The year 2012 is still quite young, and lots of goals are still being vigorously pursued. For some, it is losing weight, changing careers, or getting a college degree.
Which brings me to the issue of an international graduate degree. The idea of getting a masters degree from a developed country like the United States or United Kingdom has always been appealing to many, including myself, and this is not surprising. An education which could get you a high-paying job in an advanced economy is bound to sound attractive to many, especially those from less wealthy, developing nations.
However, things are changing. If you have been following world events, you may be asking yourself if your graduate degree dream is still a good idea. The United States is not growing fast enough to provide enough jobs for its own citizens, not to mention its constant wave of immigrants. Europe is in much worse shape, and may actually get worse this year. Other parts of the world like the Middle East are also experiencing a lot of momentous change. So how do you decide if your plan is still a good idea?
Let’s take a few moments to analyze the prospect of getting an international graduate degree:
- Quality Education: The higher institutions of developed nations are still among the best in the world, and they still guarantee a first rate education.
- Exposure: Getting to study alongside the best and brightest from all over the world is an experience that cannot be quantified. It’s a big world out there people, and getting to see various parts of the world through the eyes of its citizens is simply a priceless experience.
- Funding: I would not have a foreign graduate degree today if I had to pay for it myself. One of the really cool things about graduate programs, especially in the US, is that you can get your degree for free!
- Opportunity: Even though the economies of a lot of nations are slowing down, or even shrinking, these nations still offer opportunity, in the form of good jobs with opportunities for growth and self expression. They don’t come easy, but they are still available.
The Not So Good
- Tight Job Market: Getting a job after graduation in a country like the UK or US ( if that’s your plan ) is still very difficult. There are a lot of qualified citizens of those countries, and they don’t need immigration processing and paperwork, so it just makes good business sense to hire them instead. I have to state though that for some sectors like engineering and IT, things are a bit easier.
- Shrinking Financial Aid: Even though one can still get a full tuition scholarship, also known as a ‘free ride’, a lot of programs are now scaling back their scholarships and other sources of student funding because they are getting less funds from their benefactors. My own former department has significantly scaled back funding for this exact reason. However, I know that research has to continue, and so a lot of research-oriented graduate programs still provide their students with financial aid in the form of graduate research assistanships.
After considering all the above, I believe that a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decision for a graduate international degree should be based on one simple question: what are you looking for? If what you want is a high-paying job in the US or UK, are you willing to take a leap of faith, knowing that your dream may not happen? If what you want is the education and exposure, with the hope of a job as an added benefit, then how much risk can you comfortably shoulder? It is okay to expect that you will get funding, or an on-campus job to take care of your living expenses, but what if this doesn’t happen? What is your backup plan?
Finally, it is noteworthy to mention that for a small group of people, this decision may be a relatively easy one as they are already in their worse case scenario. They have the opportunity to go abroad, get a degree, and stay abroad or return back home to their current job which has a fair amount of opportunity.
When I started this blog, I felt that a big part of its richness will come from the comments of my friends, who have first hand experiences regarding some of the topics I blog about. This hasn’t happened as much as I would have liked. So this is me begging for comments, thoughts and opinions. Share what you think! 🙂