While an education abroad isn’t cheap for middle-class students from India, there are certain international degrees that are cheaper than the others. For instance, if you are thinking of applying for a post-graduate Masters degree abroad (e.g. MBA / MS), the costs of an MS in USA are significantly cheaper than the cost of a top MBA in USA.
However, this is only in relative terms. You need to be aware of the various cost components that make up the total expenses of a Master of Science (MS degree). It can burn a hole in your pocket. If you plan well, you can limit the damages to the pocket and not end up burning the whole shirt [behold the power of graphic visualisation!].
While MS degrees are offered by universities across the world, for the sake of keeping it simple, we’ll only focus on the most popular MS destination for Indians.
The other thing we’ll do, given the diversity of MS courses on offer, is to generalise. We’ll use broad ranges and averages rather than accurately track the costs (which are ever changing every single day, thanks to the wildly fluctuating INR vs USD foreign exchange rates).
Editor’s note: We’ve updated this (popular and old) article to reflect 2021 data.
How much does an MS in USA cost in Indian Rupees and USD
We’ll take up the various expenses as they start appearing on your bank statements.
MS Entrance Exam Costs
GRE Test Fee
You’ll need a GRE score, the primary requirement for MS applications.
The GRE test fee is $205 except in five countries including India, Australia, China, Nigeria and Turkey. The cost of taking the GRE general test in India is $213 (~ INR 15,550). In Australia, it is $230, in China, it is $231.30, in Nigeria, it is $226, in Turkey, it is $255.
Read more about the GRE exam in India, GRE pattern / syllabus, GRE prep study plan.
You’ll also need the TOEFL score. The TOEFL fee in India is $185 (~ INR 13,505). Read more about the TOEFL IBT test format and preparation. There are additional costs (from $20 – $160 each) for late registration, rescheduling, sectional reviews, reinstating cancelled scores.
We’re skipping those overheads, assuming you plan and execute the MS entrance exams well.
MS Application fees
The application fee for many of the top MS programs in the USA can range from $65 TO $ 105, the average being $85 (6,205 Rupees). [Source: US News]
Additionally, if you haven’t planned your target MS colleges well and included them during the GRE exam (you are allowed 4 free universities) you have to pay $27 (~INR 1,970) to send the score to each additional Masters university. Check the official site for the latest fee.
Similarly, TOEFL allows 4 free universities. The fee for sending your TOEFL score to additional MS universities is $20 (INR 1,460). You have the option of purchasing the ‘TOEFL value packs’ during registration to avail the discounted fee. Theses packs have four options to choose from. These would include test prep items, five additional score reports and a $35 (INR 2,555) discount for future registrations depending on the pack you choose.
Check their site for the latest fee.
Assuming, you are sending 10 MS applications, at an average application fee of $132 [$85 + $27 + $20] per MS university, you are staring at a total expense of $1,320 (~INR 96,360).
While most universities have moved to online applications, let’s also factor in the additional expenses to send postal packets with your transcripts, financial statements (bank) and other documents. Let’s cap this at around 10,000 rupees.
Your F1 visa / SEVIS fee would add another $350 (~INR 25,550). Read more about F1 visa requirements.
We’ve touched Rupees 1.20 Lakh already. And we haven’t even got into the plane yet.
Which brings us to the next major cost component.
Student Airfare Costs
A return ticket would be cheaper than a one-way ticket. Also, applying earlier can get you good discounts from many airlines. This can range from 60,000 to 1 lakh rupees.
We’ll take the middle ground here and assume 80,000 for airfare.
MS Tuition Costs in USA
The big one! Unlike programs like MBA where you pay a fixed fee for the whole course, MS programs in USA charge a fee based on the credit hours.
Typically, you’d be expected to complete an average of over 30 graduate level course credits. The fee per credit hours depends on whether it’s a public school (funded by the state) or private school (more freedom and bigger need to fleece).
It will also depend if you’ve got an MS scholarship or graduate assistantship, in which case the savings can be enormous.
Without any financial aid, the fee for MS programs in the US ranges from $10,000 to $80,000 (6 – 48 Lakh Rupees) for the 2 years. A top grade university like CMU would fall in the higher range.
Let’s take the middle ground again and assume that the average is close to $45,000 (30 lakh rupees).
Cost of living for MS students
If you are still recovering from that earlier blow, we aren’t done yet. Once you arrive in the land of dreams, there are other activities that you’d get involved in which cost money. Like living (rental costs), eating (if you’ve read the newspapers, the days of surviving on Maggi are gone), drinking (your phoren classmates won’t appreciate your home-made nimbu paani).
For shared rentals and a modest lifestyle, let’s assume that the cost of living in USA for MS students is roughly $1000 a month, prices varying based on the state, city, and conditions you choose to live in. Over two years, that adds up to $24,000 (~ INR 17.5 lakhs).
Read Cost of living in New York as an International Student
MS in US Costs that we haven’t considered
Opportunity cost for MS students
This is a notional (not real) cost of not having an income for those 2 years that you’ll be spending in the classroom. For students who join an MS program after a few years of experience, this can be a considerable amount. But many join MS colleges immediately after engineering (B Tech, B.E). At junior levels, the salary isn’t much. As we’ve done with many other parameters that increase the complexity of arriving at a number, we’ll skip this one too.
Test prep and Admissions Counselling cost
These aren’t simple expenses like the ones we listed earlier. There are those who take up GRE preparation classes and hire MS admissions counsellors hoping to see some returns – like a higher chance of getting an admit and scholarship.
These are optional in nature and not all MS applicants would incur them. So, we decided to skip them.
We’ve also not considered your student income over the two years (like MS internships) which can reduce the overall costs of attending an American MS university.
Total cost of Masters degree | MS in U.S. Universities
Here’s the simple table we created to collate all the expenses.
|MS Costs||Rate||Quantity||US Dollars (USD)||Indian Rupees (INR)|
|Cost of living||$1,000||24||$24,000||₹ 17,52,000|
Exchange Rate: 73 ₹/$
All in all, with all the individual expenses that we’ve covered (and ignored), the average cost of an MS in USA for international students would be around $72,000.
In Indian rupees, assuming an exchange rate of 73 Rs/$, the total average MS in US cost over two years is close to 52 lakh rupees.
That’s around half of what you’d see MBA students in USA shelling out. Of course, the post MS salaries aren’t the same as MBA salaries. But you win some and lose some depending on the choices you make.
Despite the big numbers you see here, it is not uncommon to see well-prepared students like Anamika Agarwal who get into good MS universities in USA with full-scholarships and graduate with minimal (if not zero) debt.
If you are applying to MS programs in USA and need some formal counselling, drop us an email [info at mbacrystalball dot com] and we’ll hook you up with a solid mentor to guide you through the journey.
Read these related posts:
– When Indian banks reject your Masters abroad study loan
– How to choose an International Student Loan
– Masters (MS) in Germany: Costs in Rupees, Top universities, Eligibility requirements
– Value of MS degree from abroad for jobs in India
Source: US News, Other university / MS sites