Many in this community know of the struggle of finding a job in tertiary education after completing a PhD. However, there are many options available for people who are willing to work overseas in exotic locations in Asia, Africa, and the other developing areas of the world.

I am wondering if working overseas would be detrimental to someone's career. Is it hard to get back into the States/Europe after spending a few years teaching and writing in the developing world? How do search committees view someone who has been away in order to find employment? Let's say the person asking has a PhD in education.

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    What kind of US/European institution are you wanting to come back to? And what kind of overseas institution are you going to? Some of the best unis in the world are "overseas" in Asia. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 8:44
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    Well, I never said it was me. But let's say you just want to find a full-time job at a four year college. Let's also say that we are coming from a developing nation in Southeast Asia that is not a high ranking but a rather low ranking place for education Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 8:46
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    It really depends on the reputation of the particular institution, department, etc. There are numerous universities with good reputations in developing countries, and presumably many more I have never heard of. Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 8:56
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    It's a bit weird to put "USA/Europe" on the one side and "overseas" on the other side. Both the UK and the US are overseas for me, a European, but Iraq (the Asian country) isn't.
    – user9646
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 14:05
  • This question reads very oddly due to the assumption of a "US/Europe" reader and "other". Suggest rewording to clarify where the asker is based at present, and where you're thinking of going (oddly enough, "rest of world" is not homogeneous).
    – Flyto
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:04

4 Answers 4


If you go to top schools overseas, you should be fine. You can always explain your decision by saying that you needed to travel, help developing countries, explore opportunities. In my field, many Chinese schools have very high-tech requirements in their labs! My old school (not in China) has unlimited funding! So, research wise, it might be a good idea to travel for a year or two to establish a good working relationship with labs and schools.

Many of the professors (engineering) I know will go to the Gulf region and work in Dubai/Kuwait for a sabbatical year or even as a visiting professor (1-3 years) because of the good pay (can get up to 140-160k), benefits (paid housing, car, air tickets, schooling etc), no taxes, less stress (no need to write proposals or get funding).

As long as you keep your contacts in the US/Europe "happy", you should be fine. I know some professors will hold international conferences and put their colleagues on committees! I know some will hold 1-2 days seminars/workshops and invite their previous department chair as a keynote speaker or lecturer for crash-courses (they make easy money out of this).


It's not a career killer, but it can make things more difficult. If you are looking for research-oriented jobs, and are doing high-quality research, it should not make a difference (except in cases where your area is only popular in other countries). What the other answers fail to mention, is that it can be a significant disadvantage applying to smaller/more teaching-oriented schools (e.g., most liberal arts colleges) from overseas. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Flying you in for interviews is more expensive.
  2. Being able to teach well in the US system is important, and overseas applications tend to provide less evidence for this.
  3. Many schools want to find candidates who specifically want to be at that institution, or at least are not likely to leave. International applicants need to convince committees not just they want to move to the US, but would be happy at that specific school.
  4. At least in my field, we are over-saturated with good domestic candidates, so search committees can afford to throw out applications for small concerns, like ones I mentioned above.

This is not to say it's impossible, it's just a somewhat harder. In my field, where postdocs are common, my general advice to people who want permanent jobs in the US is to try to do their last postdoc in the US (or at least apply to US postdocs as a backup when applying for tenure-track positions).


I did a PhD in philosophy and am currently working in Japan at a university. The majority of my teaching is in English -- and about English -- rather than philosophy.

I'd say there's several things to think about:

(1) How well does your discipline translate to other countries. (Your specific example of education translates well on the theory side and very poorly on the teaching methodologies side [at least in Japan]. My field on the other hand is not done in the same way in Japan as compared to the English-speaking world).

(2) Are your language skills up for the task in these exotic locations? (The claims of certain nations to English speakers in universities are exaggerated or the degree of preparedness for university level work may be exaggerated -- that's why the opportunities are sitting there for the taking. The offers aren't at Peking University of Seoul National University).

(3) Do you have the networking skills or publications to get back to your own country or target country after being abroad? (I continue to publish in English in philosophy, but my teaching time is primarily used teaching English).

(4) Will you be able to get relevant teaching reviews? While Japanese law claims that they have a teaching review system for university courses, in practice, they don't. In other words, I have no plausible teaching reviews except for the ones that I personally conduct in my classes (via google forms). I think this negatively impacts my ability to return to the US.


Exotic is not necessarily bad. You may stand out because of that, but that could be an advantage. If we talk about a low ranking place, you'll need to show that you helped that community, and that you maintained a reasonable publication record. The hard part will be maintaining your network in the region where you want to return.

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