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So there are already some good questions on the topic of double doctorates:

Is doing two PhD's a good path?

When does one go for a double doctorate?

I'm looking for some advice specific to my situation. I'm currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in a mathematical field (computer science) but most of my research is geared towards applying these methods in a scientific field (stellar astrophysics). Because of this, my advisor is encouraging me to take up a second Ph.D. in astro. He says I can write one dissertation to get both degrees, and he doesn't think that it will delay my time to graduation too significantly.

On the one hand, it is attractive to me, because it might help qualify me more towards future positions in astrophysics. On the other hand, I don't necessarily see too much additional value in getting a second one; to me a Ph.D. is a license to do research, and one doesn't need two licenses. Further, I'm sure there is a real risk of it delaying my time to graduation significantly despite what I might be told. I'm also not completely convinced that it would equip me with skills that I wouldn't already be getting, although it might demonstrate to others that I have those skills. But then again, can't they just look at my publication record? Finally, while I absolutely love astrophysics, I am also attracted to other sciences, and I wouldn't want a doctorate in astro to cause people to think that I can't work in other sciences also.

Are all these concerns legitimate? Have I laid out the pros and cons appropriately? Are there other considerations I should contemplate? Are there some drawbacks or advantages that I haven't listed?

  • Wouldn't you need to do the extra classwork and pass qualifiers in astrophysics as well? That must add some time, and the dual degree would certify that you have that knowledge of the astrophysics not only CS. – Orion Jul 31 '14 at 21:26
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    to me a Ph.D. is a license to do research — nope. Nobody needs a license to do research. A PhD is just a license to apply for certain types of funding/jobs. – JeffE Aug 1 '14 at 5:14
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    He says I can write one dissertation to get both degrees — Red flag! I seriously doubt this is true. I recommend asking someone else for an official opinion. – JeffE Aug 2 '14 at 19:56
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I don't really see the point. I agree with a PhD being a license to do research. If you are interested in astrophysics and want to get a strong profile for future work there, make sure your publications are related. That's much more convincing than two PhDs.

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...my advisor is encouraging me to take up a second Ph.D. in astro.

I would not trust random strangers on the internet more than my advisor. He has nothing to gain with proposing this and he is probably genuinely interested in your welfare. Still, he may not know well the administrative part of his proposal, so make sure you know the details well by asking the administrative people of your university.

  • Is there extra courses required?
  • Do you need to write only one dissertation? How will your dissertation change in case of the dual PHD.
  • Will the PHD awarded from the same department as the single PHD or from a combination of departments.
  • How much longer will your PHD take?

So make sure you get your facts straight and then talk your objections with your advisor. Then you can decide what you want

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Your research interests and ability to articulate your interests in grant proposals will be significantly weightier in your future career than precisely which department from your university's school of arts and sciences signed off on your dissertation.

Your publication history (which journals, what topics, etc.) will be more convincing than a dual PhD (which, honestly, would get you more sideways glances than researching or professing outside the department of your degree issuance).

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