Deciding to study abroad and choosing your area of study is only the first step. Then, selecting the correct university or college in the right country for you can give you sleepless nights. While your choice of university definitely depends on the subject, there are various criteria that have to be taken into consideration before choosing between the different study abroad country options – USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, etc. To help make your decision easier and more informed, here is an overview of certain important factors to take into consideration while choosing among United States of America (USA), Canada, Australia and Ireland as your study abroad destination.
1. United States of America
USA remains the most favoured destination for international students for studying abroad as it is home to the best universities in the world. The undergraduate level education system is very flexible unlike India. In India, you are stuck to simply one area of study. The undergraduate system allows you to handpick and tailor your subjects, even switch them, as per your choice which enables you to explore more areas. On the flipside, the undergraduate program is a 4 years long program unlike a 3-year option in many other countries. When it comes to Masters or Graduate Programs, US Universities are the hub of cutting-edge global research in disciplines such as Engineering, Computer Science, etc. Students studying at such Universities get exposure to the latest research and developments in their field. Graduate programs in the US typically take 1-2 years to complete.
Working part-time in the USA on a student visa (F-1) comes with certain conditions and restrictions. Students can work on-campus without any prior approvals for 20 hours a week during semesters and 40 hours a week during the break. This is the only employment option available to international students in the first academic year. For working off-campus after the first year, international students have to demonstrate a qualifying economic hardship or an emergent circumstance. Students have to apply to the concerned official at the school explaining the reason to work off-campus. If the application is approved, the student can work off-campus for 20 hours a week.
The immigration system in the US is currently subject to a lot of changes and speculation. The uncertainty in US Immigration policies has caused a significant decrease in international student applications. Getting a student visa is not difficult for a genuine student however there are challenges when it comes to getting a work visa (H1B, L1, etc) or a Green Card.
For students graduating from US Universities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, they are entitled to Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to 3 years. This allows the students to work in their field of study without a work visa for up to 3 years – this allows them adequate time to find a sponsor for H1B visa. For non STEM students, OPT is restricted to 1 year which makes things more challenging.
However, despite the challenges of the immigration policy, career opportunities are the greatest in USA. Currently, the US economy is growing extremely well and career opportunities exist in almost every field but especially in Engineering and Technology.
Getting unsecured education loans for studying in the US is comparatively easy. Indian Banks and Non Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) offer Education Loans without Collateral for MS in US up to Rs. 40 Lacs with interest rates starting at 11.5%. Students can also get Unsecured Education Loans from Banks and Financial Institutions in the US. If a student has a co-signer / co-borrower in the US, Education Loans (for Graduate and Undergraduate studies in the US) are available with interest rates starting at 4%. If a student does not have any co-signer / co-borrower, Education Loans (for Graduate studies in the Top Universities) are available with interest rates starting at 9%.
Canada is gaining popularity amongst students interested in education abroad because of its diversity. About 12 Canadian universities are ranked in the Times Higher Education Supplement Top 200. Canada is also a more economical option as it has a lower cost of education and living in comparison to its counterparts like USA and Australia. In Canada, undergraduate studies can be completed in 3 to 4 years depending on the University and program. Graduate programs usually take between 1 to 2 years to complete. Many Canadian colleges and universities offer a variety of graduate-level certificate and diploma programs in addition to the usual master’s degree programs. Certificate and diploma programs are generally focused towards further developing professional skills and help in employment. In addition to the Universities, Community Colleges are also popular amongst international students in Canada. The one challenge that Indian students face in Canada is the harsh weather, especially winters.
Canada allows international students to work on and off campus for a maximum of 20 hours a week or full time during breaks with a valid study permit and a Social Insurance Number. The study permit must indicate that the student is allowed to work on or off campus. In a situation that it does not, the student simply has to ask to amend the permit without any additional fee. On an average, students can earn $10 an hour through an on-campus job.
