Skullgrid wrote:I wouldn't necessarily consider a short PhD length better than a long one. Remember, after your PhD your going to be applying to Postdocs, which means you're going to want to have as many solid publications under your belt as possible. Having a few extra years could be immensely useful in this regard (assuming you can start on research right away at the American University). Also, a 3 year PhD is basically cutting out the coursework that you would get in an en-route-to-PhD Masters at a US institution, this coursework could dramatically benefit your ability to do high level research.
I got this same advice in Canada from profs here, that the main disadvantage of a 3 year European PhD is that North American universities are expecting PhD graduates with 5-6 years of grad school experience when they hire post-docs. However, this can be offset by doing your first post-doc in Europe -- by that time, you should have 5-6 years of pretty much full time research experience. In addition, I think the post-doc life is slightly better than the graduate student life (no tuition, no classes, better pay and benefits), but that's at least true in North America, not sure how it works in Europe.
I do not think coursework is a seriously important component of being a good researchers. Some top universities in the US put very little effort into teaching courses well and profs actively discourage us from spending even the "suggested amount of hours" on them. Our quals here are research-based, not course based. I'm not saying coursework isn't useful, but if you're going to be a good researcher (i.e. at a top university) then you are probably good enough to pick things up as you go and/or teach yourself the important parts. I'm not sure if this is a good thing, because then if the top researchers (without a solid foundation in coursework) ends up at a top university, then they won't put effort in teaching either and the cycle continues.
The other disadvantage is that in some fields, there are two very different "circles" and the European/North American research communities don't have as much communication between the two groups as they do within the same group. There are obvious logistical reasons for this. However, this means when you do apply to North American postdocs, your name may not be as well known. The way to get around this is to attend more US conferences but logistics and cost is an issue. Generally, one might do a talk circuit while applying to post-docs and the distance might make things tougher too.
Another way to get around it is to have a really well known supervisor/university. It will get rid of some issues that might come up with someone in North American being unfamiliar with your work.
P-representation wrote: I have heard that European degrees are not taken very seriously in the USA, even those from top universities.
I don't think that's true. Instead, I think there are some disadvantages of doing your training in the EU if your ultimate goal is a job in North America, for the reasons above. However, that doesn't mean one shouldn't do it. Since my goal is a job in North America, the advice I took was to only go to the EU for grad school if there is a great opportunity there that a North American program cannot fulfill. In the end, I didn't actually apply to any EU schools due to the lack of funding availability and the lack of a good research fit. (There was also the additional difficulties in moving our stuff across an ocean [we'd probably put it in storage in Canada if we had moved] and the difficulty my wife would have finding work if we didn't go to an English speaking country).