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I'm in the process of making a decision with regards to graduate school and my number one choice is an interdisciplinary PhD program in Computational Science and Engineering. On the computational side of things I'll be focusing largely on data science, but I'll be looking to apply those skills to land use modeling. So effectively I'll be doing a lot of work in environmental policy.

My goal is to go into academia after my degree and as such I'm wondering if it would make sense to pick up a second masters in Environmental Policy as part of my coursework? Doing so would likely add a bit more time to the PhD, but would this make me more attractive as a candidate for a tenure track job afterwards given I already hold a Masters in Software Engineering?

  • From your question, It is not clear to me 1) whether the "interdisciplinary program in Computational Science and Engineering" is a Ph.D. program and 2) whether you are thinking about studying for the M.S. in Environmental Policy in parallel with something else OR sequentially, that is, prior to the CSE degree you have mentioned. – Aleksandr Blekh Aug 8 '15 at 3:33
  • @AleksandrBlekh I edited the question a bit so it should be more clear now. – anonymous Aug 8 '15 at 8:19
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When you are evaluated as a job candidate in academia, the first thing people will see is your PhD. That will tell them that you know how to dig into a topic, get the background knowledge that you need in order to conduct the research you are interested in.

The next thing they will look at is your publication record. Because of the peer review process, they will feel confident that if you publish in reputable journals on a particular topic, you know what you're talking about.

So if you're sure you're headed for academia, I think you will be fine just cherry-picking the particular courses you think will be most helpful for you in Environmental Policy. (Although if you find that you're, say, only one or two courses away from satisfying the requirements for the masters, then I suppose you might as well finish it off.)

Think of how many PhDs veer off in a different direction during the course of their career! They don't bother getting a new PhD in the process, because they already have one. You can think of the PhD studies as the apprenticeship to do research, and the PhD as a driver's license which was issued in one state, but which you can use in other states.

  • Yes, the big reason I asked was I heard somewhere that for teaching purposes most universities have a policy that you need n graduate courses in the subject. Thus the masters in Environmental Policy might enable me to teach those classes as well as Computer Science courses? – anonymous Aug 8 '15 at 16:57
  • @rob - Not sure about that, but I still think you should keep your focus and take courses to prepare for your thesis research. Getting a PhD is hard and you need to stay focused to get through. ---- However, if you want to do something to prepare for being a good teacher, you could take a couple of carefully chosen pedagogy (Education) classes. – aparente001 Aug 9 '15 at 0:09
  • I don't know where I got "rob" from! I should have said @rjzii. – aparente001 Aug 22 '15 at 17:58
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Thank you for the clarification. My opinion on your situation (which you should take with a grain of salt, of course) is that it would be an overkill (time-wise, finance-wise and otherwise) to go through another M.S. program with assumption that it would make you "more attractive as a candidate" for the CSE program. Even if it would, the "price" that you would pay for that might just be too high.

On the other hand, if you have plenty of time, financial resources and the lack of family or other obligations, I find nothing wrong in your approach - I am just not sure, whether it is the optimal one.

  • Sorry, it looks like the question might still be a bit unclear. The PhD would be the program I'd be enrolling in, but as part of I'm wondering if I should get the MS as part of the PhD coursework. So the MS would effectively be acquired in passing. – anonymous Aug 8 '15 at 16:54
  • @rob: Yes, the question was still unclear to me, as only now I understand that you are talking about studying in both M.S. and Ph.D. programs simultaneously. Anyway, in that case, the overall "price" that you'd pay would be less than in the sequential case. However, since you want to be more attractive "as a candidate", this still doesn't make much sense IMHO. I think that it is better to focus on one degree and, if you want to acquire some specialized knowledge, not offered as a part of the Ph.D. program, enroll in those specific courses additionally (such option is typically available). – Aleksandr Blekh Aug 8 '15 at 22:45

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