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As the philosophy job market is so prestige focused, I think getting a fresh PhD in a subject related to philosophy at a fancy place like Princeton or Harvard could really help. I'm not sure they would let you get another philosophy PhD though. It's funny that not having the fancy degree has made you unemployable given that you could very easily complete a PhD at any of these fancy programs, if they would admit you. Our caste system in academia really is absurd. Academia is also a popularity contest. So, alternatively you could try to network like crazy and try to get your name out there.


Re a 2nd Ph.D.: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...

Marcus Arvan

Wes: Point taken, though I think it's a bit too simplistic.

It is important to recognize here that not all job-markets are nearly as bad as philosophy's (or humanities disciplines more broadly). In fact, some fields have amazing prospects. For example, my spouse's PhD program in I/O-Psychology has something approximating a 100% placement rate in academic or high-paying industry jobs (new PhDs from her program routinely make well upward of $100K per year in their very first industry jobs). By a similar token, current pandemic aside I expect that PhDs in fields like computer science, biology, etc., can be expected to lead to good paying jobs outside of academia if an academic job doesn't work.

Anyway, I suppose I could be wrong about some of the above fields, but in any case it suggests that if one wants to consider a 2nd PhD, it's not necessarily a fool's errand. Rather, one should do the research and exercise due care in deciding which field to pursue a 2nd PhD in, so that one doesn't make the same kind of mistake (getting a PhD in a field with poor job prospects) a second time.


I completely agree with Marcus. This was actually my plan after I had spent many years on the philosophy job market in a small, but crowded field. While I got a TT position in philosophy before I moved into the new field (economy-related), I had begun to make contacts and checked some things out. Here are some of my experiences:

1. I would have been very welcome in the other discipline. Philosophy was seen as an asset, as a kind of intellectual training that is valuable and rare in this particular discipline. I also would have pursued an issue that is closely connected to a part of my philosophical research.
2. My preparations for starting the new PhD helped me in philosophy too. I could exhibit a knowledge about real word connections not many people care about in my field, but which shows the significance of my work for broader contexts (also philosophers in other fields). I believe that this was important for my successful interview.
3. My desperation faded. Knowing that I could have additional interesting academic and non-academic opportunities made me much more relaxed, especially in interview situations.
4. I believe that my philosophical research (esp. the writing) profited a lot from looking into how another discipline works.
5. I got to know some very interesting people in the new disciplines (PhDs, professors). I learnt a lot about the social context of philosophy: what I like about it and what I do not like about it.

Dipping my toe into this water was thus a rewarding life experience. While I could have spent the time I already used writing another article or preparing a new research project, I believe it was a good choice to look somewhere else. I am nevertheless very happy that I could stay in philosophy after all.


Do you work in normative areas? Perhaps a law degree--or even one of those law master's--and a position on a law faculty is the solution. Those positions definitely pay more, and with less teaching.


There are a number of philosophers of science who have dual PhD's - the first usually in a science, the second in Philosophy. But one advantage of science PhDs is that they are usually faster (fewer years in school). But it is hard to imagine it would be worth it to do two long... PhD programs.


I know of a fair few philosophers from one specific country in Europe who have two PhDs in philosophy--one from the home country, and another from a better-known English-language program. In fact, one of my cohort-mates in my PhD program already had a PhD in philosophy, and was doing this second one to get the credibiliboost (although she ended up getting a job while ABD in our program). She had several books to her name when she started. So it's doable.

I don't know whether it's worth the time and energy, however, or if it even helps. A different PhD seems like a better bet, especially if you can hammer it out quickly, but even then I don't know that it's worth it. Is it better, for example, than getting a Master's in the new field and then trying to get hired in the new field on the basis of that plus your existing, closely-allied PhD in philosophy? Shrug.

I can say this much: given the opportunity, I'd be happy to pursue a second PhD in something completely (or very) different--for its own sake. But as a means of getting a job in philosophy? Naw. If all I want is a philosophy job, I have to think that the time invested in a new PhD would be better spent on publishing in philosophy, maybe even in a new AOS.

Phil Osopher

Not to take away from anything that's been said about multiple PhDs (or also, I would note: maybe even just getting a Master's in a non-philosophy discipline), but I am wondering about the basic premise of the question -- that is, is lack of absolutely top-list pedigree really such a determinative factor in hiring that it would even make sense to pursue a second degree from a shinier place? All of the Leiter-ranked programs place people, or at least they used to back when there were any jobs at all. Even a number of respectable-but-Leiter-unranked programs do as well. I'm not saying that they necessarily place at a super high rate, but they do place enough that the evidence just doesn't seem to support the thesis that "being from a Leiter low-ranked school makes one unhireable". It can be an obstacle, for sure, especially since all hiring contests are comparative. But it's not such a word of doom that one should try to get a whole second philosophy degree.

