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 2018 data.
We’ll take up the various expenses as they start appearing on your bank statements.
You’ll need a GRE score, the primary requirement for MS applications. As on the day of writing this post, it costs $200 (~ INR 13,500). 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 $180 (~ INR 12,000). 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.
The average application fee for many of the top MS programs in the USA is $75 (4,500 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 1,800) 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 1,300). If you register for TOEFL iBT, you can avail of the TOEFL Value Pack Premium pack which gives you test material, five additional score reports and a $35 (INR 2,300) discount for future registrations. Check their site for the latest fee.
Assuming, you are sending 10 MS applications, at an average application fee of $122 [$75 + $27 + $20] per MS university, you are staring at a total expense of $1,220 (~INR 80,000).
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 $360 (~INR 25,000). Read more about F1 visa requirements.
We’ve touched Rupees 1.1 Lakh already. And we haven’t even got into the plane yet.
Which brings us to the next major cost component.
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.
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 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 how 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).
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 16 lakhs).
Read Cost of living in New York as an International Student
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 one too.
These aren’t simple expenses like the ones we listed earlier. The ambitious ones 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.
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||$24,000||₹ 16,00,000|
Exchange Rate: INR 66/$
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 $70,000.
In Indian rupees, assuming an exchange rate of 66 Rs/$, the total average MS in US cost over two years is close to 47 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 Indian and international 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