Criteria to choose your study abroad destination

posted at June 20, 2022, 1:47 p.m.


Picking the right country to pursue your master's degree is critical. It’s also baffling. As an international student, the things you have to consider are multifold. There’s the augmentation of knowledge, but there's also the piles of money that ultimately metamorphoses into that one piece of paper: your degree.

What’s the perfect program?

Having worked with over 7000 students in the last 6 years, we’ve seen too many applicants focus solely on the "global ranking" of a university assuming that it will ensure great job opportunities and RoI. The thing to note here is that the ‘one size fits all’ policy hardly works if you’re pushed against the wall to either return to your home country or recover as much money as you’ve spent. Deciding on the ‘perfect’ program at the ‘right’ university in the ‘desirable’ country is then contingent on the profile you have + your long-term plans/goals.

In this article, we provide a bird’s eye view of the countries that have come to be the most desirable destinations for Indian students to get a Master’s degree. Again, it’s important to understand that no such ‘perfect’ list exists. To come up with this list, there were specifics we had to leave out that usually correspond to an individual’s profile and the priorities they set for themselves. To give structure to the plethora of information that is available (and needs to be considered) about each of these countries, we focus on the following two aspects that play a crucial role in the assessment of the ROI of a Master’s degree abroad:

Stay back period/Visa Norms/Post Study Work (PSW) permit:

There is no point in going to a highly ranked university if the country's visa norms don't allow you to stay back and work. You have to understand if the country allows you to stay back post your degree to look for a job and work.

Job opportunities:

Just friendly visa norms won't ensure smooth sailing. The job market for various courses varies greatly in different countries.

An interaction between the above two aspects results in each country ticking some boxes (of the needs of an international student) while leaving some others unchecked. Thus, we have created two additional categories that can, when factored in, help demystify the process of choosing the ‘ultimate destination’:

  • Preferred courses
  • Caveats

USA

Well, let’s face it. The American dream is here to stay. The lure of an admit to a top American university lingers and there are a fair number of reasons behind it.

Job opportunities: Compared to most other countries, the US offers more opportunities in a wider variety of fields. The most important factor to consider here is the location. Some locations have come to be the hub for certain types of jobs, after getting a certain kind of degree (read tech). Don’t hesitate to invest a little more in a university in California, the east coast (around NYC, Boston, DC), North Carolina, Texas, or Illinois. These areas of the USA are the best regions for jobs. You don’t want to be going to a university in Idaho or Alabama if you are pursuing a tech degree.

Also, the USA promises higher salaries and career growth opportunities since a lot of American companies are at the forefront of innovation in a variety of sectors.

Visa Norms: 3-year Optional Practical Training on a student visa (OPT) for master’s degrees classified as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) During these 3 years, your company will apply for your H1B visa each year and if you are picked for the H1B, you can have a longer stay back period. If you pursue a non-STEM course, that OPT period is only for 1 year.

Preferred courses: STEM, especially CS, DS, BA, MEM, Computer Engineering, Industrial, Biotechnology, and MIS among others.

Caveats:

  • Gruesome green card: The USA is better in terms of the number of jobs available in a variety of sectors but getting a green card is a long drawn process. Being friends with Uncle Sam is costly: The USA is expensive. Depending on the university, you will likely spend upwards of 35 lakhs at least on a master’s degree in the US. That can go up to 70 lakhs as well for a lot of top private universities and Ivy League schools.

  • The visa roulette: The H1B visa follows a lottery system. Though most STEM graduates secure an H1B, you will be on a visa that is dependent on the company that has employed you. The daily grind may become too real: The USA will only allow you to work on the university campus on your F1 student Visa. Yes, every other friend or cousin of yours working at department stores as an international student in the USA is doing something illegal.

UK

The UK is beautiful. The UK is nice? The UK is more affordable as compared to the US. What about the returns though?

Job opportunities: The UK is a good destination for MBAs and finance grads with solid prior work experience. The number of jobs in the UK for a variety of other sectors is very limited though. Hence the course you pick becomes extremely important.

