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03/08/2021

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Rosa

One thing to bear in mind: if you get a PhD in a place like Australia, the UK, etc, where there is little/no coursework and little/no teaching, my sense is that you'll be at a serious disadvantage on the US market. It sounds from your post like you might prefer to stay in Europe anyway, but the US is really big and a lot of the jobs out there are here, so it's worth considering if you want to ultimately have an academic job. Good luck!

Assistant Professor

Given the OPs stated goals (to teach in their research areas, but also to further develop their areas through additional coursework) a US program seems well-suited for these needs (the model of coursework + qualifying or comprehensive exams + opportunities to TA and teach, which is usually how PhD students in the US are funded for their studies). I wouldn't worry about being in a "top" ranked program if one's primary goal is to be at a teaching institution post PhD. While I am intrigued by Elisa's comment that US institutions just won't know how to evaluate a European PhD granting program which could be an advantage, I have observed that it is more often a disadvantage, and agree with Rosa's comment on this point.

Healthcare coverage is so, so important. Here is what I recall from ~7 years ago: of the programs to which I was accepted and seriously considering, two did not offer health coverage, two did, and one did not pay fully for health coverage but it was possible to buy into a plan as a grad student. I ended up in a program that paid for 100% of my health insurance premium for very comprehensive insurance with a relatively low deductible (some grad students griped when the annual deductible went from something like $150 to $250 - and we can all wish healthcare were free and universal - but in the scheme of US health insurance plans this is an incredibly good deal and much of my healthcare ended up paid at 100% while I was in school, after meeting my deductible).

I made clear to the programs I turned down that did not include health coverage that this was one of the key reasons I could not accept their offers. The departments recognized it was a huge problem, and asked me to document this reason in writing so they could better advocate to the administration about health coverage for graduate students. I believe that the Affordable Care Act does allow lawfully present non citizen residents to buy into ACA plans, and that the amount of grad student stipends would likely allow individuals to qualify for low-cost premiums, but I can't imagine the bureaucracy of this is easy to navigate though haven't ever tried myself to know first hand.

Current Grad

Most, if not all, universities in the US mandate that you have health insurance as a condition of enrollment. That usually means you have to pay for whatever the university offers unless your parents have better coverage through an employer (which sometimes happens for undergrads). The health insurance offered by US universities is often linked to a central campus health center where you may be required to go first in order to reduce copays and the like. It's often quite good coverage with low deductibles in part because university populations are so young, they negotiate group rates, and they centralize their resources in student health centers. It would be expensive to pay for such coverage on your own, so undergrads may pay quite a bit for it on a semester or quarterly basis, but any grad program worth attending will cover your insurance payments as part of the financial package. To my mind, this is a non-issue and I think it's odd to portray the situation in the US as more dire than it is. Grad students, while poor in a straightforward sense, are still well-to-do and are not systemically disadvantaged by US society in the way the working poor and minorities have been. If you fall ill in the US or need counseling services, you will be taken care of as a grad student. And probably quite well.

Another thing to note is that even lower-ranked grad programs may be worth attending. It is possible to transfer from a lower-ranked program to a higher ranked one if you do well. And it's probably a bit easier to do once you've proved yourself in that program. There are even some program that have been quite clear that they encourage students to transfer after receiving an MA: https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2015/12/too-many-philosophy-phd-programs.html

Greg Stoutenburg

To point out what's implicit above: when you think about the decision, be sure to compare apples to apples. Typically, you will pay *something* for healthcare in the USA (though how much varies, and you need to look into your university's program to learn more). Be sure to also consider your stipend, local cost of living, and taxes, and compare these with other areas that are live options for you. These things vary considerably in different parts of the country (but--no one mentioned this--people in the philosophy career salary range pay less in Federal taxes in the USA they might elsewhere).

Sometimes the cost of something is higher somewhere, but the salary more than covers it; sometimes not. For instance, Florida does not tax income, which is good for your wallet. Florida's state workers' health insurance premiums extremely expensive, which is very bad for your wallet. Sometimes it goes the other way. "Current Grad" is right that health insurance costs for graduate students at major universities is not an issue--you are not bankrupt if you pay a small amount of money per month for great benefits (my family had two children there, and having babies in a research hospital is expensive). You just have to weigh it all out, comparing relevant features with one another.

former international student

I agree that a US program is well-suited for OP's needs and that some low-ranked programs have great placement records. But my own experience in a mid-ranked program was that people started really early to "publish up". For example, many of my peers took classes not to learn something brand new, but to develop research projects. They wanted their term papers to be publishable, and some professors designed courses in this way. Sometimes, I felt that I was the only one who was learning things from scratch, which gave me some hard time both academically and mentally. Of course, this is just my own case.

