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Complementary Ph.D

  1. Apr 7, 2014 #1
    Hey all! I have a personal question, but hopefully this will be useful to more than just me.

    I'm going for a Ph.D in cognitive neuroscience. I am convinced this is what I want to do. Once I've achieved that, is it totally unrealistic to attempt another postgraduate degree in another field (say, mathematics / physics / biology / philosophy / linguistics)?

    Even if it is realistic, is it worth it? For example, I find linguistics (Kripke, Chomsky etc.) indispensable for understanding certain papers on the brain; ditto abstract algebra / quantum theory / philosophy of mind. However, I don't know if this means I actually want a degree in these fields, if a degree in these fields would means knowledge vs. no degree, or if having multiple degrees would improve my career prospects as a brainguy.

    In short, would I be better off with a Ph.D in my field and a ton of self-study in others, or multiple Ph.Ds (and less self-study)?
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2014 #2
    You should get a math and physics PhD to compliment it.
  4. Apr 7, 2014 #3


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    You may want to consider the practical aspects of what you're asking.

    The average amount of time it takes to earn a PhD is roughly six years of graduate school. That's after you've met the requirements to get into an graduate program in the field in the first place, which usually requires majoring in that field for four years as an undergraduate. Assuming that you have perhaps double-majored as an undergraduate and are qualified to get into multiple disciplines then you're looking at 12 years of your life to complete the two seperate degrees. It's possible that once you've learned how to do research that you'd cut some time off of that, but even if the second one only takes half the time - that's still nine years.

    And what would a second PhD gain you? Not much. You see at some point you're going to end up sacrifcing something. In order to earn that second PhD, you would more-or-less have to leave your first field. And during that time the field won't wait for you. If you try to do both at once, the best you can realistically hope to achive is being half as good as those who've specialized in either field.

    You would likely be better served developing one area of expertise and then getting involved in collaborations that involve other experts. You would still have to do a lot of self-learning. (Any research involves a lot of self-learning).
  5. Apr 7, 2014 #4
    A more serious answer would say PhD programs are not in the business of training students for their nth phd degree where n > 1 so you would be hard pressed to find someone to take you in. It also isnt the best reflection when you cant decide a focus for an educational system based on focuses (majors/topics).
  6. Apr 7, 2014 #5
    Thanks! This is exactly what I wanted to know.

    I have another question. Suppose a job requires extensive knowledge from multiple fields. Is the interview process the only way to communicate that you, the applicant, actually possess this extensive knowledge? It's just that, to me, "self-learning" looks ugly on a CV.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  7. Apr 7, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    What kind of job are you imagining?
  8. Apr 7, 2014 #7
    Research. Specifically I want to work in affective neuroscience. Eventually I hope I can guide my own research, but for now, I suppose monkey work for someone else. Is that naive/too simplistic? That is, am I leaving a lot of steps out?
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2014
  9. Apr 7, 2014 #8

    D H

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    Why can't you make that the subject of your first PhD thesis? Then you won't have to get that second PhD.
  10. Apr 8, 2014 #9
    There are people doing research on that topic and very very likely they only have one phd
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