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Programs Americans doing physics PhD in Europe?

  1. Feb 24, 2009 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I was looking into international PhD programmes in Germany and was just curious if anyone had any experience in these. Instruction is entirely in English, although German language courses are required (something I wouldn't mind). The particular schools I am interested in are in Stuttgart and Leipzig. Are there any advantages / disadvantages to completing your PhD abroad?

    Also, I'm not particularly worried about returning to the states for job prospects. I have family in Germany and would be quite content to stay there after obtaining my PhD.

    Thanks in advance for your replies.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2009 #2
    I am also wondering about this but specifically in regards to the the UK.
     
  4. Feb 24, 2009 #3

    mgb_phys

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    Generally UK PhDs are shorter (3-4years) and don't require you to take classes (may vary with institution/subject).
    The topic is usually decided early - it may be decided for the studentship funding before anyone is chose, but is almsot always decided in the first year.

    Compared to the USA you will have fewer (if any publications) but you will be done one postdoc earlier.
    As to recognition back in the USA - for academic jobs only the supervisor matters. For industry, name plays a part, Oxford/Cambridge etc might be recognised when you are looking for a job back home on Wall St but other palces might not.
     
  5. Feb 24, 2009 #4
    How is the funding for American grad students abroad?
     
  6. Feb 24, 2009 #5

    mgb_phys

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    Generally it comes from US funding charities (Marshall scholarship, Fullbright etc)
    I don't know how the fees compare to an overseas Ugrad fees - UK and EU students don't pay fees for PhDs the work is funded by the dept's research grant directly.

    There is less opportunity to support yourself as a TA in the UK system. PhDs are expected to be full time, there is lab assistant/TA work but it is much smaller scale than in the US.
     
  7. Feb 24, 2009 #6

    f95toli

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    Note however that there is still no uniform system for Europe (although that is changing due to the Bologna process). Hence, the system in e.g. Sweden (where there are plenty of foreign PhD students) is very different to the system in the UK.
    I did my PhD in Sweden (I am Swedish) and it took 5 years, although it is slightly shorter now (I believe you can do it in four years). I was teaching about 20% of my time.

    Being a PhD student in Sweden (and many other European countries, UK is a bit special) is for most practical purposes just a regular job; meaning you are paid a regular salary etc. My salary wasn't exactly great but it was certainly MUCH better than what the average PhD student makes here in the UK (relatively speaking).

    Hence, you need to be aware that the systems can differ quite a bit when you compare universities in different countries.
     
  8. Feb 24, 2009 #7
    There are so many other European places I wish I could consider but am limited by only speaking English :(
     
  9. Feb 24, 2009 #8

    cristo

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    If you don't have a scholarship or any other fee waiver, the graduate fees for non EU citizens are equal to the undergrad fees. For a science subject like physics, say, you're looking at ~£10k per year.
     
  10. Feb 24, 2009 #9
    Interesting. Currently, about 40% of my grad salary goes straight into paying my rent.
     
  11. Feb 25, 2009 #10

    f95toli

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    You can manage just fine in many countries even if you don't speak the local language simply because just about everyone speaks English. This is certainly true in Sweden, very few of the foreign PhD students (not to mention post-docs and senior researchers) I worked with spoke any Swedish at all (although it obviously doesn't hurt to learn a few words).
    The same is true for at least the other Nordic countries, the Netherlands and perhaps a few other countries. That said, not speaking the local language will make life outside of university trickier if you live in a country like France, Germany, Spain etc.
     
  12. Apr 18, 2009 #11
    I'm in a similar situation. I am an American and received my MS in physics in NY. After some time at IBM, I decided to continue my education and now I am in France for my PhD in physics at the université Joseph Fourier.

    From my experience, although I have only been here 3 months, the language issue is not a problem. I was also asked to complete intensive French classes. It is also a bonus being a native English speaker in my lab because when it comes time to publish papers, my lab colleages come to me for help. I am currently writing my first publication and without the distraction of heavy course loads, I can see myself publishing 6 or more papers throughout my 3 year contract.

    As for job prospects after completing the PhD in Europe, I have no idea what it will be like. I know that if you do plan to stay in the EU, there are many opportunities for a postdoc but some positions require an EU citizenship. However, I plan to return to the US for a postdoc position and I don't think there will much of a problem as long as my thesis is good, have a good number of publications, and good references.

    In conclusion, I think it would be a great opportunity for you to take the PhD position. It also gives you a great chance to explore Europe, I know I am taking full advantage of it. Goodluck.
     
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