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Concurrent or Second Doctorates



To define conditions under which individuals may pursue a second doctoral degree.


Academic Goal

To ensure that Penn State meets one of the foundation principles of the Morrill Land Grant Act by making doctoral education available to the largest number of individuals.



All graduate students and applicants to graduate programs.

As the highest academic degree offered by American universities, the Ph.D. is not primarily about specific disciplinary content, but focuses on training in research methodologies, the identification of critical problems, experimental design, data collection, deductive reasoning, and related skills that can be applied to any field.

In addition, as the only land grant university in Pennsylvania, Penn State takes seriously its role to ensure a quality education is available to as many individuals as possible. This goal stems from the very foundation of land grant colleges and universities:

“The land-grant colleges were founded on the idea that a higher and broader education should be placed in every State… where a much larger number of the people need wider educational advantages and impatiently await their possession.”

[from “Address”, by Honorable Justin S Morrill, published in Addresses Delivered at the Massachusetts Agricultural College, June 21st, 1887, on the 25th Anniversary of the Passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act; Massachusetts Agricultural College, J.E. Williams, book and job printer, 1887, P 20 (retrieved July 1, 2018)]

Given that Ph.D. enrollment in our graduate programs is limited in large part by the intense faculty effort required to successfully advise and mentor a Ph.D. student, but also in part by the tremendous financial resources needed to support a doctoral student’s stipend, tuition remission and health insurance, given that there are always more qualified applicants than can be admitted, and given that individuals with a Ph.D. already have the research skills that can frequently be applied to other disciplines without the need for a second Ph.D., Graduate Council has decided that Penn State’s limited opportunities to enroll in a PhD program should generally be reserved for those who do not already have a Ph.D.

Given that foundational philosophy, if disciplinary background in the other field of interest is essential, the individual apply for a master’s degree in that field. If the need is for a track record of scholarly work, and if the Ph.D. field is related to the new one requested, a postdoctoral scholar position is typically a viable mechanism.

Policy Statement

  1. The Graduate School does not admit applicants to concurrent double Ph.D. degree programs or concurrent double professional doctoral degree programs, or to concurrent doctoral degree programs in any combination.
  2. In general, the Graduate School discourages the pursuit of a second doctorate.
    1. However, if an applicant who holds a doctorate requests admission to a second doctoral degree program (for either a research or a professional doctorate), the applicant is asked to give the Graduate School a reason why the second doctorate is necessary (as opposed to taking course work or obtaining a master's degree in the second field or working in a postdoctoral appointment in the second field). The Graduate School may also solicit responses concerning the necessity of the second doctorate from representatives of the field at Penn State or elsewhere. This information is then given to the Dean of the Graduate School for the final decision.
    2. If approved, all Graduate School requirements for the second doctorate must be met de novo.

Revision History

  • Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018
  • Last Graduate Bulletin update: August 2016
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