Get Your Master's Degrees Abroad
You’re seated outside a bustling cafe on a sunny side street, sipping a cup of rich Italian espresso as you studiously pour over your notes from yesterday’s lecture—snap out of it! You’re not in Europe, you don’t even like espresso, and there’s no way this could ever be possible. Or could it? Although we can’t reorganize your tastebuds to start liking espresso, we just might be able to change your opinion about your chances of studying a master’s degree abroad.
Fears about finances, cultural adjustments, and the academic rigor overseas might be casting shadows of doubt over your ambitions. And while pursuing a master’s degree within the United States definitely offers its own merits, we’re here to compare those with the many benefits of studying abroad.
Consider this article your step-by-step guide to achieving that dream of getting a master’s degree abroad, from the initial decisions you’ll want to make to the process of obtaining a student visa, and everything in between.
Common master degree abroad questions
Not only can studying abroad provide you with a unique blend of academic excellence, cultural immersion, and personal growth that will shape your future in profound ways, but you may also save time and money in the process.
- How much does it cost to do a master’s abroad?
Contrary to popular belief, studying outside of the US, specifically in Europe, will probably save you money. For example, public universities in Germany offer low-cost and free master’s degrees even for international students. Even in other European countries without free tuition, many masters degrees in public universities rarely go above €3,000 a year—unheard of in the US.
- Which country is the best for a master’s?
As far as which country is the best for masters degrees, it depends on what you’re looking to study. But with over 22,000 accredited master’s programs that are taught in English just within Europe, you can be sure that you’ll have enough options. This isn’t counting all the programs at your disposal if you are fluent in a language other than English.
- Are international master’s degrees recognized in the US?
Most international masters degrees will be recognized in the US as well, unless you’re entering a profession requiring some form of licensure and have hopes of working in the US—think healthcare, law, or education. Getting into grad school abroad doesn’t have to be any more difficult than applications in the US either, although general difficulty will depend on the school, country, and field of study you are looking to get into.
Benefits of a master’s degree abroad
Getting a master’s degree abroad is a transformative experience that not only deepens your academic knowledge but also opens doors to a world of opportunities. In this section, we explore the top benefits that come with pursuing higher education outside of the US, from the money you’ll save to the value that comes with learning another language.
Cheaper – Whereas master’s programs in the US range from $30,000 – $120,000 on average, master’s outside of the US are often more affordable, if not free. Just to name a few examples, Germany (all states but one) and Norway don’t charge any tuition fees at public universities and we easily found master’s degrees at public universities in Spain for as low as €300 a year! Additionally, shorter program durations and opportunities for part-time work while studying can further reduce the overall cost of obtaining a master’s degree abroad.
Possibly shorter – Many Universities in Europe have master’s programs that you can complete within one year, or double degrees that you can achieve in two. This condensed timeline will allow you to graduate sooner, reducing the overall cost of your education and allowing for quicker entry into your desired career.
Job seeker visas
Several European countries offer job seeker visas for international students after they graduate, granting them the ability to stay and seek employment in the region for an extended period, typically ranging from six months to a year post-graduation. These visas relieve some of pressure of having to leave the county after graduating. This grace period gives you even more time to secure a job in your field of study within the country.
You’ll also have the opportunity to expand your global network, connecting with fellow students and professionals from a handful of countries. Having a broadened network can lead to diverse perspectives and a deeper understanding of the global professional landscape. And more importantly, your new local connections can lead to scoring a job. It’s hard to find a job abroad as an outsider because like anywhere in the world, most people find work through their network.
You also may be able to intern abroad—during or after your studies—gaining hands-on experience in a global context. An internship can make you more competitive in the job market, even if you do choose to come back to the US.
Learning another language
Even though your master’s will most likely be in English, you can still learn the local language while living abroad. Not only will this enrich your cultural experience but also significantly enhances your employability. In particular if you intend to work in the country where you’ve acquired language proficiency, many companies will require some level of proficiency for you to effectively execute your job.
Getting a masters degree abroad: step-by-step
Although we don’t want to paint a picture that getting a masters degree abroad is an easy feat, with the right guidance you can simplify the process. Not sure where to start? With your peace of mind in mind, here is our step-by-step guide composed of 10 parts, leading you from the preliminary considerations all the way to the day you receive your first acceptance letter in the mail. Each step builds off of the previous ones, so it’s important to get clear on the initial points before moving too far ahead.
1. Decide why you are getting a masters degree
Determining your reason for doing a master’s degree abroad is a starting point that will shape your entire academic and personal journey. Is it a stopgap solution to living in a certain country? Will it be a means to further your career? Or maybe it’s that you already have your eyes set on a specific program. Understanding your “why” will inform the rest of this process, ensuring that your path aligns with your ultimate goals and aspirations.
2. Decide what you want to study
Continue by aligning your why with one, or a few, fields of study. Assess the specific skills and knowledge you wish to acquire, and research programs that offer a strong match. What have you studied in the past? Thinking of a complete career shift? What are your passions or even general interests? Ultimately, the careful evaluation of these factors will lead you to a master’s program abroad that is truly worthy of your financial and time investments.
