luck to you.

  • I really appreciate your input and your willingness to draw from personal experience. Thank you.
    – Alex A.
    May 12, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    I walked in to my advisor's office on the first day and told him I wanted to major in math and physics, work part time at the library, do an honor's thesis... and be out in 3 years. He told me I was insane, and ended up being right. Aim high, but be realistic, especially when it comes to stress and ability to sleep.
    – kleineg
    Jul 14, 2014 at 14:10

Better to do one or the other. What you don't want to do is to fail out of either program. Pick the better/more prestigious one and do it. Also, I don't see how stacking up masters's degrees really helps you. I can see how one masters would help, but I don't see what value the second would add.

  • Thanks for your input. The benefit I see of having two is that they're in entirely separate disciplines, opening up opportunities in multiple career paths. The more prestigious is probably Hopkins MSCS but I think for the most part MSCS folks can't really be statisticians, should I choose to go down that road.
    – Alex A.
    May 7, 2014 at 19:53
  • I don't know that the benefit of the additional degree is actually the body of knowledge you get from the coursework primarily. Rather, I think it's the fact that the master's represents a higher level of ability and research skill. If that's right, then a second MA is only marginally beneficial.
    – user10636
    May 7, 2014 at 20:14
  • 1
    @shane: That doesn't really hold true for master's degrees in the sciences.
    – aeismail
    May 7, 2014 at 20:22

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