At Jamboree, we get many questions about the real value of education abroad, and whether getting a degree from a top college outside India is worth it or not.
Today, we’ll give you a short answer to that question (yes, it is worth it) and a long answer, brimming with facts, proof and analysis..
Read on for our breakdown of this important question, starting from the basic premise of determining if a degree is worth the investment, and going on to calculate the value of a degree abroad in 5 simple steps.
Methodology: How do you determine if an investment in education is valuable?
Before we determine whether an education abroad is “worth it”, it is useful to define the method by which we evaluate any degree that we acquire for the value it brings to us. Any degree anywhere in the world is a career investment. Its value should be determined by the boost it gives our career, compared to the cost (measured in money and time) of acquiring that degree.
Therefore, the Return on Investment (RoI) for a degree can be measured by first computing the long term difference it makes to your earning potential over the entire course of your career. To this, we add qualitative comments like the improvement that such a degree brings to your quality of life and to your standing in society. Once we divide the long term value of such a degree by the cost of acquiring the degree, we have a simple numerical index based on which we can compare different degrees, and different investments in education.
Step 1: On average, a degree abroad has a higher RoI than a degree in India
For this section, we will focus on the additional earning potential that education abroad provides to an individual more than on the cost of the degree. The reason is that the cost of a degree abroad can be mitigated to a large extent through tuition fee partial waivers, through multiple scholarship options, and through lenient loan payback options over a period of up to 15 years. When reduced to a yearly amount of student loan to be paid back, a degree abroad ends up being fairly similar to that of a degree in India.
Now, on the additional earning potential. A degree from a highly ranked global university has a positive impact on salary in three ways, as compared to a degree from India. First, the median starting salary after completing the degree abroad is always higher. This is true at both undergraduate and graduate levels – no matter what, you are off to a flying start in terms of your career earning potential. The larger pool of opportunities also gives you more options to choose from, and further drives up expected initial salaries. In many cases, you also start at a position senior to that which you could expect if you had applied to the same country with an Indian degree. Since you skip a lower earning rung of the ladder, you effectively give yourself more career time at the higher earning rungs.
Second, education abroad allows you to spend a larger proportion of your work / research life abroad, and this is a simple earning advantage in terms of exchange rate arbitrage alone. Even a year of working abroad (as compared to working in India) in a role of equal seniority, could lead to a positive difference of tens of thousands of dollars to your bank account. The difference is even larger in the research field, because of higher base salaries abroad, and the opportunity for more industry collaborations. Finally, over the course of a career, quicker promotions and career progressions mean that your long term earning potential is, on average, 50% higher if you have invested in education abroad – even higher, in many cases.
It is clear from these facts that the Return on an education abroad is far higher than that of any other option. Since the investment is similar in both cases, the Return on Investment makes a very compelling argument for the position that education abroad is, indeed, worth it!
Step 2: A degree abroad provides for further career upgrades by opening work / research doors worldwide
The calculations in the section above clarify the average benefit that education abroad brings to a career, but the real picture is often even brighter. A degree from a top global university brings the power of geography to a career. Therefore, if you have a degree abroad, you can easily transition to jobs in countries that would otherwise be closed to you, and earn in a currency that has a favourable exchange rate, and thereby supercharge your earnings and savings for as long as you wish. Even if you do not want to shift jobs, moving laterally to different multinational offices in your current company or research institution is way easier if you already have global experience earlier in your life, during your degree. And a shift abroad, even for a few years, is beneficial both from a direct salary bump perspective, and from the perspective of giving you a chance to rise more quickly up the organization ranks when you are back in your home office.
In many ways, education abroad is like getting access to a hidden fast track for your job / research career.
Step 3: Exit options and career prospects for a global degree are brighter and more stable
Any investment in education must be evaluated in terms of exit options, both now and in the future (you will graduate 2 / 4 / 5 years from now). Stability is also a key parameter to keep in mind; if a degree has a stable record over decades of placing its graduates in top positions in industry and research, the outlook is that this positive stable trend will continue.
The top schools abroad have a long history of focusing on the career prospects of their graduates – this shows in the fact that all of them have a high powered alumni network that is very loyal, and that is always willing to give back. The ratio of total job offers to total number of final year students opting for placement services from the career office is always between 1 and 3 – multiple job offers per eligible student is a very welcome trend. In addition, if you look at the top graduate schools in the world, the profiles of the incoming cohorts show that their students come from the top undergraduate schools in the world, showing that further education and research interests are also well represented in the exit options of highly ranked global institutions.
In terms of stability, these same schools score well. A quick look at the career median salary rankings and the university rankings (for example, in the QS or US News rating lists) show that there is a very large correlation in the top 50 universities in each discipline. If you extend this back in time to look at the same rankings for every year in the last decade, you will see movement within the list, but the names in the list as a whole are largely unchanged. You have quality of exit options and stability, proved clearly in a list extrapolated over a time much greater than the duration of your degree. Definitely more than enough proof for you to opt for the safest investment of your life!
Step 4: Placement and research decisions are spread over an entire year in many cases; this reduces pressure and the need to do it all on a critical day
As we have discussed above, the value of education, either abroad or in India, is in the boost it gives your career. It is important that you realize your full potential, and that you are able to get the best possible job or best possible research position for your profile. In Indian universities, placements are often localized to a short period of time: the most desirable companies often visit campus within a single week of each other. This creates heavy pressure on Day Zero, and can lead to many deserving candidates having to settle for a Tier 2 career path, just because they had not prepared for the sudden load of interviews, rather than because they did not have the skill to be selected or to do well in the best jobs on campus.
In the best universities abroad, the situation is very different. Conversations with companies – either on campus or at the company offices – happen over a long period of time; multiple rounds of interviews could take place over weeks or even months. Both the candidate and the company have the opportunity to see whether there is a mutual fit. This entire process with multiple companies could sometimes take place over half a year, and choosing a job at the end of it is a very informed decision. It is also one that is low pressure, that helps candidates perform at their best level in each interview, without the pressure that comes from having just one chance on one day. It removes the entrance exam mentality from your career’s most important moment.
Step 5: Education abroad gives you a global network; in the long term, this is very beneficial for your career
Early in your career, your focus will be on building basic skills and on learning the people skills that are necessary to navigate the currents of leadership so you can get ahead. As you become more senior, your degree abroad will come back to help you in ways that you could not have imagined.
For example, if your business is, in the future, looking to expand to a country where you previously had no presence, it is likely that someone in your extended network from college is at a senior position in an allied industry in the very same country. A single phone call from you can inform your entry strategy into a strange new geography, transforming it into a welcoming oasis of opportunity for your business – further leading to promotion and bonus opportunities for you. In addition to business opportunities like the above, a global network keeps you on the cutting edge of careers as a whole, empowering you with the information you need to decide when you need to move laterally, move industries, and even move countries to keep your career sharp all the time.
It will be clear from the detailed analysis above that education abroad is worth it on almost every parameter you can think of. If you want to learn more about how to take the first steps towards a degree in one of the top universities worldwide, we invite you to learn more on our website jamboreeindia.com today!