Your International Graduate Degree: Still A Good Idea?

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:

The Good

  • 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.

My Take

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! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Your International Graduate Degree: Still A Good Idea?

  1. Efesa, you could not have put it any better. My first thought when i hear that people want to come study abroad(US or UK) is to ask why.If it is to get a good job after graduation, then i would advise that the individual sit down and think again. Is your field of study or your kind of professional in high demand but in short supply in the country in which you are planning to study? Is the field a high-growth field and they basically need foreigners to fill up the vacant jobs in the sector? Is it science,technology,engineering and mathematics related (i.e. STEM ) because there is a high demand for this kind of professionals in the US? Then finally, who is paying the bill, you, your parents, a relative or via a scholarship? It is tough if you have answered this questions truthfully and decided to go ahead and it is even tougher if you are being dishonest with yourself. Getting a job after schooling depends on a host of factors and it is even complicated these days with the anti-immigrant rhetoric that often pervades US politics and public discourse. That said , if you know in your heart of hearts that you should be here, then no matter how difficult it is, I know you will find a way around it and beat all the odds. If you are not sure and you just want a foreign education and foreign job and you are willing to pay for it yourself, then please look to Canada. They have a growing economy, cheaper cost of education and are more welcoming to immigrants due to economic growth. But you must still do your own research cos nothing in life is certain.

  2. Well I totally agree with you bro. However, I would also like to add that getting some work experience in your field before proceeding to acquire your international degree (BSc., MSc., or PhD.) in truth does give you an added advantage.

    I am in no way belittling the role of God’s favour in getting even your initial work experience, and even getting a job after your degree – I believe strongly in the role God’s favour plays – but I must admit that employers are seeking people who can get the job done with minimum input from them.

    I just finished my MSc. in the UK, but prior to that I had a number of years of work experience. I was also opportune to do a 1 year work placement in the UK as part of my MSc., and today by God’s grace I have a job in the UK. Pay is a good start – but then who will not want more pay 🙂 – and I also enjoy the work. If I had had all my work experience in the UK, I am sure I would be paid more, but its like a new start for me, and a good one too. I do not mind.

    As a side note, my office has been interviewing for a role since January, but so far none have met the requirements – mostly UK nationals. Which brings us to another question, “You may have the degree, but do you have the skill?”

    I am humbled to have the job I have – totally God’s favour, but I must also add that skill – even if you gain it as an entrepreneur – will not hurt you.

    I will also like to add. Depending on your field of study, some may actually thrive more in your country – in my case Nigeria. For example the IT industry in Nigeria – my personal opinion – favours hardware based roles over software based roles – little wonder, as we are more of a consumer nation, than a producing nation – so your field of study should also play a role in determining where you should settle down. Your international degree will not hurt though.

    Another point is the new trend in Nigeria is having an international PhD. as the number of international MSc. holders is slowly reaching a point of saturation.

    [Did not proof read before posting, so please pardon any error – now my lunch break is over, so bye for now :)]

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