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I am pursuing a PhD in one of the physical sciences. I attend a university that is top 10 or so in my field and has a recognizable name (Ivy league). My adviser’s past students have had somewhat good luck finding professorships, but even so several have left the field for jobs in computer science. Since I enjoy traveling, to increase my chances of finding a permanent academic position I plan to also apply abroad. Unfortunately, I only speak English.

Do you have any suggestions of where a monolingual American PhD can find an academic job abroad? If I need to complete a postdoc first like in America, would it be better to do it in America or said foreign country?

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  • One suggestion: once the Covid-19 pandemic has (hopefully!) passed, attend as many international conferences as you can. This way you get to meet people and make connections, and also ask about how the local job market works.
    – academic
    Aug 11 '20 at 12:54
  • Good advice - I agree this is the best thing I can currently do to help my chances. Hopefully my adviser is supportive, I imagine he would be. Aug 11 '20 at 13:07
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    The working language of European physics is English. But you're better off learning the language of your new country if you can, you'll enjoy the experience a lot more and will feel much less isolated.
    – astronat
    Aug 11 '20 at 14:41
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    I'd argue that the places where it is easy for you to get a job are exactly those where people generally do not want to go, otherwise they would apply and it wouldn't be easy. So take your pick: Autocratic governments, hard to get work-visas, bad salaries, bad funding, bad weather, bad students, or even all of the above and the list goes on. Though most of that could also be found if you instead look for bottom-tier places at home.
    – mlk
    Aug 11 '20 at 15:05
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    Here it might also be useful to consider Ivy satellite universities. There has been a trend among brand-name universities to open satellite campuses in the Middle East and China and these may be interesting options.
    – Dawn
    Aug 11 '20 at 15:20
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I'm Dutch. In physical sciences, most of our universities teach their MSc programmes entirely in English. Some of our universities also teach their BSc programmes entirely in English. If you find an academic job here, you are quite likely to get by with only speaking English. From a language POV, American PhDs are welcome here.

Dutch universities commonly do expect at least one postdoctoral stint before starting a tenure-track position. Whether that stint is performed in Europe or the USA makes little difference IMO.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and this answer sketches only the situation in a single foreign academic job market. But the conclusion is: yes, there are foreign academic job markets where American PhDs are sought after. Beyond the Netherlands, I expect the situation to be similar in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Also, anecdotally, I know of one American PhD who did a postdoc in the USA and then moved to a professorship in Belgium.

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    Even 30 years ago when I did my post-doc in Amsterdam, all the science was done in English, but at the coffee break and the squash club the conversations were in Dutch. So, I learned Dutch and never regretted it (although it is very rusty these days).
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 11 '20 at 13:53
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    While that does answer the language gap issue, I was more interested in places where American PhDs are preferred and have edited the title. It seems like Dutch universities are already excellent as in the UK, and so American PhDs I imagine, while technically employable, will face the same challenging job market as in the US. Aug 11 '20 at 14:33
  • "Some of our universities also teach their BSc programmes entirely in English." How do you tell which ones? Bizarrely, I have had difficulty figuring that out. Aug 13 '20 at 8:38
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    @AnonymousPhysicist sorry for the tardiness; was away on a holiday. I think that this is generally not easy to find out; our official university websites are one giant mess (they should have this information, but I'd be surprised if they're consistently accurate about it). If you were to ask any faculty member in my department, you'd get the answer, but I appreciate that that is not a reasonable approach for getting an overview across departments and universities. Aug 18 '20 at 20:16
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Pakistan, we have education system in English (many primary, secondary schools have books and exams in English), and the undergraduate, post-graduate education is also in English.

Although teachers teach the class in a mix of Urdu and English, all the material is in English: books, exams, assignments, papers are in English (except a few subjects but except languages, they also have the option of choosing the language). The mode is entirely English if the professor or one or more students are foreigners.

Having credentials from the US is a big plus, they will work to your advantage, having a US postdoc will help more. Nowadays we have a lot of people getting Masters and PhDs from the west, and coming back as faculty in our universities.

Although the answer doesn't meet your criteria of favoring US degrees, practically you will get the advantage.

And as far as I know, most of what I said applies to India as well.

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Obvious answer is other English speaking countries such as Britain, Ireland, South Africa or any other Commonwealth country such as Canada or Singapore.

Non-obvious answer is the countries that have some schools teaching in English. It is actually harder to find a fuller picture in that regard. English is rarely the teaching language in Germany or France whereas it is more common in the Netherlands. I am sure there will also be schools in "second world countries" that teach in English.

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  • “Second/third world” countries were actually my main interest in this question, thinking they might generally value a PhD from a well known US school. My previous impression was that Canada and the UK had more competition than the US and generally preferred their own PhDs. The Netherlands and South Africa actually have some great research institutions in my field although I am not sure if that helps or hurts - I will ask some Dutch friends at least. Aug 11 '20 at 13:04
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    @NotmyRealname how much political unrest can you handle? Also related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/106800/… Aug 11 '20 at 13:13
  • That is an excellent discussion, thank you for pointing me to it! Aug 11 '20 at 14:33
  • Singapore stopped being a British colony in the 1940s. It’s a pretty insensitive way of phrasing what I hope you meant to say.
    – Spark
    Mar 21 at 0:32
  • All major Universities in China will allow you to teach in English.
    – user135405
    Mar 21 at 1:28

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