Guide to Graduate Study Abroad

As the number of international students to the U.S. continues to increase, so does the number of American students studying abroad. As a result of this growth, study abroad organizations are consistently expanding, colleges and universities are forming sister school partnerships with other countries, and more and more international study programs are available to you.

Whether you decide to attend international graduate school through an extension of your undergraduate university or through an accredited program outside of your university, it’s vital that you prepare for this journey well in advance. Thorough research, a solid program, and a reliable international student health insurance plan are all key aspects of graduate study abroad planning.

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Is Graduate School Right for Me?

If you’re unsure whether or not international grad school is the best fit for you, ask yourself the following questions- they can help you evaluate and make your decision!

  • Is a graduate degree necessary for the field in which I desire to work?
  • Will a graduate degree increase my career responsibilities and/or earning potential?
  • Will a graduate degree increase my professional prospects?
  • Will a graduate degree help to satisfy my intellectual curiosity?
  • Am I prepared for the financial and lifestyle challenges that accompany graduate studies?
*These are all great reasons to go to graduate school. If you answered yes to these questions, then grad school is probably right for you!
  • Is international grad school a means of escaping my personal obligations?
  • Am I avoiding the difficulty of the job hunt?
  • Am I dissatisfied with my current employment?
  • Am I unsure what I want to do with my life?
  • Am I simply curious about this particular subject?
  • Is this just an excuse for me to live abroad?
*Consider these red flags in your grad school decision. If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need to research further, consider your motives and priorities, and then re-evaluate your decision.

Grad School Options

Type Description Benefits Potential Drawbacks


▪ You’ll spend much of your time on campus

▪ The vast majority of your courses will be in your degree field

▪ Your classmates will have more job experience than in undergraduate school

▪ You can immerse yourself entirely in your studies

▪ You may be able to finish your degree much faster

▪ You may be more financially strapped than your classmates who work full-time

▪ It can be a struggle to balance life with schoolwork


▪ You’ll take fewer simultaneous courses

▪ You’ll be able to work in addition to attending school

▪ You’ll be more able to balance life, schoolwork, and a job

▪ Being able to work means you can maintain a steady income to help offset your school and living expenses

▪ You may feel that you are getting less of a college experience

▪ It will take longer for you to get your degree


▪ Typically for academic and applied research disciplines

▪ 3 types of Master’s programs: research, professional, and terminal

▪ 1-3 years, full-time

▪ Longer, part-time

▪ More versatile than a Doctorate degree

▪ Typically only takes 1-3 years to earn

▪ May help you get into a better Ph.D. program

▪ Master’s candidates tend to receive less financial help than Ph.D. program candidates


▪ Candidates often seek careers as professors and researchers, but many also go on to roles in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors

▪ 2-8 years,  full-time

▪ Longer, part-time

▪ Demonstrates your competence in research and qualifies you to become a professor

▪ Offers a unique opportunity for you to conduct intensive and prolonged research on a very particular topic, which could lead to publication

▪ Ph.D. programs often offer full scholarships and a living stipend

▪ Less versatile than a Master’s degree

▪ Failure to complete a dissertation is a major reason some doctoral candidates don’t complete their studies

▪ Can take up to 8 years to earn


▪ Allows you to earn two degrees in a condensed period (does not increase course load)

▪ Can be combinations of the following: law (JD), medicine (MD), doctorate (Ph.D. or other), professional masters (such as MPP, Ed.M.), and/or academic masters

▪ Help you to diversify and specialize your training and knowledge, therefore broadening your network and opportunities

▪ Optimize your investment of money and time

▪ Two degrees means two separate applications

▪ Each program comes with its own requirements

▪ The total time will be longer than completing a single degree program

▪ Less flexibility in pursuing school part time


▪ Set of courses in a particular field that lead to certificate status or a license to practice

▪ You may need the skills to improve your current work or need a license to start practicing in your field

▪ The value lies in the recognition you will receive from employers and peers

▪ Solidifies you as a professional in your field and bolsters your career options

▪ You can deepen your education and acquire recognition without spending the time and money on a full graduate degree

▪ May not help get you in the door or help you move up in a company

▪ Many unaccredited schools have certificate programs; make sure your program is accredited

▪ Doesn’t qualify you for as much as a Doctorate or Master’s degree does


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Finding a Graduate Study Abroad Program

You have several options when searching for your perfect graduate study abroad program. First, look into any international graduate programs offered through your undergraduate university, as there is probably an abundance of information available to you. If you have a general idea of the city, country, or region in which you’d like to study, do a simple Google search of the local graduate programs and see what you find! You may also find it helpful to utilize a school search site like the ones listed below.

Websites for Finding the Right School


This is a popular search site for students looking to study overseas. Not only can you limit your search to graduate schools, but you can filter results by subject and country/region.


This site lists almost 67,000 programs in its free directory. It allows you to filter results by subject, location, and even school.  Target your search even further by filtering for MBA and business programs, international programs, and/or online programs.