A foreigner, but not a paranoid foreigner

OP
You need to be clear where you plan to work after you finish a Ph.D. You may not be able to stay in the USA after your Ph.D. It is not automatic. If you plan to stay, I suspect that you will have to get a full time job right away - only then will you qualify for the appropriate visa (assuming you are not a Canadian). I think the health care issue is a bigger deal than people are implying. While I was in the USA, a colleague had a family member visit. That person was in the hospital for 7 days (unexpectedly), and my friend was left paying a bill for $10,000 U.S. When you are admitted into a US hospital for an overnight stay, the first thing they do is put an IV feed into you. Then they can bill the insurance company at a higher rate (even if nothing goes through the IV).

postdoc

I did my PhD in the UK. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the norm seems to be that you are given very little teaching experience (seminar teaching doesn't count). They do not see a PhD as more than a research degree. The problem is that this puts UK PhDs at a disadvantage compared to US PhDs, who receive much more teaching experience. As a result, UK programs struggle to compete. I see US PhDs hired over here all the time, but hardly any UK PhDs are hired in the US. I'd go so far as to say that if you want to work in the UK do your PhD in the US. Until UK programs modernize and understand how they're failing their students, I wouldn't recommend them generally speaking.

postdoc

I wanted to add that if you don't want to be stuck in the US, perhaps regionally stuck, you need to go to a Leiter ranked PhD program. I see US PhDs hired in the UK all the time, but these are PhDs from fancy US programs. It might be that some unranked US programs have good placement, but I doubt they place well internationally. Given how bad the job market is you've got to do a lot of research and be very careful. I destroyed years of my life because I was naive and didn't do my due diligence.

DS

Hello all,
Yes, there are many lower ranked PhD programs that have pretty good placement records. But they typically place their grads at teaching focused schools. It is worth point out that that regional universites/small liberal arts schools/community colleges will NOT typically sponser visa applications because it costs them money. I can't imagine my place offering a non-US citizen a job. It can be very tough for non-citizens unless they come from outstanding programs, I believe.

anon

Graduate school in the humanities is incredibly hard on a person with mental health issues, so I would reconsider it altogether. I was told that graduate school is a rite of passage, but it is more like a hazing. Going part-time isn't an option in the US like it is in the UK either. If you do go part-time you'll end up in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt all for a philosophy degree that won't get you a job that you can't get with a bachelor's in a more marketable degree. Mental health issues and grad school don't mix. I'm an MA dropout with OCD and a personality disorder so take that for what it's worth. If health insurance is a concern, stay where you are. Medication over here costs literally double what it does in other countries. Fun fact: I had an ambulance ride while I was in my grad program and the insurance didn't cover any of it, so I had to pay $800 out of pocket for a 5 minute trip, and I'm still paying off the premiums for that insurance plan and it was nearly a year ago that I went off of it.

DS

There are of course people who have had bad experiences with their grad health insurance, but many have had just the opposite experience(myself included). Just make sure you go to an Ivy league program or a grad school where the grad assistants are unionized. Your grad student health insurance might be the best health insurance you ever have in the US!

eurograd

I'm a European grad student in a not-quite-top ranked US grad program, so I'll just leave a few comments:

1. My impression, back in Europe, always was that US (and UK) PhDs are respected even if they're not from a "top program", and that many people who had gone abroad for these were being hired. And even though Europeans are aware of the ranking, I think it at least won't put you at a *dis*advantage back at home. (It might be worth going to a few conferences in your home country during your PhD though.)

2. Staying in the US after the program can be an option, although you would need to take care of your visa situation. In essence, you can get a thing called "OPT" for one year, but after that your hiring institution would have to sponsor your visa. (For me, my relationship status has also affected the way I think about these things over the course of time being here...)

3. My grad funding comes with a health insurance, which I am *required* to accept. The health insurance is paid by my university, but has significant "co-pay" -- which can mean some level of expenses if you get very sick. That said, my university offers a fair range of resources both for mental health and health care in general. (I've been able to talk to a therapist for free, although they don't cover long-term therapy.) So I would recommend researching what exactly the specific program you are applying to (or have gotten admitted to) does for you -- that can make a big difference!

4. My general impression of the differences between grad school in the US and getting a PhD in Europe is that US advisors often have far more time for advising, mainly because they teach fewer courses. At least for me, the possibility of long-term funding (that will cover all of my PhD, not just part of it) was there in the US, but Europe was more complicated. In the end, not having to worry about that can save you time and stress, and you might be able to get some publications just because you have these advantages that Europeans don't have. (Obviously, there *are* some spots in Europe where you can get these benefits, but they're few and far between as far as I can see...)

anon

Something that hasn't been addressed here from the OP is the question "Are PhD students in the US always in the need to move after they end their degree?". The answer is pretty much 'Yes', and this strikes me as a big difference between academia broadly in continental Europe vs. the US. My sense is that in continental Europe it is fairly common for people to be immediately employed as a research postdoc, and sometimes eventually as faculty, at the same university where they did their PhD. This is very uncommon in the states, and have been told that in all but the most exceptional circumstances, departments aim to never hire their own PhD students for permanent positions, unless it's a senior hire and the person has already been tenured elsewhere. Further, given how big the US is physically, with limited rail options in most regions, one can't really count on being hired somewhere commutable from wherever one got one's PhD.

unmoved mover

Anon
You are exactly right. One must be prepared to move in the US in philosophy. The same holds for Canada. Generally, Canadian schools do not hire their own grads. That is, you won't find a lot of UBC grads working in TT jobs at UBC, for example. I have moved so far and wide for work it is startling. It is a life style. It suits me, but it is not for everyone. And if moving is too stressful for someone, they need to take this into account.

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