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I'm a second year undergraduate psychology student in Australia. As a mature-age student, I have a very clear focus in that, I'd like to transition from my undergraduate degree to a PhD, post doc and into academia proper.

It is hard to pin professors down for "pathway" advice.

I am currently working in a lab as a research assistant where I am involved in the publication of a few articles and working with a PhD student and post doc on writing up a few experiments for submission. Whether the journal accepts it or not, the experience gained from submitting and receiving feedback will be invaluable (I hope!).

I am not sure whether to stay and complete my PhD in Australia or apply at another University overseas (UK or US). Alternatively, I could wait until the PhD is completed and then apply for post doc positions overseas (I have a dream of doing a PhD or post doc at Stanford (US) or Cambridge (UK)).

  • Is there a better place to do my PhD other than Australia? What about post doc?
  • In Australia being published or not isn't considered during application for PhD but is it necessary for the U.S. or UK?
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    I would question the idea of dreaming of doing a PhD or postdoc at a prestigious university such as those you mentioned. Do you know that there are supervisors/mentors that you'd want to work with at those institutions? Just because a university is generally high profile, that doesn't mean that it's the best place to be for your specific research interest. Conversely, there are academics who are very well-regarded as experts who work in institutions that would generally be regarded as average. – Ian_Fin Sep 23 '16 at 11:40
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    Absolutely. I suppose that is the joy of a dream - it is not necessarily the most practical option nor the most realistic, however, there are researchers that I have admired, at both Universities, for some time. My main interests are in cognitive and personality along with an interest in creativity research, so attending University of Georgia and working with someone like Mark Runco would be an incredibly opportunity, for example. Dreams aside, I do have a realistic outlook and would love some ideas of "next steps" - Thank you for your feedback, @Ian_Fin – SeriousAboutPsych Sep 23 '16 at 11:58
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    It would help if you can focus on a specific question, since this is after all a Q&A site, not a general discussion board. If you're just fishing for general career advice, the question will probably be closed as "too broad". – Nate Eldredge Sep 23 '16 at 13:15
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    You seem to understand the general process- complete your undergraduate degree, go to graduate school, complete a PhD, work as a post-doc, and eventually get hired into a tenure track position. What specifically do you have questions about? – Brian Borchers Sep 23 '16 at 14:36
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    I thought I'd been explicit with my question but perhaps I should try again. 1. Is there a better place to do my phD or post doc other than Australia? 2. If so, for phd or post doc. 3. In Australia being published or not isnr considered during application for phd but is it necessary for the U.S. or UK? If so, in one specific field or can it be broad. Thanks. I was trying to be polite in my initial question, perhaps that was incorrect. Apologies. – SeriousAboutPsych Sep 23 '16 at 14:52
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My partner did undergrad and grad degrees in Europe, and formed the dream fairly early on to do some sort of study in the US at some point. That did eventually happen, in the form of a post doc. My observation has been that as a dream it was a positive life influence.

Dreams of this type are usually most constructive if they are left rather vague.

When thinking about where to apply for grad school, you must consider

  • funding
  • fit of school and department
  • fit of culture (place where school is located)
  • family considerations having to do with possible relocation

These are all things you can start thinking about now. There are many strands, schools of thought, etc., within a field of study. As you progress in your studies you will learn a lot about what intrigues you, and that will help you guide your choice of schools to apply to.

I can say that based on my own experience, I would not expect that your being a returning student would hinder you in the U.S. I can't speak for other countries.

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Probably, but not necessarily. Some universities insist on international experience, but I have not seen that in Australia.

The real concern here is not "Should I study in Australia or elsewhere?" but "Who are the best people for me to work with?" Most people are outside Australia, so you are likely to find the best people in your field outside Australia.

One consideration is that Australian universities are funded based on how long it takes students to finish their PhD degrees. As a result, many students are encouraged to finish in 3.5 years (plus three years of bachelors and one year of honours). In the United States, PhD students typically study for 5-9 years (plus four years of bachelors), depending on a variety of factors. A longer PhD can be useful because you can get more results before you have to apply for jobs. But it is also a longer time in which the student is paid much less than a postdoc. It's a personal decision to weigh these factors.

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I was a researcher in NZ for many years. I found that they were very reluctant to hire anyone into a senior position unless they had taken at least one graduate degree abroad. The two universities you mention are the very best and you are unlikely to go wrong if you can finance studying at them. I do not know enough about Australia to be certain, but remember that a lot of the hiring people in both Australia and NZ are from England.

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