Studying abroad is no longer a novelty for international students, especially from India. Nearly 55% of the more than 5.5 lakh students, emigrating annually, are studying in USA and Canada. Nearly 10% in Europe including UK and Germany and about 17% in Australia (Read Why study in Australia). Though these numbers encompass all levels of education, Master’s degree constitutes a major section.
So, why do students choose to study abroad?
- To name a few contributing attractions, the quality of education does pop into the limelight. Take the US, for instance. 75% of the top universities in the world are American and the constituent departments themselves feature quite high in world listings as well.
Especially in STEM fields, international destinations have a lot to offer in terms of resources, facilities, faculties, and peers. Indian students who want to dig into hard core research, or perhaps want to be educated in the very latest and updated technologies, find such opportunities downright irresistible.
- The global exposure and international opportunities in the western civilization aside, the chance to transform from a student to international workforce is also a big draw. Especially for STEM degree seekers, the drought of STEM experts in the American landscape makes the yearly migration of freshly minted engineering graduates for an MS degree an obviously well-travelled career path.
But changing times – the immigration unfriendly political scenarios in particular and hopes raised from the promises of the motherland – have been pushing a lot of those graduates to make the journey back home (Read More international students returning home to China, India after graduation than before).
With a mixture of personal and professional reasons and aspirations, the lot of these MS graduates land back home hoping to be received with open arms.
What is the reality, though? Do all American degrees get a double take from employers and institutions? Is everyone impressed and ready to hire foreign graduates?
Let us explore. In particular, let us find out what is the value of international MS degrees in India.
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What is the cost of returning to India after an international MS degree in USA, Canada, UK, Germany, or Australia?
One of the most natural and common questions from the other side of the ocean. Students often invest large sums of money in not just getting a foreign education but also traveling, living and sustaining in a much more expensive world than India.
Ordinarily, MS tuitions range from about $20K to well over $50K, annually, depending on the course, the school (Private vs Public), and the immediate marketability of the degree (professional vs academic), in USA.
The overheads can bring an additional upwards of $8K annual costs (Read What is the cost of MS in USA, in INR?).
In Germany, tuitions are cheaper (up to INR 25,000). However, rent, food, etc may add an additional 1,000 Euros in the mix. Read All about MS in Germany. UK is more expensive, with course fees in the neighbourhood of £10,000 and survival price tags in the same range.
Australia also takes the daunting express in costs with MS courses charging at least $15,000 and rent, etc making up another $20,000.
Canadian universities can take in somewhere close to $12,000 in tuition and about $10,000 in rent and food, per year.
For a quick comparison, here are the typical salaries of a Computer Science MS degree graduate, following the career path of a Software Engineer, in USA and India.
The average annual salary in USA is about $82K whereas it is about INR (Indian Rupees) 4.5 lakhs, for entry-level in India. By Indian standards, it is a decent opening salary but pales in comparison to America’s compensation trends.
Here are some company wise salary trends for the same job role. Read Average Salary after MS in USA, Canada, and Australia
|Microsoft Corp. (USA) – $121K
|Accenture (India) – INR 550K ($7K)
|Google Inc. (USA) – $130K
|Capgemini (India) – INR 600K ($7K)
|Amazon.com Inc. (USA) – $120K
|Infosys Limited (India) – INR 500K ($6K)
|Cisco Systems Inc. (USA) – $112K
|Cisco Systems Inc. (India) – INR 20,00K ($24K)
What is important, however, is to note that a one to one comparison is a pretty futile approach to mapping salaries between the two countries.
One useful, yet broadly generalized, technique devised by The Economist is called the Big Mac Index. It takes the approach of the theory of purchasing power parity, that is the level of price equality that makes the cost of all goods equal between different currencies.
That is, the price of McDonald’s Big Mac should be identical in any two countries. Any difference in the price indicates an under, or over, value of the compared currency. So, a burger which costs nearly $6 in America and about INR 209 in India shows that the Indian Rupee is 54.5% undervalued to the American dollar. At an exchange rate of INR 83 per dollar, $100, in the US, would roughly buy the same goods as about INR 4,000. Thus, cost of living is lower in India.
While starting salaries may seem small as compared to the buying capacity you would have had with a $100K salary, it is not nearly as small as you would have initially estimated and with time and seniority you can expect to make close enough to have the same lifestyle as you would have had in the USA.
For instance, a Senior Software Engineer can make upwards of INR 8 lakhs while even higher posts make over INR 20 lakhs per annum.
What is the value of an MS degree, from USA, Canada, Germany, UK, or Australia, in India?
Well, salary is almost secondary to the more imminent challenges that most international graduates face when returning with a degree brewed in foreign soil. These are two-fold. One for those returning to continue with higher education, and thus seeking recognition from institutes throughout India and a second similar need from Indian employers.
Will Indian universities/institutes recognize my foreign qualification?
Will I get a chance to continue my education here?