This site allows you to search by degree (Doctorate or Master’s), degree course, and country, while also revealing their most popular study abroad programs and cities. They even have a tool for matching you to your ideal study abroad program.


ISA Master's Degree programs allow students to enroll in graduate programs abroad- most of which can be completed in English in as little as one year.

*For information and tips on the application and admissions process, the campus visit, and what to do if you’re waitlisted or denied, click here!

Earning your graduate degree abroad offers its share of exciting benefits and opportunities. If you’re still weighing your options when it comes to graduate school abroad, consider these pros about graduate study at an international school.

Benefit Explanation
Cost Effective

Many people assume that a graduate study abroad program will break the bank. For U.S. students, however, tuition fees at international universities are often significantly lower than at American colleges, even when the cost of room and board is included. Whether or not you’re an American student, be sure to check out these 7 countries where graduate school is a fraction of U.S. costs.

Shorter Than Other Programs

International graduate programs tend to be shorter than American graduate programs (they generally take about a year to complete). Not only will this allow you to move forward with your life much more quickly, but you’ll spend far less money on tuition and room and board.

High Job Market Value

Whether you’re looking for a career within the United States or a career that spans continents, today’s employers are actively seeking globally minded candidates. And the adaptability you’ll have no choice but to acquire will certainly bolster your potential as a job candidate, as employers will be looking for someone who can survive in a rapidly-changing corporate world.

Unique Learning Experience

You will be provided with endless opportunities for educational and personal growth, intercultural development, and professional advancement. School culture, curriculums, and teaching styles will undoubtedly differ between your home and host countries, as will all aspects of the culture in which you’ll be fully immersed. Most likely, you will arrive home with a brand new perspective on yourself, your future, and the world.

Global Network Expansion

Your time abroad will give you the chance to meet and develop relationships with students, teachers, administrators, fellow program participants, and locals. Work to establish and maintain these connections. Not only might they lead to lifelong friendships, but they also have the potential to lead to international job opportunities.

Struggling to find options for financing your graduate education? Check out these resources from!

Preparing to Leave

Studying abroad requires a lot of hard work, which tends to start even before you’ve left home. You’ll need to figure out where you’re going to live, how you’re going to pay your bills, and what insurance you’ll need should you have an accident or acquire an illness while abroad. To help alleviate the stress of planning, we’ve outlined the most important study abroad preparation considerations.

man using calculator at table

1. Money

As a graduate study abroad student, you will need money for travel expenses, school expenses, tuition, food, and bills. You may also need money for rent and utilities, such as water, heating and air conditioning, internet, and cable. Be sure to set aside plenty of cash for tourism, transportation, and entertainment, as well as for emergencies.

If you’re interested in receiving financial help, a site like can aid you in searching hundreds of study abroad scholarships, fellowships, grants, and paid internships. Be sure to check with your university about your financial aid options and check out this guide to international student financial aid.

If you’d like to work in addition to attending school, look into teaching assistantships and other work-study programs that will allow you to earn money while you study. Sites like can help you find updated job postings in your host city.

2. Insurance

Since you’re traveling internationally, your domestic health and medical insurance will likely no longer cover you once you leave your home country. Should an unexpected illness or injury occur during the course of your program, an international student health insurance plan can significantly reduce your personal expenses. HCCMIS offers StudentSecure®, a student health insurance plan which provides comprehensive medical coverage for full-time students or full-time scholars studying outside of their home countries.  With geographic coverage and four levels of coverage to choose from, you can easily find what you need at a price you can afford.

tablet and coffee on bed

3. A Place to Live

If you’re responsible for your own accommodations, first check with your new institution- there may be housing resources available to you. You can also do a Google search for local houses and apartments or use a student accommodation search site like Student Mundial, Study Abroad Apartments, or Erasmate. If you’re interested in staying with a host family, you can search using Homestay.

 4. Comforts from Home

When you arrive at your abroad destination, you may find that your favorite comfort foods, sources of entertainment, and the basic toiletries you’ve grown accustomed to are not readily available for purchase.  Be sure to research the availability of any product you can’t go without and bring any favorites that aren’t sold abroad. You can also ask your friends and family to send care packages.

Alternatives to Graduate School

Not sure grad school is the right choice for you? Check out these great alternatives!

1. Community Classes and Workshops

If you would like to further your education or expand your knowledge on a certain subject, but are unsure about the time and financial commitments that come with graduate school, then you may want to consider enrolling in a community class or professional development workshop. These types of classes are usually offered by foundations and community groups and are typically only one or a few sessions long.

2. College and University Courses

If you feel that you’re not adequately prepared for the rigorous nature of graduate school, you may find it helpful to enroll in individual college courses. Not only can these courses help you brush up on a specific subject, but they can help you narrow your academic focus and define your potential career path.

3. Certifications

Whether certification is required for you to begin practicing in your field or you simply wish to enhance your resume, a certificate proves to potential employers that you are knowledgeable and have gained a certain level of experience in your field. Certifications are a cheaper and less time-consuming- yet still very valuable- alternative to grad school.

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