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In my country, Egypt, some well-known institutes offer PhD degrees. I want to apply for a PhD program in biostatistics for which I will certainly pay a lot of money.

How much would such a program increase my chances of joining academia in the USA or Europe?


EDIT: The OP didn't specify, and possibly doesn't know, whether the university in question is a diploma mill. To keep the question open, please assume that it is not; i.e., assume that the university is legit. If anyone is interested in whether it's worth obtaining a non-legit degree I recommend starting a new question. If the OP wishes to clarify later on he should simply remove this note.

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Is a PhD...worth paying for it? --- No. – JeffE Feb 12 at 14:21
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@JeffE Most PhDs cost a ton of money (in opportunity cost)? Just because you did not pay tuition, does not mean it was free. – emory Feb 12 at 15:33
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@emory my guess is that Jeff implies that, strictly from a monetary perspective, a PhD is a bad investment regardless of whether you pay tuition or not. – Cape Code Feb 12 at 16:07
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Is a diploma mill PhD worth paying for? If it can move you from a place where human rights violations are routine to a place where they are rare? ABSOLUTELY YES. It is worth a lot of money. Can Egyptian PhDs do that? I don't know, but doubt it. – emory Feb 12 at 16:32
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@emory No. The phrase "diploma mill" has a very specific meaning. It does not mean "bad university": it means "organization that will sell you a 'degree certificate' without you being required to do anything more than pay for it." Please do not use the phrase "diploma mill" to mean anything else. – David Richerby Feb 12 at 18:04

I don't think it's possible to give an answer in the abstract. In general I wouldn't recommend paying a lot for a Ph.D. program anywhere, but it depends on how much they charge and how much money you have. Ph.D. programs in developing countries vary enormously in quality and reputation, and how useful they would be for getting an academic job in the U.S. or Europe varies accordingly.

However, you can try to estimate this for the programs you care about. The key question is how many Ph.D. recipients from these programs get jobs you would like. Typically you can find lists of former students on a potential advisor's website, and some web searches will reveal what became of them. (If you can't find any information on someone online, then they probably didn't get an academic job.) If very few former students have jobs you would like, then that's a bad sign, while it's a good sign if many of them do. Of course there are no guarantees either way, but this will give some context for how plausible different outcomes are.

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" Typically you can find lists of former students on a potential advisor's website": typically in the US, maybe, but definitely not everywhere. There are tons of advisors who don't list former students (I'm one of them). – Massimo Ortolano Feb 12 at 17:58
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@MassimoOrtolano you can do the same thing in reverse. look on the web pages of the kinds of institutes you would like to join and see where their faculty got their PhDs. – emory Feb 12 at 20:20
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@MassimoOrtolano There are tons of advisors who don't list former students (I'm one of them). — Why don't you? – JeffE Feb 12 at 23:15
    
@JeffE There are several reasons. First, it's totally uncommon in my field: even large groups don't list former members in their websites, and sometimes even current members. Thus, I don't see what benefit would come to me and my former students by listing them. In particular, if I am to list someone on a web page, I'd want to be able to tell them which benefits they would got out of that. Thus far, none of my students had an issue in finding a job, in industry or academic, upon graduation: what would be the benefit for them in being listed as former students of mine? None. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 13 at 8:34
    
As for me, I'd be maybe able to attract more students, but I'm not sure I want this. Lastly, institutional web pages at my university are not easily customizable, and to do that I'd have to setup a page somewhere else: though it's surely feasible, it's not something I'm willing to undertake at the moment. – Massimo Ortolano Feb 13 at 8:38

I Have two friends who had a similar situation. Here my take on a middle eastern student and a PhD:

  1. "Money Talks" Route: In most cases you will find a supervisor in an institute that take a student who pays for his/her PhD. If the supervisor is good for you, or you are good for the supervisor's research group is another question; and in fact not the focus here. The fact is that you paid your way into the institute. The outcome here might be a PhD degree however you will not get that much out of it in my opinion; because for example, here in the UK you will spend around 60,000 Pounds for three years of a Ph.D program plus the cost of living, where other students are doing them for free.

  2. Political Scene In Middle East: Lets be clear here, middle east is filled with incompetent governments, where at any moment, a war might get started. I wouldn't recommend anyone to be a researcher over there, as there is no peace of mind, and priorities for the governments are something else than funding research.

  3. Language Of Research: The language of research is English. You should learn fluent English to read and write (the harder part). If you do a research in a non English speaking country, like in Egypt, how you would communicate to the world? I see many researchers with very bad English in conferences which is a shame.

Conclusion: Take your time and find a PhD in a developed country for a better personal and professional future. If necessary, pay for your PhD program, however somewhere that is worth paying.

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I'm sorry, but why would doing a PhD in Egypt exclude being able to communicate in English? It's a matter of personal development and should most certainly not be an important point to consider when choosing the geographical location of a university. – ciri Feb 23 at 21:46

If your aim is to join academia in the US or Europe, it would be easiest for you to apply for a PhD there directly, since the competition is less for a PhD position than for say a postdoc. However, if you are genuinely interested in your field of research and join a good Egyptian group that makes sure you publish quality work, your chances for future employment are not negligible. I guess it must not be easy for a student to judge of the quality of senior researchers. My best tip would be to find a mentor at your university or elsewhere that can help you with that. You could even contact professors abroad and ask their opinions about this or that group (be diplomatic).

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To be honest, I think that regardless of where you do your PhD, if you are an outstanding student your peer reviewed journal publications will show that. They are a sort of Universal standard, which illustrate your scientific capability. If you can convince world leaders in a field that you are good enough, most universities will want to take you. However, this means that you will be likely to get a postdoctoral fellowship, although you will probably get a lower salary than your native peers, which may be annoying for you. To progress beyond being a research fellow is the difficult part. Only 1% in the UK of applicants make it beyond this point, native or foreign. So you would have to be exceptional. If you are considering a career in academia you probably know all of this anyway, but I thought I would share my thoughts on it anyway.

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