Study Abroad: Ten Reasons to Do Grad School Abroad

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 7, 2011

The United States is not the end all and be all of higher education. There are some fabulous graduate schools and study opportunities around the globe that you can take advantage of if you're willing to move away from home for a few years.

Many reasons for pursuing graduate school abroad are the same as the reasons for spending a semester or a year of your undergraduate education somewhere else.  However, the unique reasons for going to graduate school abroad deserve some discussion.

If you studied abroad in college, realize that going abroad this time around will be different. You are applying directly to a university abroad. No undergraduate institution or U.S.-based program is going to look after you. You're on your own this time. Going abroad for grad school may be slightly more stressful because you have to find your own housing, budget down to the last detail, and chart your own academic course in a foreign place (with the help of an adviser, of course). But, if you're serious enough to pursue graduate studies, you're probably quite capable of handling all those relocation details.

Most American graduate students who study abroad obtain their full graduate degrees at a university abroad. However, a growing number of U.S. universities and study abroad programs are organizing short-term study abroad for graduate students. These programs are as short as a few weeks or as long as a year.

Taking Advantage of a Quick Finish

Graduate degrees earned here in the U.S. tend to take longer than those earned abroad. A taught master's (classroom-based) program abroad usually takes about one year while the U.S. equivalent takes about an average of two years. You also have an option abroad that isn't as popular here: a master's by research instead of coursework. A research master's may keep you in school anywhere from 12 to 18 months. PhDs earned abroad generally take less time as well. Earning a PhD in the U.S. hovers at about six years and can extend up to eight. Receiving a PhD outside the U.S. works out on average to be four years.

One reason for shorter PhDs in some countries is that students enter undergraduate universities at a higher level than Americans do, so they're doing U.S graduate level work by the end of their undergraduate degrees - they're a little bit ahead of us.

Realize that a MA or a PhD will be respected regardless of where you end up after school. No one can take a degree you worked so hard for away from you!

If you come back to the U.S. after earning a PhD abroad in three or four years, you may need to spend a year or two doing a post-doc to make yourself more marketable.

Attending professional schools (business, law, and medical) abroad tends to work a little differently. In the U.S., students earn these degrees after completing four year bachelor's programs: MBAs take two years, JDs take three years, and MDs take a whopping eight years to complete. In some countries, students start these degrees directly after secondary school, so they take fewer years off their lives in the grand scheme of things. However, choosing to do an MBA program abroad isn't a big savings in tuition. Foreign business universities tend to charge rates that are nearly equivalent to U.S. business school rates for U.S. nationals. Furthermore, depending on the country where the degree was granted, law and medical degrees in particular are not likely to be recognized by many U.S. institutions.

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