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American in a European Grad School?

  1. Feb 18, 2010 #1
    Hi PF,

    I am wondering if there are any challenges/stigmas associated with an American getting their grad degree in Europe. I admit, I'm mainly considering this for the "adventure" of it, but I want to know if my living in Europe for a few years and grabbing my PhD there would really affect my postdoc/employment prospects in the US.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2010 #2


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    Where in Europe? I would imagine certain Universities, like Cambridge, have a long standing prestige status going for them, while lets say Czech Technical University in Prague may not be considered posh.
  4. Feb 18, 2010 #3
    degrees in europe are different than degrees in the states. know what you're getting into. D.Phil != Ph.D
  5. Feb 18, 2010 #4


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    Err D.Phil == Ph.D, it's just that Oxford can't spell.

    The only major difference is that ugrad degrees in many european countries are more specialised you will typically only study physics course with no minors or humanities. Because of this starting european PhD students may have more subject knowledge than in a comparable US ugrad degree.
    Also the PhD often has no required coursework, unless you are an advanced ugrad you might need/want to consider a MSc first.
  6. Feb 18, 2010 #5
    Probably somewhere in France or Switzerland (at least that's what I'm considering). I'll have a few years of french language studies behind me, enough to be able to pick it up a lot faster than if I were studying in, say, Germany.

    If I could get into a university like Cambridge, I'd probably prefer Caltech, Berkeley, or Stanford (I'm considering California pretty strongly too, I'd prefer to stay out of the cold northeast for a while though).
  7. Feb 19, 2010 #6
    I have close second hand experience in this area. My brother-in-law did his masters in Europe. You really need to consider what your end goal is with going to grad school overseas. If you are counting on having this degree count for something you need to be very careful. Especially if you are counting on this degree being recognized as the same sort of thing in the US.

    Next, there is the money issue. As a foreigner, you will likely have to pay for your tuition, housing, etc. This is usually cheaper in Europe than in the US, but not necessarily. In physics, in the US, you should not have to pay anything for your graduate education.

    One thing you really need to consider is if you will be able to make the kind of connections in the US that you will need to make to secure a postdoc if you are attending a foreign university. Every postdoc, research position and especially a tenure track professorship is highly competitive. Just like in every other profession, it is often more about who you know than what you know when trying to get your foot in the door. My first postdoc came from a very close contact I made while doing my Ph.D. work. He was a close colleague of my advisor and we did some work together. Now if you want to stay and work in Europe this may be a good thing, but if you plan to come back the states, then you may want to closely consider that decision.
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