Is It Possible to Get a Double PhD?

For most graduate students, achieving a PhD is the pinnacle of their success as a student. It is the highest form of recognition of achievement in their academic career and is definitely something to be proud of. Getting a PhD means that you have mastered extensive knowledge and abilities in your field of study and that you are ready to reach for the highest position possible in your chosen career. You have surpassed the role of a learner and are now ready to create and dispense knowledge as you find ways to share it with others.
But for some students, a single PhD is not enough; they want to reach for a second, and some a third or more. Because this concept tends to be rather rare even among academics, it may lead many to wonder why anyone would go through the trouble of getting a double PhD and what’s involved in achieving this milestone.

Why Pursue a Double PhD?

There are quite a few reasons why one might pursue a double PhD. A student may be interested in a specialization after they have completed their general studies in a specific field of interest, others may be interested in pursuing a second career path that would be more beneficial to them. And perhaps a student is interested in combining two fields of interest to create an entirely new perspective in an industry. Whatever your reason for considering a Double PhD, you’ll find that getting a second PhD is possible but not always the easiest decision.

While rare, thoughts of pursuing a second doctorate is not uncommon. Many choose their careers while they are young and then after following a specific course of study, learn that they have a stronger inclination towards another field of interest. This is a natural evolution of the learning process and with time and experience, you’re exposed to different things that could draw your focus away from your original passion. You could spend years in one field before discovering something entirely new and fascinating to you.

How to Pursue a Second PhD

Pursuing a second PhD is not easy, especially if you’ve chosen a completely separate field of interest. This is primarily because each area of study will require a different focus in your research and in many cases, you will have to start over again from the bottom up to gain the knowledge that you need.

The process of getting a second PhD is often so convoluted that many universities actually discourage it. This is why many have concluded that it can’t be done pointing out that it shows a lack of focus or commitment on your part. However, if you take the right steps, it is possible to get a second PhD even in a university that frowns upon it. You will have to demonstrate that your level of interest and your reasons are based on solid research and understanding of what’s involved. Some things you might want to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your decision. Talk with your current professors and advisors about what you’re thinking well ahead of making your decision. They are there to facilitate your education and open and frank discussion about your reasons will go more favorably if they are not blind sighted.
  2. Connect with professors and researchers in your new field of interest so they can give you the assistance and support you need.
  3. Start working towards gaining experience in your new field of interest before you apply for the new graduate program.

The bottom line, a second degree is possible just make sure that you take the time to discover all you can about your new academic career path before making a final decision. You may be called upon to prove that you are truly dedicated to this new responsibility. Ideally, if your second degree is somehow related to the first your application will be more readily received so finding common ground between the two fields can bridge the gap and ease the reservations that some may have.