Benefits of doing an MS abroad

[About the author: Sanket Gupte is currently doing his PhD in Stanford University. He did his undergrad in BITS Goa and currently writes on LinkedIn helping aspiring graduate students and computer scientists.]
An international Masters or PhD degree is often seen as a gateway to a high paying job by many students and professionals who aspire to study abroad. Let's unpack this assumption and look at some of the benefits you get from a higher degree in STEM.
  1. A higher degree is a great way of switching disciplines. Let's say you have a background in engineering, but want to move into management. Or you took CS, didn't like it and wanted to switch to finance. A formal education in a different area is a great way to complement your existing experience in that field, and signal your suitability to potential employers.
    1. Keep in mind that it's hard to do a full 180. For instance, a fresh Mech Engineer grad with no relevant background will probably not be admitted to an MS CS program. But if they have done computational projects, taken CS electives, or acquired work experience, say as a software developer, it's certainly possible to make a switch, opening up new job opportunities.
  1. Many types of student visas often come with some form of a work permit, enabling students to seek local employment after graduating. For instance, an F1 visa for studying in the US may permit you to work for 1-3 years. A lot of students see this as an easy entry to an international market compared to directly transferring from their home country.
    1. However, you should do your research because not all employers are willing to do the (expensive) paperwork needed to hire international students. The likelihood of this is highly dependent on the roles you're looking for, so carefully do your due diligence before applying. Also keep in mind that your employment typically needs to be related to your course of study.
  1. Some jobs require additional educational qualifications. For instance, most research scientist positions require a PhD. You'd also need a PhD if you're interested in going into academia as a professor. Advanced study in an MS program may also be required for specialized disciplines such as aerospace engineering.
    1. On the flip side, the specialized knowledge you get through an MS program may not always entitle you to higher compensation. If you don't have any relevant work experience, an MS CS degree won't automatically catapult you to SDE2/3 positions. So carefully examine the value proposition of such a degree before you apply.
In summary, a higher degree doesn't guarantee you a high paying job, but it opens up certain doors which can help you get one. It boils down to the same tag vs skills debate we've seen countless times. No employer will lay down a red carpet for you simply because you have a PhD from Stanford or wherever. You need to prove your worth to them, and the degree merely gives you an opportunity to do so.
If you're interested in seizing these opportunities, stay in touch because next, I'll be talking about which types of graduate programs you should apply to.