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Where Should I Pursue a Graduate Degree? US, UK, or Elsewhere?

21 FEB 2022

So you’ve decided to pursue your studies, but aren’t sure where to go? Every education system has a unique flavor. Read on for a survey of graduate studies trends worldwide.

Choosing where to pursue your graduate studies is one of the most vital decisions you will make when it comes to continuing your education: where you study can fundamentally change your graduate experience, from duration, to requirements, to type of study, to interaction with professors, and more.

The US and the UK are often the two options that students consider first for their studies, but there are so many other places around the world to study. Graduate studies can be a great time to explore a new city and add novel experiences to your resume. Not only that, but having studied in at least two different countries can improve the diversity of your resume and make you more employable in this global world.

There are a number of different things to consider when making your decision, including the program of study of course, but also course duration, cost, entry requirements, and more. This article will discuss a few factors to consider when choosing where to conduct your graduate studies.


Program of Study

Note first that each country has a slightly different approach to programs of study.

Something you might want to consider is whether you want a more academic or a more hands-on program. In countries such as Canada and France, it is common to work or intern as part of your studies to gain hands-on experience. For instance, many Canadian universities offer ‘co-op’ programs which blend work and study whilst it is typical for French universities to require students to complete a six month internship to validate their master’s degree. This is not something you will typically get in US or UK schools. The UK takes an especially academic approach to most subjects, with a heavy emphasis on theory. If you want a more research-oriented program, Germany is renowned in that area, particularly for scientific subjects.

It can be a good idea to look at QS World University rankings for your chosen subject to see which universities rank well. Whilst rating should not be the only thing you consider, it is certainly an important aspect and can help you narrow your decision.

Duration

Duration is also a significant factor to consider when making your decision. Whilst masters in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe tend to be two years in length, UK masters are typically only one year, making them an attractive and time-effective option. Although it is possible to do one year masters outside of the UK, work experience will typically be required for this to be an option.

Cost

Price is another large consideration to keep in mind when choosing a graduate degree. Prices vary greatly depending on program, location and student status. International students often have different tuition fee status compared to local students. Other things to take into consideration include the cost of admissions tests, application fees, living costs, visa fees, insurance and more.

Given the length of a master’s degree in the UK is only one year, it is usually a more cost-effective option than the US. However, this does not mean that there aren’t affordable options elsewhere and applying for financial aid is also a solution. Many European countries have highly subsidized tuition fees, making them much more affordable than studying in the US or the UK. Poland, Lithuania and Hungary are amongst the most affordable European countries to study in. Canada is also an affordable option to consider, with Montreal having one of the lowest costs of living compared to major cities around the globe and very high-ranking universities such as McGill. Overall, the importance of cost should not be underestimated when researching graduate programs and it is important to remain realistic during this process. If your graduate program is going to indebt you for decades, perhaps you might want to rethink your options.

Entry Requirements

Finally, it is important to be aware of admission requirements and prepare adequately for admission tests (should they be required). American graduate programs will usually require admission tests such as the GMAT or the GRE, whilst this is not usually standard practice in the UK except for MBA or similar programs. UK universities will instead sometimes ask for writing samples or samples of self-conducted research. In Canada, although not usually required, the GRE is heavily recommended for top-ranking programs. Most programs around the world will require something equivalent to a cover letter. It is also typical for programs to request two to three academic recommendation letters. Depending on your native tongue, you may also be required to prove language proficiency with a linguistic test such as IELTS. For all of these reasons, it is important to get started in this process early on, to make sure you have plenty of time to complete all the admissions requirements.

Overall

Ultimately, where you choose to conduct your graduate studies is an entirely personal choice and there is no ‘right’ answer when it comes to choosing where to study. Pursuing a graduate degree is an opportunity to explore a new city and potentially even a new country, adding diversity to your resume. However, it is also important to take into account practical considerations such as cost, language, ranking, program of study and more. If you are looking for a rapid, academic experience, the UK might be for you. If networking and work experience is very important to you, you might want to consider France. If prestige is most important to you, perhaps the US is a good fit. If you are interested in conducting scientific research, consider Germany.

There are so many graduate programs out there. It can be helpful to think of what is most important to you and narrow down your search from there. Ultimately, it is important to feel like the program is a good fit, so it can be a good idea to either visit in person if you are able to or contact a current or previous student to ask about their experience. These kinds of big life decisions can feel overwhelming, but remember that nothing is set in stone yet. The possibilities are endless, now is the time to take advantage of them.