I am three years into a PhD in Germany in an interdisciplinary social sciences field (Global Integration/Global Studies), but I am quite disillusioned with the faculty and the quality of guidance here. Moreover, the academic job prospects are not very good after the PhD, and any other job, given EU regulations, is hard to get (I am non EU). Going back to my country, given the corruption in academics, is also not an option. I am thinking of dropping this, and applying for PhDs in Canada or the US.

Is this a good option? I would apply for single discipline such as political science. I am thinking of international business too, because my work is a policy relevant field.

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    "...I am thinking of dropping this, and applying for PhDs...". I'm confused, are you wishing to apply for 2nd PhD (as title suggests) or drop the current one and begin anew? Either way, if you know that the faculty, placements and research isn't good enough and you wish to apply elsewhere, apply to good places (with good faculty,research and student outcomes). Why would the geographical location within North America have any effect on your choice? (At least without giving us more data regarding your choices).
    – user107
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:23
  • Thank you so much. Just to clarify....I am open to both a second PhD or to drop this one and start anew. However, I fear that an application for a second PhD will not be given any consideration. The reason I want to do it in the US is that there are more job opportunities there, and the greater brand value. In the case of Canada, since immigration is an option, I can search for jobs outside my field.
    – rpsf
    Jun 11, 2012 at 13:34
  • How long is your PhD program? If you're about to finish then finish and pretend everything went alright, that's a win-win for your supervisor and you. Put that in your CV, sell it as the best thing ever and apply for PhDs, postdocs and anything else that you may consider interesting enough (check in detail first where are you getting into, to decrease the risk of being disillusioned again). If you're still years away from finishing then @JeffE's answer is perfect, you may finish earlier a PhD that you start now than your current one. Be aware of the GRE and other stuff. In any case: good luck.
    – Trylks
    Nov 7, 2014 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


As a general rule, if your current degree program is not serving your needs/goals, then yes, you absolutely should look for other options. Hopefully the research experience you've gained in your current program will prove helpful in the future.

That said, you need to be careful in applying to a new program. A PhD application from a student already in a PhD program raises a red flag, especially if they are already fairly far into the program. Obviously the current program isn't working out for the student, but does that indicate a problem with the student (uh-oh), a problem with their advisor (but then why not change advisors?), a problem with the program as a whole (but then do we really want a student that was admitted to a dysfunctional program?), or something else? And even if there isn't a problem, why should we give a slot to someone who already has one elsewhere, instead of giving a new student a chance?

The best way to ameliorate these concerns, in my experience, is to get strong and supportive recommendation letters from the faculty in your current department. You also need to tell a convincing and positive story about why you want to move (for example: a shift in research interests that does not match the strengths of your current program). One thing you absolutely cannot write is "I want to move because my current program just isn't good enough."

  • Thank you, JeffE, so much for your answer. Would you suggest completing this one and applying for a post doc in Canada or the US? I work in an area that has major policy relevance, and is an emerging area of interest, but on the other hand, I am not sure if I would be accepted into a post doc given the competition.
    – rpsf
    Jun 12, 2012 at 9:48
  • re 'but then do we really want a student that was admitted to a dysfunctional program' and 'I want to move because my current program just isn't good enough' --> i mean, say i get accepted into a dysfunctional or not good enough one and want to get into a better one. what's wrong with this or saying this? i don't see it as really different from quitting a job at a certain company to apply in another company. but of course there are some obvious differences like phd's are finite. in this case...what about changing undergrad? or even 2ndary school/highschool? i also think of
    – BCLC
    Apr 16, 2021 at 9:21
  • someone in an associate's degree wanting to change to a bachelor's (without completing the associate's degree)
    – BCLC
    Apr 16, 2021 at 9:21
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    say i get accepted into a dysfunctional or not good enough one and want to get into a better one. what's wrong with this or saying this? — There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing or saying this. But changing from one PhD program to another is much less common than changing jobs, undergrad institutions, or high schools. In short: It's uncommon enough to be weird, and people generally treat weirdness with suspicion. People are apes; we do apey things.
    – JeffE
    Apr 21, 2021 at 16:01

I think as a bio PhD there is no shame to saying that "gee this journey is not going to end well", early into the journey (or even late). I discovered after a very long (which is normal) time as a grad student, when I finally did get out with my PhD, the job prospects were pretty bad and getting worse, and this is from a top institution. So after a long period of post-docing i finally gave up on the field alltogether, after sinking 13 or 14 years into it. I am now in IT and making far more, doing far more, and I get to see my family far more. I have done much more in 5 years than I could have done in a lifetime in academia. It just wasn't for me.

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