I am going to finish my PhD in the Netherlands within one year. Ideally I would like to get a postdoc here. However, due to competition or other factors I might not find a postdoc position. Then, there are two options:

  1. Searching for a postdoc outside of the Netherlands, which is not the best option for me currently.

  2. Doing a second PhD here.

What is the effect of doing a second PhD after I finished my first PhD, regardless if I extend it for some period of time or not. Will people see it as a failure? To me it does feel like failure!

One good point of working in the Netherlands is that PhD students are employed as research assistants. Thus, I think when I am able to search for postdocs in other countries it might not look as bad as I think.

Will doing a second PhD makes it harder to get a tenure track position later?

  • 8
    Option 3 - stay in your PhD program another year. Actually, that should be option 2, and a second PhD shouldn't be on the list.
    – user37208
    Aug 25, 2016 at 22:58
  • It is not possible to extend the PhD position for one year. However, my question is about after I finish my PhD.
    – MOON
    Aug 25, 2016 at 23:20
  • 7
  • Why do you want to do second phd? Do you have visa issue, don’t like your current phd, or any other obligations to go for second phd? If not, can you just take research position (even if it pays low salary) until you find postdoc/position of your interest? I don’t see point of doing second phd without a very strong reason to spend another 3-4 years. Mar 15 at 13:41

3 Answers 3


Nobody will care how many Ph.D. do you have when they consider you for a tenure track position. What will matter is number and quality of your papers/conference presentations after your PhD. If you want to change a field of your studies then it makes sense to do a second PhD. But if not, then it is a waste of time. It makes sense to delay your PhD defence rather than go for a second degree and use this time to focus on research.

  • 1
    I would expect papers published during a PhD to also factor into consideration, but otherwise this advice is sound. For a career, a PhD is just one of many stepping stones. Having two is unlikely to be useful, unless you're changing subjects.
    – leeman
    Mar 15 at 14:26

Your question assumes that you would be able to find another PhD position in the Netherlands. I would be surprised if there would be another university hiring you as a PhD candidate if you already have a PhD, in particular if it is in a related field. There have been other questions on this site on the merits of doing a second PhD, and it appears that the general consensus is that it would not be worth it in general.

International mobility becomes an increasingly important factor, in particular in small countries such as the Netherlands. This somewhat depends on the field, but not being able or willing to do a postdoc or otherwise outside of the country could seriously impact your chances of obtaining a permanent position in many fields in the Netherlands.

  • 1
    I'm 100% sure that you could find a second PhD if you wanted to. A PhD is a considerably cheap source of labour, founded in the unspoken promise of a good job/life afterwards. If after seeing first-hand what a PhD truly is and doing it again, they are basically as desirable as possible to a PI looking or cheap skilled labour. I agree with everything else you say, but don't give the OP the idea that he/she would be very very lucky to get an offer for a second PhD! Truthfully, OP needs a holiday to reflect on their PhD process, then decide what to do next. Aug 26, 2016 at 11:55
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    Well PhD students in the Netherlands are full-time employees, so although cheaper than a postdoc, it's still a non-trivial amount of money that has to be available. In the department where I did my PhD the number of available positions was certainly quite limited and also reasonable competitive. Aug 26, 2016 at 20:12
  • It being a second PhD would give some serious warning flags. Given the serious money it is not something that only matters for the student. Mar 16 at 9:53

I don't know how it is in your country, but typically in Germany (and I expect also in other countries) the following holds.

You cannot get a second PhD in the same field as you already have a PhD awarded.

Hence, you'd need to swap to another field, say to Mathematics from Computer Science, which might be hard to impossible.

There are ways for a further education, however.

  • Some people still manage to get a second PhD in a different field.
  • A honorary title, "Dr. h.c.", might be viable, but it's more a political thing.
  • Germany and some further European countries have a notion of a Habilitation or a "higher Doctorate", it's basically the second, "wider" PhD in the same field, that qualifies you (in old German tradition) for a professorship. An Assistant Professor on a tenure-track is roughly the same.
  • A Habilitation for a Dr. med. is sometimes called a PhD to mimic the anglo-saxon manner.

Finally, is a second PhD really the thing that would advance your career? I'd think about it similar to a second MSc. It not really does.

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