3. Choose where you want to live
When deciding where to study for a master’s degree abroad, it’s important to consider not only the program’s cost but also the cost of living in the country. Additionally, the local culture and language can greatly impact your overall experience. Not only are you committing to experiencing a program, but the country where it’s located.
The main points to consider when choosing where you want to live include:
- Cost of living – Knowing the cost of living, and not only the price of your program, will help you gauge the financial feasibility of pursuing your master’s degree abroad. For example, while public universities in Iceland don’t have tuition fees, the cost of living is infamously high, higher than much of the US.
- Culture – Choosing the right destination for a master’s degree abroad should factor in the local culture, which can profoundly shape your experience. Some students seek immersion in distinctly different cultures like Japan or India, while others opt for countries like the UK or Australia, where English and cultural similarities to the United States provide a more comfortable transition.
- Language – Whether you’re looking to learn a new language, boost your level in a language, or be able to comfortably communicate in English in and outside of the classroom, making this distinction clear will help you narrow down your options. For example, opting for an English-led program within Germany could be a great decision for someone who wants to learn German but isn’t yet at the level to study within that language.
4. Determine how much you want to spend
Master’s programs are typically less expensive outside of the US, although we have seen that the cost of living in certain countries could bump up your monthly expenses. To prepare for this, take into consideration your savings and compare that to the local reported cost of living in your desired country or countries. Also, it’s worth it to check whether or not you’re student visa includes the right to work will studying. This way you’ll be able to sketch out a spending and saving plan. The last thing you want to be worrying about when studying abroad is how you’ll make the next month’s rent.
5. Research programs
Hopefully, by now you’ve narrowed down your why, what, and where and have a financial plan in order. Now it’s time for the fun part—researching universities and programs! As you start to research, note down the ones that most align with all of these previous points.
Some popular websites with large databases of masters degrees to kick off your research include:
6. Compare programs
Comparing master’s programs can be a complex process, but with a well-organized spreadsheet you can streamline the evaluation. Once you have a solid list of all the programs that speak to you, pop them into a spreadsheet along with columns for essential factors like:
- Program duration
- Tuition costs
- Housing costs opportunities
- Admission requirements
- Faculty expertise
- Specializations available
- Research & Internship Opportunities
- Application deadlines
If you’re feeling particularly organized, you can even use numerical ratings or color coding to rank each program for each criterion, enabling you to visualize and weigh the pros and cons from a bird’s eye view.
Pro Tip: Make sure to also take into consideration corresponding visa requirements and deadlines for the country of each program. Know the location of the embassy you’ll eventually have to go to, the level of difficulty of visas in certain countries, and expected wait times.
7. Apply to your desired universities
Now it’s time for the dreaded process—applications. Well, they aren’t all that bad. With a bit of preparation and time set aside, you’ll have them in the mail before you know it. Typically, you’ll be asked to provide a combination of the following documents:
- Academic transcripts
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- A well-crafted personal statement
Some programs may also require:
- Language proficiency test
- Application Fee
In your research and comparison stages, keep track of application deadlines and submission requirements for each university as well. When able, we advise starting the application process well in advance to minimize the stress-free and ensure you meet the admission deadline.
8. Apply for scholarships
Applying for scholarships includes identifying relevant scholarships, eligibility criteria, and deadlines. You can start by exploring scholarship opportunities through university websites, government programs, private organizations, and scholarship search engines. Scholarships are often separate from the general application process, and applicants are required to submit additional materials such as:
- Recommendation letter(s)
- Financial documents
There is a variety of scholarships offered by most universities, so even if you aren’t in a position to apply for a scholarship for, say, sports or academic achievements, it’s worth it to take a look into scholarships available for general financial assistance.
9. Accept your placement
Although this day may seem lightyears in the future, whether by snail mail or email, you’ll eventually receive an acceptance letter from a university detailing your admission. Review the document carefully, paying close attention to any instructions on how to officially confirm your enrollment, pay any fees, or provide additional documentation.
For any leftover information you’re left searching for, we recommend contacting the university directly as well as joining pertinent Facebook groups. Between student services and Facebook groups, you’ll find the assistance you need in regards to finding housing, making some connections before you arrive, locating the scholastic calendar, visa assistance, work permits, you name it—points that you’ll definitely want to have ironed out before packing your bags.
10. Apply for a student visa
Once you’ve been accepted into a master’s program abroad, the next step is to apply for a student visa, typically by contacting the local embassy or consulate of the country where you’ll be studying, following their specific visa application procedures, and providing the necessary documents, including your acceptance letter, financial proof, and a completed visa application form.
You’ll want to get this started as soon as you’re able. Facebook groups, whether they be of your cohort in the university or other American expats in the country of your program, are excellent sources of information for the ins and outs of visas.
Master's degrees abroad
Convinced yet? Although there are a few more steps involved in studying a master’s degree abroad compared to studying in the US, namely student visas and potentially navigating a foreign language, the benefits come tenfold. Taking your studies abroad can lead you to experience everything from lasting international connections to landing your dream job abroad—not to mention potentially saving a good chunk of money to boot.
If you want more information on how to move abroad, check out our resources:
- Sign up for the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is a possibility for you!
- Join our Facebook group for women age 30 and up who want to move abroad
- Grab your copy of our Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe as an American