I'm curious about the impact of geographical diversity of positions (postdoctoral or junior faculty) on career prospects in academia. In my current job search I see a small number of positions at universities outside the US that potentially fit my research interests and experience. I am wondering whether pursuing these positions would be beneficial to my current long-term goal of returning to an academic position in the US.

What effect does international academic experience have on academic career prospects in the US?

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    What kinds of factors? That word covers a huge range of information.
    – keshlam
    May 18, 2015 at 21:31
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    Also, I agree with @keshlam. The phrase "factors" and "general coverage" could mean anything. Are you specifically asking about the likely impact on your long-term academic career? Or are you also including factors related to research independence, teaching expectations, mentoring expectations, language, culture, money, travel, distance from family, dating, child care, religious tolerance, food, politics, etc., etc., etc.?
    – JeffE
    May 18, 2015 at 22:22
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    I think this is related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/17694/… Isn't the Q really will a non-US post-doc hurt my changes for a later tenure track job in the US?
    – mkennedy
    May 18, 2015 at 23:34
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    I have significantly edited the question to improve clarity and to remove unnecessary personal detail (which is too specific to your personal situation to make a good question for this site). Please double-check that I have not changed the intended question.
    – JeffE
    May 19, 2015 at 0:27
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    Discussion of what constitutes a "well-developed individual research agenda" is better left for a separate question.
    – JeffE
    May 19, 2015 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


If you are just talking about the geographical role, rather than comparing things like great position at a world renowned foreign university versus a two-bit US institution, then it is true that it can be harder to get a US tenure-track position coming from foreign university. The main reasons are (i) smaller schools are often less willing to fly in overseas applicants for interviews and (ii) (for positions with teaching experience expectations) it's advantageous for candidates to have experience teaching in a system comparable to the American one. See also this recent answer from RoboKaren. Another possible concern is that you get involved in some research niche which is popular, say only in Europe or Asia, but not the US, but this can also happen at US institutions.

That said, you shouldn't take these concerns too seriously if you find a position that you like, and these concerns don't play too much of a role for research universities. However, consider the possibility that you may need to do another postdoc in the US/Canada to improve your chances of getting jobs at smaller schools where this may be an issue.

Addendum: The above was just in answer to the bold question, but not to the issue in the text about whether it is in some way beneficial to go abroad, say strictly for diversity reasons. Here there seems to be negligible benefit, all other factors being equal, as the US already has a diverse amount of resesarch, and one can still learn from and even collaborate with foreign colleagues (at least in many fields) thanks to travel and modern technology.

  • I appreciate your answer (+1) - you mention interesting points. Certainly, I wouldn't think twice, if offered today a "great position at a world renowned foreign university". But, being realistic, this is very unlikely - I understand that I need to build my research reputation through quality research agenda, meaningful research, publishing and displaying external funding potential. Those are my short-term goals. Just to clarify: US is my home (citizen) and international academic exposure I've asked about is meant to be temporary to build more diverse academic portfolio and enrich experience. May 19, 2015 at 5:54
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    @AleksandrBlekh In that case, I don't think going abroad to specifically diversify your academic experience is that helpful. There are sufficiently many research opportunities in the US for one build an impressive portfolio without having held a position abroad, and there are plenty of opportunities to discuss ideas and learn from foreign colleagues at conferences, etc.
    – Kimball
    May 19, 2015 at 6:42
  • My impression that a clarification is needed was right. Thank you for your updated advice - it makes total sense and actually matches my current preferences. I'm still curious, though, about what other people think on the subject and their rationale - I hope to receive more feedback. May 19, 2015 at 6:54

Well, there are a lot of countries (and educational systems and cultures) in the world. So what I am about to say could be completely wrong for some countries.

If you want to end up doing research and teaching, watch out, as regards the teaching part. There are countries that use more of a sink-or-swim approach to university studies than we like to think we take here in the U.S. (I don't mean that to sound bitter -- there are a good number of professors in U.S. institutions who do have a real commitment to teaching.)

For the research side of things, I don't think there is any advantage or disadvantage to post-doccing overseas. The important thing is that you be in a situation that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally supportive, and collaborative, so that you can get some good publications under your belt. So it all boils down to compatibility with the group.


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