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I'm currently doing a master's degree near my home state and have been offered to continue at the same grad school with a PhD. The funding side of things has yet to be confirmed, but is almost secure. I also have another offer from a grad school in Switzerland for which the funding is definitely secured.

  1. Regarding the position in Switzerland, (i) living abroad for a few years is an advantage and (ii) the research topic is more closely aligned to what I ultimately would like to focus.
  2. My current place has the advantage of (i) continuity and knowing the research group environment and (ii) research collaborations and publications that would probably exceed - in terms of both quantity and quality - that of the position in Switzerland.

What other considerations should I factor in to my decision and any advice as to which option I should choose?

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One big advantage of changing schools is that you meet new people. Most people have a few things they're really good at. By meeting new people, you get to learn the new things that they are really good at. More generally, you get to experience the culture of a different place and group of people (both academically and socially). This helps to give you a more developed sense of what is normal (reasonable to expect), and likely will expose you to new insights. All else being (close to) equal, I suggest that you move.

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Depending on the country you're from, moving to Switzerland for a PhD might be an immediate improvement in your living standards, and that is certainly a good reason. It might also bring you on the spot to take advantage of the stronger hiring prospects in the industry, especially for engineers, mathematicians, biologists. But, from a strictly academic point of view, there are a few other things to consider.

It's true that there are world-class universities in Switzerland, some regularly appear at the top of international rankings. But there are also several mid-tier, "me too" institutions that surf on the popularity of the big ones.

If you ultimately plan for an academic career, the strength and international visibility of the group is likely to be more important than changing school/country. It's true that it's tacitly almost a must to have some sort of international stay in your CV but there are other less risky occasions for that than a PhD (e.g. a postdoc). A PhD is a big investment in efforts, time and money so go where the good science is.

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You should definitely take into account quality of life in either position. Also, you should keep in mind that in the academic world, it is looked upon favorably to move around for your training.

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    How do you weigh publication record (which will almost certainly be better where I am currently) against gaining experience in other research environments? – REls Jun 18 '12 at 20:02
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    That is definitely a tough question! I think it boils down to what you want to do when you are done with your PhD. From what I know, the academic environment likes to see experience in other environments while industry looks for problem solving and research skills (which I think are shown in a good publication record). – scientifics Jun 18 '12 at 20:05
  • Probably looking to stay in academia although I don't mind looking at side projects in industry. The one thing that concerns me about going to a new place and not knowing whether I'll get published is securing postdoctoral funding (preferably a fellowship). – REls Jun 18 '12 at 20:06
  • Not being sure you'll get published seems to me like a red flag...why take an academic appointment if you won't be publishing? Are there other aspects to it that will further your career? – scientifics Jun 19 '12 at 0:40
  • Why do you think it will be harder to be published in Switzerland than wherever you live now? I mean, in Switzerland there are notable research groups (at least in mathematics and physics, I don't know what you study). Is it a small group? Is it less funded? – Vittorio Patriarca Jun 19 '12 at 17:40
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Go. Even if it is going to be harder, smaller pay, etc.

Science is about diversity. You need new academic experiences. It will greatly improve both you and your work. Even if it doesn't really work.

Further, every time I see a CV that only lists one institution, bs+ms+phd, I think "meh". And I know that doesn't really help in selection processes for postdoc/professors.

I'm saying all that based on my personal experience. It wasn't easy, I had all types of issues, didn't publish much, but it was worth it.

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In addition to Dan's comments recommending you move, I would add that if your goal is to obtain an academic job, it will help you to have more people familiar with your work. Aside from a few schools and fields, such as MIT and engineering, it almost always makes sense to move, particularly if the quality of the program is substantively similar.

Moving schools also improves the signal sent by your education. Having more good schools on your CV sends the signal that multiple independent parties deemed you worthy of acceptance. If you stay on at the same school, it may not be clear to someone who first reads your CV whether you were accepted into the PhD to start or whether it involved an independent admissions process.

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