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Do you need a US PhD if you don't want to work in the US?

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Hey everyone,

I was wondering if anyone had any advice regarding this question.  Here's the situation I'm in at the moment:

I'm about a year into a research masters at a well-regarded university in Australia.  My focus is in comparative and IR, and I'm particularly interested in using quant methods.  Now, my university has offered me the chance to "convert" this masters thesis into a PhD.  If I take this option, I would be able to finish the whole PhD in about 2 years from now.

However, my advisors recommend that going to America for a PhD will offer much better job prospects.  Of course, the downside is that'd I'd have to start the whole PhD afresh, and it would probably take about 6 years from today before I would graduate.  

The thing is, I don't actually want to work in the US.  I'm sure it's great and everything - it's just that I'm happy where I am, and would be more than content with an academic job in Australia or New Zealand.  Given that's the case, is it really that necessary to get a US PhD?  Finishing within two years is a tempting prospect...   

FWIW, I think I would have a good chance of getting into a top-20 US programme.  I've got an excellent undergrad GPA, have skills in R and Stata, and have a sole-author article under consideration at a decent journal.  I also like the idea of going to a UK school (maybe LSE/Essex/Oxford), but I'm not sure if that would be much of an improvement - job-market wise - on where I am now.

Thanks in advance!


Edited by AwwwJeeez
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The best advice anyone can give you is to do both of the following:

1. Look at departments where you'd like to end up working, look at the CVs of newly hired professors, and see what kind of places they got their PhDs from. 

2. Have candid conversations with faculty that have served on hiring committees and get their opinion on it. Ask if it's reasonable to expect an Australian/NZ job if you graduate from your school's PhD program. See if you can find placement statistics on it. Does your professor think the value of an American PhD is that it opens up doors to academia in the US (which aside from a couple universities in Aus/NZ are largely more "prestigious")? Or because American PhDs are generally more sought-after even outside the US? (No idea if either of those two statements are true btw, that's for you to find out)


FWIW I see more people from Oxbridge/LSE PhDs than Australian PhDs on American faculty. No idea if that means anything but it's just an observation. 

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Are the Australian universities you are interested in working at dominated by American PhDs? I checked ANU's faculty page, and a lot of their lecturers (meaning new hires) got their PhDs from places like Cornell, Princeton, Wisconsin. It's probably worth applying, especially if your advisor is on board too.

A large proportion of quant-oriented UK academics got their PhDs in the U.S. as well. So I'd recommend the US over the UK. Funding is likely better too.

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Hey thanks a lot for the replies both of you.  

Yeah, ANU and Sydney both have a lot of US PhDs in their faculty.  Those are the two most "Americanised" departments here, in the sense of being relatively positivist and quantitative.  I'd be thrilled to work at either, but honestly I'd happily take a job anywhere.  A lot of the departments elsewhere in Aus are staffed mainly by Australian and British PhDs, so hopefully I'd be in with a chance at one of those places... food for thought I guess.

Thanks again

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