Visa norms: 2-year stay-back period (PSW)

Preferred courses: MBA, Finance, Core tech to a limited extent.

Caveats: While the UK has introduced the 2-year stay-back period (PSW) for foreign candidates to stay back and look for a job, the fact remains that the number of jobs available in the UK is still limited. Before the new PSW, students often struggled to get a job because of the tight timelines. After the new stay-back period, it's been difficult to gauge the opportunities due to COVID.

Canada

Canada is perhaps the most immigrant-friendly country out there. Almost everyone knows someone who knows someone (who knows someone…) who has permanently shifted to Canada. But how does the job market treat fresh graduates?

Job opportunities: While Canada’s job market is pretty immigrant-friendly and sees demand for certain grads, there’s virtually none for some other courses. Hence, it might be easy for you to stay back (see next section) but getting a job might be tough.

Visa norms: Canada has a Permanent Residency (PR) system that makes permanent immigration easy. This eliminates the uncertainties that come with working abroad on a visa.

Preferred courses: CS, Analytics, Data Science, MBA, Energy

Caveats: While Canada costs less for your education, the subsequent salaries are lower as well. Also, jobs can be very hard to come by for certain sectors. Hence you don’t want to be sitting on a visa without a job.

Pro- tip: Be sure to pick a university in a good location with a good reputation in Canada. Typically, you want to be in and around Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal & Calgary. Often, the competition in Canada at these schools might be higher since a lot of candidates are applying to a limited number of schools.*

Germany

Germany is quickly rising as a sought-after destination for higher studies, thanks to its quality education coupled with tuition fee-waivers. Let’s dig a little deeper though.

Job opportunities: The quality of education is fairly constant across German universities. This makes the German job market-neutral towards the university you graduate from. As a result, the individual profile comes out as a more pronounced factor. Also, you should be careful about the course you’re going for (see #2 in caveats).

Visa Norms: 18-month stay back period. The job will allow you to stay on for longer. Also, in Germany, you can work wherever you please outside the university. You can work in restaurants, gas stations, or anywhere you wish to earn while you study.

Preferred Courses: Mechanical, Automobile, Electrical related fields

Caveats:

  • Language: DO NOT GO TO GERMANY WITHOUT GAINING GERMAN PROFICIENCY. Yes, English is the medium of instruction in most German universities. But convincing an employer to give you a job in Germany without knowing German is quite a task. Your resume, cover letters, and even interviews might be in German!

  • Long-term prospects: You will only be eligible for a German PR if you find employment in a field related you your studies. That’s the reason why you should only select particular courses in Germany that offer greater opportunities. The likelihood of you finding a job related to your studies will also improve greatly if you go to Germany with relevant work experience before your degree. Without ticking these boxes, finding a job in Germany might be hard.

France

Job opportunities: Good prospects for MBA grads but for most other courses the market isn’t the friendliest.

Visa Norms: 2 years stay back period. You can also take up part-time jobs to sustain yourself while you look for a stable job. Once you do get it, you can apply for a work permit and work things out.

Preferred Courses: MBA, Finance

Caveats: While it’s not an official pre-requisite, a large part of your job search will depend on networking which in turn will require proficiency in French.

Netherlands

Job opportunities: The Netherlands has a booming tech economy which should ensure that you can secure jobs. Quite a few graduates from universities in the rest of Europe also move to the Netherlands in search of opportunities. The fact that the language barrier isn’t a massive problem also works to your advantage!

Visa Norms: 1 year PSW called Orientation year. You can stay back for this period and look for a job that gets you a PR.

Preferred Courses: Computer Science, Technology Management, MBA, Information Systems, Marketing

Caveats: While the job market in the Netherlands is good, understand that it will never be as promising as America. Also, the number of elite universities you’d aspire to go to is limited!

Still confused? Talk to us!

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience. For good or for bad. We’ve seen both kinds and the difference between the two often turns out to be awareness and recognition of what matters in the long run. Informed decisions are the way to go.

So, go ahead and schedule your free consultation call with us today! See you on the other side :)