Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated August 2010
Do you want to stand out from the thousands of other graduate degree holders in your field? Of course you do, and earning your degree abroad is a great way to do just that. Plus as a graduate student, you want to narrow your focus in a particular field of study, so why not get your entire graduate degree abroad and study in a culture where the field is hot, or perhaps even the culture where it originated?
You can try new cuisine, meet and interact with new types of people, gain an appreciation for different types of art—all while earning a graduate degree that is just as respected as one from the US; and may fit your learning style better or even take less time. This article will detail all the differences between a US and a foreign degree, and why earning your graduate degree abroad may be the best career move you ever make.
So what’s the difference?
Masters degrees abroad are typically broken into two categories: the “taught” masters, and the “research masters.” In the US, most masters programs are taught programs, meaning that students must complete numerous courses to graduate. Overseas it is more common to pursue a research masters, which is concentrated on applying knowledge in the field to research projects, with very little time spent in the classroom.
When you enroll in a taught masters full-degree program abroad, you will: be taught over three terms (spending the third term writing a small thesis), take intense and demanding classes with heavy coursework, and complete your degree in just one year (in the UK and many European countries, school runs September through September). Coming from the US, where it typically takes students two years to complete a masters degree, one year can’t sound too bad! You could save both time and money by earning your masters degree abroad, all while having the experience of a lifetime.
With a research masters you can expect to: do a lot of digging and to produce a lengthy thesis (30,000-40,000 words), engage mostly in independent work, and complete your degree in approximately two years. Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of that long thesis? Don’t worry, you’ll likely have the help of a tutor throughout the process, which is invaluable if you are not fluent in the language. If you like reading your own textbook instead of being lectured by professors or other students, you may want to opt for a research masters overseas.
As for how masters degrees are named, that varies from country to country. One thing that is the same worldwide is the fact that if you plan to pursue an MBA, you will be required to take the GMAT.
Doctorate degrees abroad are also different than those in the US, and depending on the country. Speaking in generalities, international doctoral students: are required to produce an original piece of research in the form of a thesis, are expected to defend the thesis they write, and must commit to study full-time for at least two-and-a-half years. If that sounds a bit intense, think of the up-side; instead of taking four-to-six years to complete a PhD, you can earn one in just two-to-five years in many countries. In fact, in the UK, students can enter a research-level PhD program directly after completing an undergraduate degree, and students can earn that PhD degree in just three years!
Those wondering how the expense of a graduate degree abroad compares to the expense of getting one at home will be pleasantly surprised. Because so many foreign countries do not charge native students for higher education, earning your graduate degree abroad is typically less expensive than earning one at home. Plus, you finish your degree in a fraction of the time it would take to finish in the United States, where you’d be paying for an extra year or two.
More than just a degree
What are the benefits of earning your entire degree abroad, as opposed to studying abroad for a semester or two? First, many graduate students find it difficult to fit a short-term study abroad experience into their busy schedules. In addition, there are far fewer graduate study abroad programs than there are for undergraduates. Sure, you can study abroad during the summer, but what about work? Enrolling in a graduate full-degree program abroad allows you to: learn alongside students from all over the world, get a different cultural perspective on your field of study, and immerse yourself in a foreign culture and become a citizen of the world.
Experiencing the world through new eyes will help you personally, academically and professionally. Meeting new friends who share your interests, but with a different frame of reference, will expand your own perspective. You will acclimate to the teaching and learning styles of another country, allowing you more academic flexibility and proving to future employees you can adjust to changing environments. Employers are seeking workers with overseas experience who can speak another language and embrace the diversity of the world marketplace. Fortunately, English is a second language many countries and many programs offer courses taught in English, so you absolutely do not have to be fluent in a foreign language, though some knowledge will certainly help.
Learn where the action is
The education and research being done in the United States is great, but other countries are doing astonishing things as well. There has been much talk about the need for the United States to improve its standing in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. If you are studying in one of these areas, you should really consider getting your graduate degree in a country that shines in your intended field.
For example, if you want a graduate degree in the field of technology, India would be an excellent study-abroad destination. Over the past few years, India has emerged as an innovative technology powerhouse. Ever notice that when you call customer service you often get an Indian representative? Now you know why; India has technology all tied up.
Or, say you’re an art history major. Wouldn’t you like to study famous works up close and walk the streets that inspired the world’s greatest artists? Earning your graduate degree in France or Italy will afford you those opportunities and more. It’s just not the same looking at the reproductions in textbooks or catching an exhibit at your local museum.
But even more than that, think of what graduate school means. You may have studied history in college, but now you are narrowing your focus to a specific time period, perhaps even in a specific place. You may have studied art in college, but now you are focused specifically on the works of Mark Chagall. You may have studied literature in college, but now your focus is on Jane Austin within a four year span. If you are getting into such a narrow focus, shouldn’t you optimize your learning by studying at the appropriate destination? Sometimes a graduate degree abroad just makes sense.
The fine print
When you decide to earn your graduate degree abroad, you want to be sure the program you enroll in is legitimate. To that end, you should investigate the school’s accreditation status if you want your degree to be recognized worldwide. You’ll find that the good graduate programs abroad are on the same academic level as those in the United States.
In order to be accepted into a graduate program abroad, you must hold a bachelors degree in the subject you plan to study as a graduate. This can take some research because some countries in Western Europe, Germany for example, do not have degrees that are comparable to US bachelor’s degrees. Be sure to check out all requirements before choosing a destination.
As for funding your graduate study abroad, many countries utilize the US FAFSA number and can draw upon your financial aid from home. If you earn your graduate degree in the UK or Australia, you may have the option of working part-time while enrolled; this is a great bonus for students who are a little short on money but really want to study abroad. There is a lot of financial aid available for graduate students studying abroad; you just have to look for it. There are grants, scholarships, fellowships, and tuition waivers. You could also obtain an assistant teaching or research position to help pay your way. Just note that, unlike with most undergraduate study abroad programs, you may need to be responsible for the details of your life abroad such as housing, relocation, transportation, and other general necessities.
But all of that will be overshadowed by the tremendous opportunity to stretch yourself as a student and job candidate. If you’ve never considered earning your entire graduate degree abroad, hopefully this article has revealed the great opportunities available to you. Now that you know the benefits of a graduate degree from abroad, as well as the fine reputation you will enjoy as the holder of such a degree, it’s time to start researching your options for an overseas graduate degree.
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