I do wonder whether the OP has maybe been poorly advised/mentored? There may be some other kiss-of-death factors in their dossier that they are not aware of. That they asked this question in the first place suggests to me perhaps an inadequate acculturation into the profession at large. (It also makes me, I must confess, unsure whether to truth their judgment as to what would constitute a tenurable CV at a research university.) I'm not saying this _at all_ to cast aspersions on them. I'm just suggesting that there are other hypotheses concerning their lack of job success that may be at least as likely as having only a medium-grade pedigree, if not more so. And some of those hypotheses, if they are true, would suggest much easier solutions than getting a second philosophy PhD.


Since it seems that the primary (and in this case the only) motivation for getting a second PhD is a prestige tag, I wonder if doing a postdoc at NYU or Oxford might be better. I hasten to note that these postdocs might also be extremely competitive but given a choice between a second PhD and a postdoc, I would prefer a postdoc. And since you say that your publication record is pretty good, I imagine that getting a postdoc at NYU or Oxford or the likes might not entirely be out of the question.


I'm stretching a lot to imagine myself in this position, but if I were on a hiring committee at a decent school, I'd find a CV with *two* phil PhDs (one from a low ranked school, and one from a high ranked school) *really* strange --- I'd assume there was something funny going on or a weird story behind it I wouldn't like. (And in this case, I'd be right.)

I sometimes hear desperate philosophers, who have struck out on the job market (badly), start talking about going to law school, even though until that point they have showed no interest or experience in law. It always looks like an ill-thought out desperation move. Any talk of a second phil PhD strikes me the same way (unless, as noted above, your first program was from an obscure non-English program).

"That they asked this question in the first place suggests to me perhaps an inadequate acculturation into the profession at large." (Phil Osopher) This sort of sounds right to me, although I think desperation can make us philosophers consider things we should know are implausible. In any case, it speaks (albeit anecdotally) to how weird the idea is.

It also just doesn't make a lot of sense: The point of the PhD is to learn how to read and write professional philosophy, but you already know how to do that.

The people I know, in phil, who have two PhDs got their non-phil PhD *first*. They did the non-phil thing, got exposed to phil, and decided they'd rather do phil, and so pivoted into it. Doing a (serious) PhD program is *so* much work and effort that it's hard for me to see doing the non-phil PhD as this kind of side project while you still hunted a phil job and published in phil. Depending on the norms of the program and your situation, you might even piss them off. How would you feel if you were a phil faculty member, trying to run a phil program under tight, limited resources, and some poli sci person showed up wanting to do a phil PhD *just* to bolster their CV and bide their time while looking for a poli sci job? I think the conversation is different if you're genuinely interested in the second discipline, and especially interested in a potential career there, or at least if you do serious interdisciplinary work.

I'm pretty sure that if you put the immense time and effort that it would take to get a second PhD into networking, that time and effort networking would do more to increase your odds of getting a job than the second PhD (assuming you have the publications, etc). That's not to say it's guaranteed, of course; it's just a comparison of the odds.

Overall, I think you should be looking forward in life, not looking back. Networking and/or (genuinely) expanding into a new discipline or interests (with other career opportunities) strike me as growth strategies. A second phil PhD strikes me as stagnation, or a move backwards, especially if you already have a good publishing record.

second opinion

Following up on Phil Osopher's remarks:
I think the person who is considering the 2nd PhD should have someone - Marcus or even me - review their application materials. There may be a glaring problem ... or glaring enough such that an outsider can see it. I did this once before (mediated by Marcus ... as I wish to remain anonymous). But I think Marcus would also be willing to offer a frank assessment (assuming he is not overwhelmed with other work). A second PhD is a major investment of time and energy ... and one should be sure that there is not a more readily available and expedient solution to the problem. The file I looked at before was described as having four papers in great journals - in reality it was one paper in a great journal, one in a fine journal, and two in obscure places that would really count for little.

Marcus Arvan

second opinion: I agree, and would be happy to look at the OP's materials if they were to contact me by email.

Although I have suggested on this blog before that PhDs from low-ranked Leiter programs may have inordinate difficulties getting jobs at R1s (due to having to compete with 'Leiterific' folk), the OP's claim that their program ranking makes them 'unhireable' doesn't seem right to me either.

It could be that they've just had a run of tough luck on the market (which is very common), or there could be something else about them or their dossier that is causing them problems. Anyway, if the OP wants to send me their material to look at, my email is marvan@ut.edu.


I agree that a second PhD in Philosophy is probably a bad idea. Like others, I have to wonder whether there's something else at work here that would explain OP's experience. Are they applying to TT positions at non-R1 schools? I assume they are, but then I wouldn't think that a PhD from a low-ranked department would hurt them nearly as much with a hiring committee at a SLAC or state university. I myself have a PhD from an UNRANKED department that Leiter has explicitly trashed and I was able to get a TT position at a state school with a relatively long publication record, though nothing close to that of a competitive candidate for an R1 position. It might be better if the OP were to beef up their teaching record rather than pursuing another degree.

grad student

I may be missing something, but OP's question might be moot anyway. As best as I can remember from when I applied, a lot of philosophy PhD programs specified that people who already had a PhD in philosophy were ineligible to apply.

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