An International Masters degree does not only expand the range of your professional skills and abilities but also serves as a career launch pad when you go back to your home country.
A Masters degree is all about expanding your academic and professional horizons, and this especially the case if you complete it in another country. The advantages of doing your degree abroad are obvious: the chance to further your language skills, experience in different working environments, and an array of friendships and contacts to take with you to your new career either in academia or the professional world.
Alongside the academic benefits, an international Masters degree tells your employer that you are very likely to have a range of valuable personal qualities. It shows that you’re prepared to think outside the box, are not afraid of challenges, and are willing to expand your horizons. A Masters degree earned abroad proves that you are flexible and have the ability to flourish professionally in difficult circumstances.
Gaining an edge with an international Masters degree
Having made the cultural exchange once, however, many students find themselves wishing to go back home. It makes a lot of sense -- a return will give you the opportunity to enter the job market at a higher level than you would do otherwise and combine the knowledge of your home country with your new-found experience gained elsewhere. For those intending to further their academic career, taking up the three-year challenge of a PhD on home soil might be an option.
Check out: Pursuing a Masters Degree in Europe
Regardless of whether you want to continue with your studies or enter the professional world, getting a Masters abroad is a way to make sure that you stand out from the crowd. This advantage can be maximised by being selective in the jobs for which you apply. Research matters a great deal here: you can maximise the potential of your degree by making sure that you apply to firms that are active in a field for which your Masters education has prepared you. It is also important to remember that your improved linguistic skills could be more useful than you think. Some European countries have their languages spoken all over the world (for example, French is widely spoken in much of Northern and Western Africa). Your improved language skills could make you invaluable to a company that has operations in these regions. According to Consultancy UK,two thirds of UK employers complain that candidates for key jobs lack language skills.
It isn’t just your linguistic skills that will be appealing to employers, though. Contacts are always of vital importance in any modern business, and being able to establish international relationships will give you a leg-up not only in applying for jobs, but also in terms of internal promotions within the business or establishment you join. Likewise, in research and academia, maintaining and developing strong contact links with researchers across the world can have a massive impact on your own work.
Embracing the differences
While a Masters programme completed abroad has many advantages, it is important to remember that moving back to your home country after studying abroad is no mean feat. Entering any new workplace for the first time and facing the job market after being out of the country for a year can be a daunting experience. However, there are a number of things you can do to increase your employability and adjust more easily to your new environment. While your qualification is a massive boon to you in your attempt to reenter the job market, it’s important to understand the difficulties you may experience. One of these includes dealing with the cultural shift experienced by Masters students returning home after having studied abroad. Accepting and understanding a new working environment is part of the transition process.
Check out: 13 Reasons to Pursue a Masters Degree Abroad
While a Masters programme may bring an increased understanding of working in a variety of contexts, it is worth noting that, even within a geographically homogeneous entity such as the European Union, national business practices can vary a great deal. This difference carries over into academia: not all Masters degrees are the same, and you may struggle to understand the nature of the different programmes, or even their content. Some Masters programmes (typically MPhils) are based on hands-on research, but an MA programme may have a much wider focus. These differences will be even more striking if you study abroad: Masters programmes in the UK typically last one year, or two for an MPhil programme. In China, all programmes are at least three years long.
After spending a considerable amount of time, money and effort on their Masters degree abroad, graduates may be expecting higher remuneration in their home country. However, severe competition and a lack of work experience may force foreign degree holders to begin at the same level as domestic degree holders.
“Readjusting to life in your own country after the completion of your Masters abroad can be difficult, especially when you are expecting higher remuneration because you put so much money and effort into your studies”, says Neha Rai, 27, a former student of Glasgow University.
Adjusting to the work environment
Nevertheless, some are able to earn more than they anticipated because of their competitive expertise and their international experience. Thus, the combination of skills and a foreign Masters degree often impresses recruiters.
“I am making 30% more than some of my colleagues because of my Masters from the UK and that’s what keeps me going and makes me want to stay in India”, says Rydell Davie Pires, 27, a former student at Southampton University.
Those who have completed Masters degrees on the European continent, in places like Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin, may find that the workplace culture they have been exposed to is remarkably different from that of their home country. France, for example, introduced a 35-hour workweek in 1998, and President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party is discussing a measure that will force companies to draw up a charter of good conduct, giving staff the right not to send or answer emails after office hours. Swedish companies have been experimenting with a 6-hour workday with no pay cut. Germany’s Volkswagen shares the French attitude to e-mails out of hours, while Daimler has created a system whereby workers taking annual leave have their e-mails redirected to other staff members, in order to reduce the workload for when they return. A year spent abroad will expose you to a variety of different working patterns and cultures, but readjusting could be a challenge. In stark contrast to life on the continent, 29% of professional workers in London are working outside office hours, and thought their work-life balance suffered as a result, according to The Independent. Knowing the workplace culture you will enter when you complete your Masters programme is a challenge in itself, but a little preparation will go a long way.
Returning from a foreign country with a Masters degree and adapting to the workforce may be challenging. It is important to carefully plan your next move. It is also vital to make sure your degree is valid for the research area or job you want to go into. With this in mind, and by tailoring your applications for employment or further research to the skills and contacts gained during your degree, you have an excellent chance of standing out from the crowd when you return home.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Mysterious Master”.