Often known as the land of immigrants, Canada has opened its doors for immigrants with its immigrant friendly policies. This has seen a rise in applicants. Students are looking at Canada instead of USA because of its welcoming environment and a booming economy for job prospects. International students can work in Canada for up to three years after they graduate on a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which helps them find work and provides a gateway to permanent residence and, eventually, citizenship. A work permit under the PGWP is usually issued for the length of the study program. The program has to be longer than 8 months failing which students are not eligible for a work permit. The Express Entry selection system that is designed to select skilled workers for immigration to Canada has made it easier for international students to make the transition to permanent residence.The Express Entry system is a point-based system. Having high proficiency in English and French and having a family member can give you additional points.
After UK and USA, Australia is the preferred destination for students. Australia is one of the more expensive destinations to study abroad. It has a high standard of living but also a high standard of education. Even the wages in Australia are higher than most countries. Australia’s Australian National University known as ANU, ranked 24 in the QS World University Rankings 2019. Australia follows the 3-4 year undergraduate system and a 1-2 year postgraduate system. Australia also gives students an option to enrol for its graduate diploma or certificate programs that are focused on developing vocational skills. The Masters program is usually research based.
In Australia, students can work for 40 hours in a fortnight during the semester and full time during breaks. The 40 hours a fortnight can be divided as per the discretion of the student i.e. you can work for 10 hours in 5 days and 30 hours for the remaining days. The minimum hourly rate is about $11.64. A Tax File Number is necessary to work part-time.
Australia has a point-based system to obtain a work visa. On the basis of your points, one can qualify for a work visa. Some of the qualifying factors are English proficiency, work experience, age, occupation demand, etc. After graduation, students don’t get an automatic right to stay and work for a particular period. Australia has different kinds of work visas available in order to work and eventually obtain permanent residency based on your skills and job and the period one is looking for. The system may sound complicated but it is not uncertain like USA. However, Australia has recently started looking into the problems that a high rate of immigration is causing to the locals and their jobs which may bring some uncertainty to immigration options in the future. Job opportunities are plenty and are majorly dependent on area of study and skills.
Ireland has now become a popular study abroad destination for students and is a great alternative to UK. Ireland’s economy is also flourishing with UK being unstable due to BREXIT. Ireland is a strategic location to build a career, being the only nation in Europe with English as its first language. It offers a high standard of education to students with the government investing over Euro 782 million annually in higher education. Ireland is also known to be one of the safest places in the world which is an added benefit. It follows the typical 3-4 year duration for Bachelor’s Programs and 1-2 years for Master’s Programs. Ireland also accepts students with 15 years of education (3 year Bachelor’s program) unlike major US Universities that require 16 years of education (4 year Bachelor’s program). Ireland excels in Pharma and Technology and is known for its scientific research.
Students with a valid Stamp 2 visa are permitted to work for 20 hours a week during the academic session and 40 hours a week during the breaks. Ireland’s minimum wage is 9.15 Euro. In order to work in Ireland, a student requires a Personal Public Services Number (PPS Number).
Working in Ireland after completing your degree is promising. Ireland has joined the international education market by its recent move of extending the period for which international graduates can stay and seek employment in Ireland after their studies. The period is now 24 months for advance courses like masters and PhD. It remains 12 months for honours undergraduate courses and 6 months for ordinary undergraduate courses. Despite being a relatively small economy, Ireland also has a promising job market with some of the global giants like Google and Apple having their offices in Ireland. Irish Universities are also among the top 1% research institutions in the world which leaves options open for those interested in research and academia.
Obtaining study abroad education loans for Canada, Australia or Ireland is possible. However options for education loans without collateral (unsecured education loans) are limited. Banks like State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank offer loans with Collateral with interest rates starting from 10.3%. Non Banking Finance Companies offer Education Loans without Collateral (Unsecured Study Abroad Loans) up to Rs. 20 Lacs (for selected Universities and Programs) with interest rates starting from 12.5%.
Education Loans without Coborrower and without Collateral are available for selected schools in Canada with interest rates starting from 10%.
To summarize, USA is clearly the best option for STEM programs given the high quality of education, excellent job options, availability of education loans and the three year OPT option.
For Non STEM programs, Ireland and Canada are good options considering the job opportunities and immigration possibilities.
For programs like accounting and finance, Australia is a good option given the abundance of job opportunities in that sector.
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