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Job Skills How will US companies view an EE PhD from overseas?

  1. Nov 8, 2016 #1
    I'm from the US and am currently doing undergrad at a US university but I studied at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology this summer and it convinced me that I would really prefer to get my PhD abroad. However, I have concerns about how credible that degree will be to US companies once I've gotten it (considering so many foreigners come to the US for higher education). So I'm wondering if US employers won't regard foreign degrees as highly? I really want to study outside the country, but obviously I don't want to do it if it has the potential to screw my future over.

    Schools I'm considering are NSU, HKU, NTU, and HKUST and maybe KAIST. All are in Asia. I'm most interested in going back to Hong Kong though. The type of job I'm looking for is something in R&D (I'm particularly interested in working in the field of space technology or biomedical something).

    Thank you for your time! I'm a bit stressed out about this and my thoughts might be somewhat scrambled here, so if you think there's anything I should clarify let me know.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2016 #2

    Fervent Freyja

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    Gold Member

    While the US does sometimes come out at the top on lists in terms of research and academia, it does not excel to the top in terms of educating children- especially not in mathematics or sciences. There isn't a whole lot of room to judge you on it, although it really depends on the institution awarding the degree having an international credibility. One of the reasons so many are welcome to study and work in the US are that the work ethic, training and education (from a foreign country) that they already possess are valued. If your heart is set on Hong Kong, go for it. Any international employer would find them more credible than some little known university in the US.
  4. Nov 11, 2016 #3
    There's not a simple answer to your question because there are many other factors involved, including luck. It's not so much a question of a degree from a US university vs a non-US university. It's a question of a degree from a "brand-name" university vs a "non-brand-name" university. By a "brand-name" university, I'm referring to a school such as MIT, Harvard, or Stanford in the US and Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. I got my degrees in physics; my bachelor's from a brand-name university and my masters and PhD from a non-brand-name university. My grad school actually had (and still does have) one of the top physics research departments in the world (especially in my specialty of interest, which is why I chose to go there), but it otherwise does not have the prestige of a brand-name university. Here are my views:

    (a) All things else being equal, there are strong advantages to a degree from a brand-name university vs a non-brand-name university. (1) Hiring managers have inherent biases. When they see a brand-name university on a resume, they most likely form an initial positive impression. This is particularly important if you later switch fields. For example, when I was strictly looking for physics-related jobs, my grad school carried a lot of weight. But when I later started hunting for a job in a law firm as a patent agent, my undergrad school made a much stronger impression. (2) Major companies often actively recruit from brand-name universities. (3) Brand-name universities usually have an extensive network of alumni at major companies.

    (b) In real practice, however, all things else are not equal. When applying for a PhD program, it's important to have a supportive advisor and a research topic that really excites you.

    (c) If the hiring manager happens to be from Asia and is familiar with HK universities, then your degree from an HK university could work to your advantage. If the hiring manager is only familiar with US universities and has never heard of the HK universities, then of course you are at a disadvantage. And if you apply to a US branch of a major Asian company, your experience in HK could also work to your advantage.
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