The benefits and faults of earning a MS in the US

By Annie Rose Stathes, edited by Valeri Boyle
Published April 14, 2014

The Master of Science is a graduate degree typically awarded to students studying the natural and behavioral sciences, engineering, or medicine. In the United States, M.S. programs commonly include course and research-based studies, though some programs focus primarily on one or the other. At the end of most M.S. programs, students submit a research project and defend a thesis to a committee typically comprised of program and/or department faculty.

Whether or not it is a good idea for you to earn your M.S. in the United States depends upon a variety of factors:

  • How much it costs to earn an M.S. in the U.S. compared to the cost of earning an M.S. in your country
  • Whether or not M.S. programs in the U.S. will prepare you for a career in the country and field of your choice
  • Whether or not your country values and respects degrees from the U.S.

How much does it cost to earn your M.S. in the U.S.?

Depending on where you live, earning a master’s degree in the United States can be quite expensive compared to earning an M.S. in your home country. Also, many countries offer tuition stipends to their citizens, making education in students’ home countries more affordable and accessible. In the U.S., however, international students might have to pay more in tuition without the benefit of financial aid from the government and other sources. Therefore, earning an M.S. in their home countries might be less expensive for some students. If you live in a country with affordable education, or your country’s government pays for your local education, you might consider staying in your country to earn your M.S.

For some students, earning an M.S. in the U.S., no matter the cost, is a worthy investment. If the expense of studying in the U.S. will be recovered through large wages, studying in the U.S. might be worth the investment. Or, if your government will pay for your education anywhere in the world, studying in the U.S. might be an affordable option.

Will programs in the U.S. prepare you for a career in the country and field of your choice?

When it comes to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and medicine, different countries have different expectations and standards for professionals and their educational backgrounds. This means that even if students plan on earning M.S.s from reputable schools in the U.S., the programs may or may not prepare them to meet the requirements for jobs or certification in their home countries. This also means that their M.S. programs might not help them meet the expectations and needs of potential employers. Because of this, it is important that students conduct research to determine whether or not earning an M.S. in the U.S. will prepare them for certification and make them competitive for jobs in the country in which they want to work.

Students who reside in countries quite distinct from the U.S., say in India, China, Korea, or Japan, for example, need to be especially careful when determining whether or not to earn an M.S. in the U.S. The differences in the countries may translate into different expectations for industry preparedness. Conversely, students from countries more similar to the U.S., Canada, Australia, or England, for example, need to be less careful. However, this is not the case in all fields and occupations—many countries dissimilar to the U.S. are increasingly building economic and corporate relationships with businesses in the U.S. For such countries (and industries within those countries), hiring students with an M.S. from the U.S. makes good business sense.

Ultimately, it is important to consider whether or not earning an M.S. in the U.S. will appropriately prepare you for employment in your country. Do research prior to applying for programs to determine whether or not investing in an M.S. in the U.S. is the way to go.

Does your country value and respect degrees from the U.S.?

In some cases, people earn their masters’ degrees in the U.S. because their home countries value and respect U.S. education. Perhaps industries in the country depend upon the unique knowledge of students who earned an M.S. in the U.S.; or perhaps the country itself believes that the U.S. has a superior educational system and therefore joyfully embraces U.S.-educated professionals.

In other cases, industries in a given country prefer to hire people who have been locally educated. Perhaps they prefer students who have studied an industry within the context of the country; or perhaps they believe that their country’s educational system is of superior quality.

Either way, it is important to distinguish whether or not earning an M.S. in the U.S. truly gives you an advantage over other potential employees. It is also important to determine how saturated the industry in which you want to work is with U.S.-educated M.S.s. If numerous people in the industry earned their M.S.s through institutions in the U.S., doing the same yourself might not necessarily make you competitive. Ultimately, you have to consider whether or not studying in the U.S. will give you a return on your investment.

Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.