Studying for a PhD in Europe or the United States?

Studying for a PhD in Europe or the United States?
Are you thinking of doing a PhD abroad? There are significant differences between European and U.S. doctoral programs that you should know about before applying. Read on to determine which program is right for you.


It is often not possible to complete a PhD in Europe without first obtaining a Master’s degree. In the United States, many doctoral programs accept applicants with only a Bachelor’s degree. Students typically earn a master’s degree in the doctoral program after taking a few years of coursework and passing certain exams. This does not mean that all doctoral students in U.S. doctoral programs entered the program directly from undergraduate school. Many still choose to do a master’s degree before applying for a PhD. In some programs, students who already have a master’s degree may not be required to take as many courses as students who only have a bachelor’s degree, but this is not always the case.

Time to degree

European doctoral programs are shorter than those in the United States. For example, it takes three years to complete a PhD in France, Norway, the UK, and Germany. Across Europe, a three- to four-year PhD is common. In comparison, six years is the average time to complete a degree in the U.S., with many PhDs in the humanities and social sciences taking seven or eight years to complete their degree.

Dissertation topic

Doctoral students in Europe must choose their dissertation topic and supervisor during the application process. Students apply for specific vacant doctoral projects that are usually related to a faculty search. As part of their application, they must create a research proposal for that project. It is also possible (in the UK, for example) to apply to a department rather than a specific position, but applicants should always include a research proposal and are encouraged to contact potential supervisors before applying. In the U.S., applicants apply to a department’s doctoral program rather than to a specific doctoral project. While they should discuss their research interests and identify potential supervisors in their application, students do not decide on their dissertation topic until their second or third year. In reality,

Teaching requirement

D. students sometimes have the opportunity to teach in Europe, although teaching is not required in many countries. In the United States, doctoral candidates are often required to teach undergraduates, often as a teaching assistant for a large lecture class. A teaching assistant leads smaller tutorials for 20-30 students and grades their exams and papers. Most doctoral students will take a course each semester for two to three years. Many U.S. doctoral programs also have required pedagogy courses for graduate students.


Many European PhD programs require students to take few or no courses. Candidates begin work on their dissertation projects immediately. U.S. doctoral programs, regardless of field, require students to take two to three years of courses and seminars on topics in the discipline before working on their dissertation.

Funding and Salary

In many European countries, doctoral students are considered employees and have employment contracts. As employees, doctoral students contribute to health insurance, retirement and unemployment insurance. In countries where doctoral students are not employees (such as the UK and Italy), students apply for university scholarships, external fellowships or research grants for funding. Tuition fees are considerably lower in many European countries than in the United States. Funding at U.S. universities varies considerably, as do tuition fees. Private universities have higher tuition than public schools (although international students generally have higher tuition at public schools). The best schools offer five-year funding programs that cover tuition and fees and provide a monthly stipend. They also often include health insurance and conference travel. At other schools, students must compete for scholarships at the university, state or national level to fund their doctorate. In some departments, students are


Check Also

How much does a PhD, Postdoc and Professor earn in the Netherlands?

How much does a PhD, Postdoc and Professor earn in the Netherlands? Salaries at Dutch …

Leave a Reply