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A Ph.D in Mathematics is the most difficult to achieve?

  1. Nov 9, 2009 #1
    Is this true? I want a Ph.D in Physics, Mathematics, and perhaps Chemistry. Biology (if that exists) and Psychology if I have the time
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2009 #2
    You wont have the time to do even 4 phd's...
  4. Nov 10, 2009 #3

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    Many schools do not permit multiple PhD's.

    At 8 years per PhD, you are talking 40 years to do this. What job do you want to do in the one year before you retire? :wink:
  5. Nov 10, 2009 #4
    8 YEARS!!!! :surprised I didnt even think most schools would let you stick around that long.

    Unless you are counting the 4 years of undergraduate...
  6. Nov 10, 2009 #5
    Depends on the field and school. The one stat I can remember off of the top of my head is last year's Princeton Philosophy PhDs had a median time to degree of 7.0 years, not including any time spend in master's programs or at other schools. This isn't unusual in philosophy.
  7. Nov 10, 2009 #6


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    8 years? Surely some of the courses would transfer over right? I thought must Ph.D programs (in the US at least) were 54 credit hours (i.e. ~3 yrs).

  8. Nov 10, 2009 #7
    I believe 3 years would be extremely quick for any subject. In philosophy, at least, no transfer credits are usually accepted at any school. Most of the time spent isn't on courses either.

    Picking on Princeton again (they keep good stats), the median time to a physics degree for last year's grads was 5.5 years. 5.0 years was the median time in natural sciences. Of course these numbers only include people who actually finish.

    http://gradschool.princeton.edu/about/docs/ratestable/tablea/PHY.pdf [Broken]
    http://gradschool.princeton.edu/facts/profiles/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Nov 10, 2009 #8
    usually, masters and PHD for Physics is frozen into one, no? If so, 5.5 is fair.
  10. Nov 10, 2009 #9
    Yes I believe this is true for most subjects. Usually you apply directly to PhD programs and master's coursework must be redone. Of course this varies and some schools accept transfer credit for some coursework. We're also assuming that all prerequisites have been met through a full 4 years of undergraduate work in the subject.
  11. Nov 10, 2009 #10
    It took me about seven years full time to get my Ph.D.

    One thing that makes things difficult is that a Ph.D. simply cannot be timed. You are doing original, new work, and any time you do anything original and new, unexpected things will happen that will destroy your schedule. You do something for about three months, and then figure out that what you tried just will not work, so you do something else.

    At the end of the process, you are trying to just get something minimal working.

    Also it's pretty common in education administration and geology for people to spend a decade on their Ph.D. This is in part because you are dealing with working professionals doing their Ph.D. part time.
  12. Nov 10, 2009 #11


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    Not between different fields, in general. For a physics PhD, you typically take graduate courses in classical mechanics, E&M, QM and maybe QFT, and thermo + stat mech, plus electives of course. Those required courses won't count anything for, say, biology, which probably has its own set of required courses.
  13. Nov 10, 2009 #12
    Also once you get one Ph.d. in one field, there is no real reason to get a Ph.D. in another field, even if you decide to do research in something totally different. If you want to do research in something totally different, you just do it.
  14. Nov 10, 2009 #13


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    True, but I was referring to the undergrad requirements with the understanding that most Ph.D programs were around 3 years duration. Hence, 2 or 3 years of the proposed 8 years could be transfer credit so to speak (again assuming the 8 years was inclusive of the 4 years of undergrad).

  15. Nov 10, 2009 #14


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    So you're saying you don't need a Ph.D to do research in a specific field as long as you have any type of Ph.D?

  16. Nov 10, 2009 #15
    Isn't this what anyone who does research on anything but their dissertation topic doing? It's also not uncommon to see professors with dual appointments based on research they've done in a different field since first obtaining a PhD.
  17. Nov 10, 2009 #16


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    That wasn't a rhetorical question.

    So you are confirming his statement?

  18. Nov 10, 2009 #17
    Well there will be social and funding barriers depending on the situation, but the PhD is granted mostly for one dissertation. It says that one piece of writing is PhD worthy. Of course you actually need to know enough about what you're researching to write something decent and that may take years to do if you haven't studied it specifically. Whether you have a math PhD or a condensed matter physics PhD I think you probably have about an equal shot at doing successful quantum field theory research, which is at least as good a shot as a quantum field theory grad student has.

    I'm just giving my opinion though, and I'm not an expert. If you're looking for funding or prestige among peers you'll probably have better luck sticking to what you already have a track record with.
  19. Nov 10, 2009 #18


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    That was my point. I can research a topic all day long if I won't without a Ph.D. However, would anyone take me seriously? Maybe...but probably not...Hence, I would really "need" a Ph.D to do research.

  20. Nov 10, 2009 #19


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    Any research will be taken seriously, with or without a PhD. Journals will still consider it. Undergrads have published in the past - they certainly don't have a PhD, although they are probably working with someone who has one. And if your research makes it past peer review, people will take it seriously (but they won't if it doesn't). However, having the PhD is a big advantage - they basically train you in the specifics of your field, how to do research, and how to get it published.

    To get back to the original question, yes, they offer PhDs in biology. As to which PhD is the 'hardest' to get, that's a hard question to answer. Apparently philosophy takes the longest on average, but I wouldn't call that harder than physics. But as a PhD candidate in physics, I may be a little biased. But everyone else is right - your plan is not feasible. Very few institutions will consider accepting you for a second PhD, much less a fifth. They want you to go work in the field and make them look good - you'll just look undecided. And the chances of you finishing all the undergrad requirements for all 5 or so PhDs in one go are pretty small, so you'd be adding more bachelors degrees to that list as well. In short, decide what you want to do with your life (besides 'accumulating degrees') and work towards the specific degree you need for that goal.
  21. Nov 10, 2009 #20
    I've never heard of anyone getting a Ph.D. in three years. 4-10 years pretty much covers everyone I've ever met... and I only knew one guy who managed to do it in 4.

    This maybe a computer science vs. physics or US vs Europe thing though...
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2009
  22. Nov 10, 2009 #21
    I am taking AP courses and planning to do summer courses every year in university.
  23. Nov 10, 2009 #22
    Please don't think "Ph.D." and "courses" in the same sentence. Yes, a Ph.D. student takes courses for a couple of years... but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of a Ph.D. program is doing research, not taking courses.
  24. Nov 10, 2009 #23


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    I know someone who finished his Ph.D. at Harvard in just 3 years without a prior masters. Of course, doing it is very rare. :)
  25. Nov 10, 2009 #24
    You get your Ph.D. *after* you've proved that you can do research in a particular field. Once you get past the initial coursework of a Ph.D. program (which is more or less the equivalent of a masters), you should know enough to do research in that field.
  26. Nov 10, 2009 #25
    You get your Ph.D. *after* you've convinced people to take you seriously. Once you understand what you need to have people take you seriously in one field, it's not terribly difficult to know what you need to do in an unrelated field.

    People that review research have no way of knowing whether you have a Ph.D. or not. They can figure out if you've mastered the jargon and the concepts of a field.
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