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Has anyone had experience working on two graduate degrees at once? The goal being to gain mastery in CS, specifically machine learning so that it can be applied to research problems in the earth sciences.

I'm currently a first year Ph.D. student in geophysics focusing on applying machine learning to massive datasets of satellite imagery. I just got accepted to Georgia Techs Online Masters in Computer Science. I'm trying to decide if I should do it while working on a Ph.D. The CS program is part-time designed for working professionals and is low-cost $6,600.

While I can certainly learn the CS material on my own, I feel a formal credential will be taken more seriously. A tech career would also be a fallback plan, knowing how competitive the academic world is having a plan B is important to me. Any advice is appreciated.

  • If I were you I would just pick and choose the individual courses that you think would be most helpful. Preferably at the same institution as the PhD program of studies you're pursuing. If you don't find the courses you want there, then take them online, one course per semester. It is actually quite common to take some courses in another, complementary, department. By the way, your fall-back plan can still work even without a master's -- just show them your credentials and your transcript. – aparente001 Nov 4 '16 at 3:27
  • Don't chase two goals. Applied knowledge is more significant than a textbook level course. Hence, learn only what you need at an advanced level. If have prior knowledge in OOD the CS program might be unnecessary and take precious time from your research. – Mikey Mike Dec 4 '16 at 20:47
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In general, the CS and machine learning community is more interested in what you build than in what diploma's you have. There won't be many companies where a masters degree is going to significantly compliment a phd with relevant practical experience. A masters degree could give you a more solid theoretical foundation and the possibility to work on some other (toy) project giving you more broad experience. However you can also get that using coursera and personal projects.

The real trade-off is: a more structured program versus a more self-made learning path. The degree program also 'forces' you to do the work, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

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