Background

I’m an American who will be starting a pure math PhD at a relatively prestigious US public university later this month (I realize that it might seem pointless ask a question about a program I haven’t yet begun; however, I think that my question is basically independent of these concerns.)

Moving to Europe is one of my goals in life (just to clarify, it has been since before 2016), and while applying to grad schools I seriously contemplated studying in Germany. However, friends and former professors, as well as professors from my current PhD program, with whom I spoke while visiting, advised me that it would likely be much easier to find a research job if I completed a PhD from an American university. Based on this advice, I accepted the offer from my current program.

It seems to me now, however, that this advice is likely false—while I have heard that German academia is considered to be quite closed to outsiders, it seems that there are quite a few mathematicians with PhDs from German universities who have acquired desirable research positions outside of Germany, and my impression is that a PhD from a well-regarded German university is quite competitive on the international and the European job market. Moreover, it seems questionable to me that a PhD from a moderately/relatively prestigious American university would give one an edge in the academic job market outside the US (perhaps I’m wrong, here, though).

Given this situation, I am considering applying to a Master’s program at a certain German university which is quite strong in my area of interest, and
which also seems to have some connections with my current program (in terms of research collaboration), with the intention of completing a PhD at the same university afterward. In terms of personal preference, I would (based on prior experience) much prefer to be residing in Germany, so continuing on at my current program doesn’t seem appealing if it’s not likely to be more advantageous in terms of finding a job in Europe after finishing my PhD.

Questions

  • Is it likely that leaving my PhD program for a Master’s in Germany after a year would damage my career prospects?
  • In this or a similar set of circumstances, is it possible to leave one’s PhD program without burning bridges completely?

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