I am an International Student perusing a Masters in Actuarial Science in the US. I did my Bachelors here in the US (Actuarial Science), worked for 2 years as an Actuarial Analyst in the US. I am doing my Masters now with emphasis on AI (I could not get into an AI program for Masters due to my circumstances, so this is the closest I could get).

I want to continue with AI and I am looking into a PhD in the N.America or Europe. I am excited about Europe (never been there), but feel N.America will be a safer bet. Which location would be better to do my PhD in, if I am looking at eventually migrating and getting into tech entrepreneurship?

  • You are perusing a masters? Or are doing one? – Solar Mike Jul 21 at 7:39
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    Safer bet in what sense? In terms of physical health and safety, Europe is certainly a better place to be than the US at the moment. – astronat Jul 21 at 7:51
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    Come to Australia. We are much better than both of your choices. – Prof. Santa Claus Jul 21 at 9:55
  • Sorry for the awful question format, I just got on here. I am current doing a Masters in Actuarial Science, but trying to take introductory AI courses, to shift the emphasis. @astronat I am talking in terms of having a better chance of migrating. US migration is just such a mess and I don't know if I want to fester here anymore. The people I met are wonderful, but the system is just very hostile. Out of Europe, Netherlands have peeked my interest, but I hear they tend to hire from Masters not directly. Would you be kind enough to direct me to unis with AI PhDs? – Lahi S Jul 23 at 6:44
  • @LahiS I know nothing about PhDs in AI or in the Netherlands, so I can't help you there. I'm sure you can find some just by googling. The universities will almost certainly explain their entry requirements on their websites too. – astronat Jul 23 at 8:12

I am afraid your question reveals a rather superficial attitude to the matter. You are talking about the whole continents as places for "better PhD" and mention "AI" as a field you are interested in. A fairly standard textbook on AI sitting on my shelf is nearly 1200 pages long, so how can one judge a continent for being a better place for studying every single topic listed in this book?

You are going to spend several years doing your PhD. So, first go spend at least several days (or, better, weeks) thinking harder what exactly are you interested in. One good starting point would be to think first what you are good at right now. Then, figure out good publications in this area (Google Scholar is your friend) and find out which labs they come from. These labs are the places of your interest, and they might pop up in quite unlikely places (though, granted, in most cases they don't come as a surprise).

Then, of course, there is a question of a job market, but I believe people coming from reputable labs are able to find a job. In any case, this isn't a question of your immediate future.

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    A minor nitpick about "continents": to my knowledge, American academia is on the whole fairly homogeneous (unlike European academia which has roughly country-level granularity). If the OP was born and raised in the US, they might assume out of ignorance that academia is homogeneous everywhere. OP's geography comments are IMO much less of a concern than the "PhD on AI" part (which the answer addresses well). – UJM Jul 21 at 16:38
  • I am fairly new to AI but so far, my focus has been AI application in Actuarial Science. I don't have a particular area in mind but I am really interested in high volatility, low frequencies edge cases (a comparable e.g: such as extreme weather). I am also interested explaining phenomenon through AI and doing things such as coming up with new performance measures or combining old classical statistical methods to build composite statistical tools to question things. Hope this helps clarify my interests. – Lahi S Jul 23 at 6:50

You are the best and should be the only person to answer this question. If I were in your shoes I would consider these points.

First, you need to answer the question: what is the objective of you pursuing a PhD degree?

Do you wish to become a professor while trying to get into tech entrepreneurship? Do you wish to invent/discover something unique and transformative? Do you wish to get overseas experience and eventually come back to your original country?

Once you nail down your objective, you need to look at the associated issues. For example, if you wish to migrate, then getting a citizenship/visa in the continent/country of your choice must be first considered. It is not straightforward and it is also not something which is consistent with time.

Second, are you looking for funding or are you self-funded? That will limit your choices to specific universities and groups.

Third, and perhaps, most importantly, you need to identify the area of your choice. Not all universities offer all kinds of research directions. You need to determine what area in AI appeals to you. In fact, this should be the motivation for your PhD and determine the objective. Anything else and you will surely struggle to do a good job with your research.

In my personal opinion, you must also consider you compatibility with potential supervisors. You must align your objectives with the expectations with him or her. Only then will your journey be smooth. You say you want to do tech entrepreneurship. Not all research groups will enable you to do that. Most of the groups consist of academicians whose main goal is to publish and grow in their field, not pursue business opportunities by developing technologies.

This is a serious business and one must give a lot of thought to it. If you want to be a tech entrepreneur, then do you really wish to wait for 3 years (7 years in US) while doing a PhD? PhD will entail a number of things which does not align with that goal. Would you be motivated enough to do it?

As you answer these questions, you will find that choice between continents is too high level a question to think about.

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Europe would be a better place for pursuing PhD. One, university education and accommodation cost less over there. Graduates in USA are burdened with heavy debts that take 10 years or more to pay off, whereas their counterparts in Europe pay them off faster within few years. Two, foods there are healthier, none with banned ingredients that are legal in USA. More choices of organic foods too. Three, cities there are much smaller than those in USA; therefore, you have easy walking/cycling distance between accommodation and university. Four, crime rates like homicides are low.

If you are looking for English-speaking countries in Europe, your best choices are Ireland and UK.

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  • This does not really answer the question. Your comment explains mostly why Europe might be a better place to live than USA. But OP asks about the best place to do PhD. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 21 at 10:33
  • Hm, but I guess if someone does a PhD in Europe/US, they also live on this continent. So it is relevant. – user111388 Jul 21 at 11:19
  • @DmitrySavostyanov, I am in Europe and we are seeing increases of American students coming here for cheaper university education. Besides, many employers from US tech corporations recognise degrees from Europe and they have their branches established here in Europe, most in Ireland which is their second Silicon Valley. They admire tough meritocracy in European universities, as they prefer merit-based degrees to adversity degrees. – Rita Geraghty Jul 21 at 12:23
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    @user111388 No-one said living conditions are irrelevant. But academic considerations are important as well, and the answer did not consider them at all. There are many places with pleasant living conditions, but very shallow educational prospects and poor job market. The OP asked for a good place to do a PhD, not simply to live there. – Dmitry Savostyanov Jul 21 at 13:02
  • Even on the "living place" criteria, this answer is too general. The US East coast is full of cities where you can get around by foot or public transportation; meanwhile, the university who granted me a PhD is 10km away from the closest city, and every PhD student owned a car out of necessity. I have not tried buying organic food next to the uni but I suspect it would have been much harder than in New York city. – UJM Jul 21 at 16:46

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