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PhD in USA Vs Europe (Germany) Universities

Phd in USA Vs Europe Puneet has an interesting article about PhD in USA VS Europe. This is the third article in the series of articles about Higher Education in Germany.


Hello Everyone,

This post will focus on the major differences for applying or studying at US and German (European) Universities. While, the referred things will be more suitable for students seeking admission to a PhD program but still some general things can be extracted by students aspiring for masters’ degree as well.


Time period for PhD in USA Vs Europe

PhD at US universities takes a considerable amount of time (4, 5 or 6 years) wherein PhD at German (or for that matter European Universities) ranges from 3 to 4 years.

The major difference in the time period for PhD in USA Vs Europe is due to the fact that students at US universities have to undergo course-work during the 1st (or 2nd years) of their PhDs.

And thereafter, they have a lab rotations in the 33-4 labs of their interests, before choosing the best ones for themselves.

While at German universities you may or may not have to undergo a coursework or a lab rotation procedure.

The major advantage of undergoing a course-work is that it helps one to fill the gaps left in his/her studies. It basically helps people from different academic backgrounds to come at the same level. And more importantly, it gives ample time to settle down in a new country as well.


Getting admitted to a US universities has only one route- apply to the interested Department (or University) for a Graduate Programs.

You can’t directly apply to a Professor. Whereas, in Germany (or other European) Universities, one can apply to the university as well as to the professor directly.

This means, for applying to a US universities, you should be choosing the department very carefully of your interest and that particular department should have at least 2 or 3 people working on your topic of interests.

While applying to a Europe, one can have a targeted approach as well, i.e to write to the professors directly.

Entry Criteria

Test Scores: PhD in USA Vs Europe

US universities demand for GRE and TOEFL (almost all) whereas it is not mandatory for German (or European Universities).

Although, TOEFL is highly recommended even for European Universities since our (Indians) mother tongue is not English. Anything above 80 in TOEFL (out of 120) is reasonable enough.

This is also true for people seeking admission to master programs in the respective countries.

Who can apply?

You can apply to US universities (for PhDs), if you have a 4 years bachelors degree or with a 3 years bachelors + 2 years masters degree.

Wherein, to my knowledge, a masters degree is required to get admitted to a German University for PhD. This is because of the fact that most of the German Universities also have a 3 years of bachelors (natural sciences), so they prefer a 2 years of masters as well.

Funding for PhD in USA Vs Europe

Regarding funding, usually (may not be the case always), once you get admitted to the US universities (for PhD), the funding/ scholarship is secured and is provided by the department or university. Whereas for European Universities, the funding is usually secured as well.

But in addition, one can also look for external funding agencies (like DAAD or other scholarships, Marie Curies’ etc). Once you safeguard either of the external funding options, you can approach to the Professor of your interests, which will greatly boost the chances of you getting admitted.


Last but not the least, another major difference between PhD in USA Vs Europe is, applying to US universities is an expensive affair wherein mostly European Universities offer free applications.

Next – Go to Happy Schools Blog Germany page for more details

Take Care

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One Comment

  1. This is a fascinating topic. Let’s break it down.

    1. First, research quality: Germany has some obviously world class places, but the USA definitely wins by far …in depth, in research outlook and cutting edge research methods.

    2. PhD value: I have always found German PhDs perhaps a little shallow in their knowledge compared to US PhDs. This is probably because the German system is too quick and 3 years is really not enough to have a comprehensive view of your field (unless you are a genius…and Germany has lots of them)

    3. General life: Germany is an amazing country. From an Indian (non veg) perspective, it is a dream, especially if you hang out around the Turkish food outlets that are all over the place. But Germany is a monoculture, which is natural considering that its a very small country. America is vast and varied and each city/state has its own specialty. Yes, Germans are fun loving and generally much more relaxed than Americans, but Americans are more welcoming and accepting of others.

    4) Rule of law: Germany has a much weaker rule of law compared to the US. “Punks” are everywhere and people take some amount of hooliganism in their stride. In America, rule of law is generally very strong.

    5) Immigration: European immigration rules are much more relaxed compared to American counterparts, but they are administered in somewhat chaotic fashion. In America, if you have followed the law, you will have a smooth ride. Europe is much more similar to India: even when you try to follow rules, bureaucrats will make life miserable, most of the time no one knows what exactly the rules are.

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