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. Though these numbers encompass all levels of education, Master’s degree constitutes a major section.
So, why do students choose to study abroad?
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.
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) – $112K||Accenture (India) – INR 450K ($6.2K)|
|Google Inc. (USA) – $113K||Capgemini (India) – INR 450K ($6.2K)|
|Amazon.com Inc. (USA) – $107K||Infosys Limited (India) – INR 400K ($5.5K)|
|Cisco Systems Inc. (USA) – $102K||Cisco Systems Inc. (India) – INR 1200K ($16.6K)|
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 180 in India shows that the Indian Rupee is 54% undervalued to the American dollar. At an exchange rate of INR 69 per dollar, $100, in the US, would roughly buy the same goods as about INR 3,000. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, international bodies are aware of this and many institutions, and governments alike, are lobbying for a broader acceptance on these accounts.
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.
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.
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.