Will Indian employers value my candidacy against the more familiar Indian degree holders?
Actually, the challenges themselves are multi-layered.
- Indian universities are not often equipped to grasp the advances or differences in the education approaches in universities abroad, even if they are accredited. Degrees are not often considered commensurate with the Indian system, and hence rejected as credible qualifications.
- The first problem, in employment, comes in networking with Indian recruiters. Indian employers are usually quite unaware of the international universities.
A lot of less-resourceful companies have no means to understand international quality of higher education, the kind of curriculum and the grades, and skills, obtained by students when compared to easy-to-scale degrees from well-known institutes in India.
This is also coupled to the fact that a lot of Canadian, European and Australian universities are not as famously popular, by name, as many of the American universities are.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a significant number of Indians, even in the academic or recruitment community, who have significant knowledge of the likes of Queen’s University, University of Edinburgh, Monash University, Technical University of Munich, and other such quality universities that pale in the popularity of global American brand names like Harvard and Princeton, even though they are excellent.
- The second problem faced is the lack of Indian employer participation in campus placements organized at their foreign alma mater. Career cells often don’t reach out to companies located in India and naturally this takes away a chunk of the recruitment opportunities that these companies usually rely on for entry-level jobs.
Let us break the problem in two parts. Value of MS degree from USA, Canada, Germany, UK, and Australia within two communities – Academic and Employers – and find out how such foreign degrees are impacted by Indian perception upon return back home.
On the flip side, here’s a recount of career growth for an ISB MBA grad working abroad – Value of Indian MBA abroad.
Value of an MS degree, obtained in USA, Canada, Germany, UK, or Australia, in Indian Universities (for further studies like Phd)
The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) grants degree equivalences to international courses. If you are going abroad, with even the faintest possibility of a return back home to India for further studies, you need to be certain that your international degree is credible in India.
All Master’s degrees, whether from UK, Germany, Australia, or others, need to abide by certain rules to be given an equivalence certificate.
AIU stipulates the following broad categories for recognition. For details, visit the website foreign degree evaluation criteria on the AIU website.
- Equivalence is granted to degrees from accredited universities, that have been completed in a full-time mode and as a full-time regular student, in the original university campus.
The duration of the program should be at least as prescribed by Indian university systems, as specified by University Grants Commission. This puts a kibosh on one-year degrees from UK, Germany, etc like described in this Hindu newspaper article.
Even if the official duration of the MS program is two-years, if you have completed it in fast-track, you may hit an equivalence snag. The story could be different for employers though, who generally are less stringent about equivalences and are more focussed on skills and reputation.
- No equivalence is granted to distance, correspondence or online international degrees.
- No equivalence is granted to degrees where students are admitted through pathway or diploma level institutions.
- AIU does not provide equivalence to professional degrees which allow their practice in India. Degrees like Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Law, Architecture, etc should be handled by the separate professional councils.
Of course, international bodies are aware of this and many institutions, and governments alike, are lobbying for a broader acceptance on these accounts.
Value of an MS degree, obtained in USA, Canada, Germany, UK, or Australia, among Indian Companies and Employers
A study done by a Market Entry Specialist firm, SANNAM S4, named Employability of International Graduates Returning to India, observed the long term impact of an international degree from countries like Australia, Canada, UK, USA, among others, on the perception of Indian employers. These are some of the key takeaways from their research.
- Companies, due to the lack of campus placement representation, are usually not open to hiring international graduates at the entry-level. There is also a general perception that international graduates have a high attrition rate, are arrogant, and demand higher salaries.
As mentioned above, employers are unable to gauge the skillset when compared to their domestically trained brethren.
- These perceptions, are however, dependent on the size of the employer. Large and very small companies, with enough staff who are aware of the quality of foreign education, are willing to hire international graduates.
Quite of few of them also believe that these graduates have high capability to learn on the job, and have superior analytical and lateral skills.
To overcome bias, lack of connections, and awareness, long career gaps upon return, or switches to fields other than their own, international graduates can try the following.
- Indian students, studying abroad, should invest enough energy in networking with a substantial number of Indian recruiters.
- Universities too, should have student/faculty bodies that can connect to international companies for placement opportunities within their international student body.
- A great way to prepare for the work-experience, appreciated by so many Indian recruiters is to obtain internships at globally known companies. This can compensate for the lack of awareness of an international graduate’s working capabilities. Also popular are well structured CPT opportunities.
- Of course, if you do manage to get a job abroad, it is best to choose an employment that have domestic (Indian) counterparts. That way, you can easily gain the experience abroad for a few years and return with options in similar, more advanced, industries and job roles.
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- Is studying abroad worth it? Pros and Cons
Ultimately, any student perception of grandiosity should be nipped at the bud. If you are among the lot of international graduates buying a one-way ticket home, research your opportunities, target recruiters at international events or otherwise, reach out to alumni working in India, and keep an open mind about the differences that are sure to hit you when you make your move into the Indian workforce.