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I've just finished my undergraduate education in Physics in Europe and as I want to stay in academics I want to pursue a PhD, which means either a master and then PhD in e.g. UK, Switzerland or Germany or a PhD in the United States. I have now heard that for postdoc positions especially in the US it is generally better to have a US PhD. Is that true?

As the higher education systems are quite different and I have already attended courses like advanced quantum field theory or general relativity and the core courses like qm, classical mechanics, statistical mechanics or e&m on graduate level for my bachelors degree, is it generally the case, that I would have to take those courses again?

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International experience is always a good thing these days; but in general I don't think that a US PhD is inherently superior to a European PhD. (This may be highly variable within different disciplines, however, so physicists might want to weigh in on this particular point.)

As for the repetition of coursework, that is entirely department-dependent. Different programs will have entirely different means of handling this:

  • All students may be required to complete the entire set of coursework requirements, regardless of past experience;
  • Students may be granted placement out of courses they have already completed, but not given a reduction in the number of courses required;
  • Students may be granted both placement and credit for prior equivalent coursework.

In the second case above, the student would replace the core courses with more advanced electives in different areas.

However, the only way to find out which policy a department uses is to contact the department directly. (Sometimes this is publicly stated on the webpage; other times, it's not. And sometimes special cases arise, which is why it's best to contact the graduate office of the departments you're interested in and ask them directly!

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