I'm a postdoc in the natural sciences planning to start applying to faculty positions. What are the main considerations to take into account when comparing Europe with the US? Are there any notable differences to take into account?

I am currently based in Europe (currently Germany) and received all my education and training here, so I'm not very familiar with the US system. The only notable difference I can think of is that the US typically has a regular schedule of openings in the fall, whereas in many European countries jobs are posted as they come.

One another note, I'm trying to get an idea of my chances in the US vs Europe, considering that I've only worked in Europe so far. As I'm not aware of any statistics on e.g. % of successful applications, I'm just looking for general impressions or thoughts on this.

The backstory to all of this is that when I told my advisor I was less keen on going to the US, they got upset and told me I had nothing to lose by applying. This was all rather puzzling and I'm trying to understand what my advisor is getting at by better understanding the differences between the US and Europe.

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    Would you be able to at least tell us which field? There is quite a difference. And Europe is not uniforma at all in the educational sector. Apr 9, 2022 at 13:41
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    Without knowing your field or where you are in Europe, in many situations faculty in the US teach a lot more classes than in parts of Europe/UK. When I tell American colleagues my teaching vs research time balance, they tear up. Not for every field... Apr 9, 2022 at 15:02
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    Also, don't forget to weigh the social implications of the move. If you plan on having children, know that you or your partner will be due almost no parental leave (honestly, look it up, it shocks eurpeans. You'll also be stuck with the US schools for the kids and the US health care system. They are...not to everyone's taste. Apr 9, 2022 at 15:05
  • @DeboraWeber-Wulff I work in the natural sciences and do theoretical work (i.e. no lab space required) and currently work in Germany. Apr 10, 2022 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


In Germany you have the tortuous path towards a permanent job. It is a lottery, in essence. There are postdocs to be had, but very few professorships. But while you have a job here, you are paying into a good retirement option and have excellent health care for very little premium. You can travel freely in the EU and can apply for EU funding. It's a bit of a jungle to get the applications right, but once you have that worked out, you can pretty much keep going on projects. If you have family, the family is insured for free.

In the US you will not have tenure right away, but will have to fight for it. Normal salaries are only paid for 9 months a year, so you need yearly grants to tide you over, or you are willing to live on 3/4 of a salary (9/12) each month.

Only you can make the decision what is right for you.


My two cents, you have time to lose when applying. Unless your file is truly exceptional the chances of getting a job at a good place where you don't have any connections are very slim. But maybe your advisor does have good connections in the US?

  • Thanks! Yes, both my PhD and postdoc advisors have connections in the US indeed, and one of them even moved to the US. Apr 9, 2022 at 11:02

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