I'm about to graduate from a terminal masters program in the United States. The most prominent PhD program I've gotten into has been at Trinity College Dublin. I want to go into U.S. academia rather than Irish academia, but the PhD programs I've gotten into the U.S. have been second-tier.

Is there a disadvantage in terms of hiring prospects? My main concern is that I might not be taken as seriously in the U.S. since European graduate schools have very short (by U.S. standards) periods of study. I've heard 3 years of graduate work is typical for Irish universities in my field, while U.S. schools you might study twice as long.

tl;dr First-tier Irish university or second-tier U.S. university for my PhD?

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    I don't have an answer for your main question, but note that 3 years is not as atypical in certain fields in the US where a masters degree typically comes before a PhD. The answers will probably depend a lot on your field for other reasons, as well.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 11, 2017 at 21:37
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    Given the number of European-trained professors at various US institutions, I don't think it makes a big difference. Go to the place with better options and reputation, regardless of where it is.
    – Jon Custer
    May 11, 2017 at 22:02
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    One significant issue is that US grad programs often include teaching experience. The Irish program may or may not, and if it does it will be rather different than the US system. If you apply to jobs where teaching is a significant expectation (which in most fields is most jobs), then a lack of relevant teaching experience will certainly be a detriment. May 11, 2017 at 23:55
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    @NateEldredge if the Irish system is anything like the UK, the opportunity to teach is there for PhD students. The difference with the US is that the student will have funding independent of their teaching work (and as a consequence, may not be paid extra on top of the stipend for any teaching done). May 12, 2017 at 0:24
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    To the OP: "I want to go into U.S. academia rather than Irish academia" in some fields, the post-doc job market is so poor that you might not have a choice where you go. May 12, 2017 at 0:25

3 Answers 3


1) I don't know what you mean by second-tier, but TCD isn't at the level of Harvard/MIT/Princeton/Berkeley.

2) The answer does depend on what your range of acceptable careers post-PhD is, because the answer is different for different segments of the job market. For research positions, it won't matter much, though you have to be careful not to work in an area that is poorly represented in the US. For primarily teaching-oriented positions (and many US PhDs in mathematics take a teaching position, permanent or temporary, straight after finishing - certainly more than those who take postdocs), you are unlikely to be considered a serious candidate without US (or at least North American) teaching experience.


Theoretically, one should be judged based on publications, and not where they obtained their PhD. But the ugly truth is obtaining a PhD in the US give you more advantage when applying for a academic position in the US. This is an advice that I heard several times, by different people to different people.

Last year, there was a young researcher interviewed for an Assistant Professor at my university. I looked up his profile, and was totally impressed. At that time he were just 3 years after PhD, but he had published nearly 40 papers, and most of them are in the big 4 conferences in my fields. He also got more than 2000 citations (more than 3000 now). His working experience includes research positions at the likes of Google, Facebook and he were postdoc at a top 3 university at that time.

However, at the staff lunch when he joined as part of the interview. A staff, director of some sorts (student career or whatever), introduced him to everybody, summarized his bio like "he did his undergraduate at Stanford, then he went to the UK where obtaining a PhD is much easier hahaha". I didn't know how he felt, but I felt being insulted myself. I also got my PhD from the UK, although at a much lesser school, not Oxbridge like that guy.

I don't know why he didn't get the job, he is still a postdoc at the same university. The one who got the job is a lady from a Ivy League school. She is also very talented, but her publication record and experience was nowhere near his, she even hadn't graduated at that time.

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    I feel like this is a conservative, maybe even snob-like behavior in some countries. I've heard about quite some stories that are very similar, especially from the U.S. I guess this "clientele" sees itself as the "special snowflake". I myself am a student in Germany and we have very open-minded Professors, rather looking at the publication record on the one side and also those conservatives at the other. People that are like "hey you have to graduate at some of the german 'ancient'-level universities, where people like Einstein, Schrödinger, von Neumann, .. have been or you're worth nothing."
    – daniel451
    May 13, 2017 at 19:33

Accumulating high-quality publications and taking advantage of networking opportunities ultimately dilutes any negative impression the occasional snob may associate with the institution where you got your degree from.

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