Why a US Graduate Degree
is a Valuable Asset for Foreign Citizens

Written by Eugene W. Fields

More foreign citizens are being accepted to American graduate schools, according to a multi-year empirical study by the Council of Graduate Schools (1). The survey, based on responses from nearly 300 graduate schools, showed that offers to international students increased 9% from 2012 to 2013.

Foreign citizens have different reasons for obtaining a graduate degree from a US graduate institution. Janel Sandoval, M.S.H.R., a corporate recruiter who has worked at AT&T and Allergan, said foreign citizens earn a graduate degree from American graduate schools for acceptance in attempting to earn a job in US work force.

“Depending on the industry, it seems that the overall perception is that foreign education is not as welcomed or respected as if the person earned their degree here in the United States,” Sandoval said.

“In addition, it is usually more difficult for a non-US citizen or permanent resident to get a job here, especially without a US degree.”

Sandoval added that foreign citizens with a graduate degree could have better luck applying with larger corporations.

“With that being said, I would say larger companies that are involved in global business would be an exception,” she said. “Since those companies have employees in other countries, they are more familiar and accepting of foreign education.”

Not only are these students attempting to become more marketable to potential employers, by obtaining a graduate degree from an American graduate school, they make it easier to be hired. For example, applicants to the Florida Department of Education must submit a credential evaluation report. The evaluation ensures the degree obtained is equivalent to one earned at an institution in the United States.

Another reason a US graduate degree would be an asset to a foreign citizen would be to market themselves to other countries for employment. In an opinion originally published on Forbes.com (2), Bill Aulet and Matt Marx – both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – wrote that countries like Australia, Canada and Singapore are recruiting foreign entrepreneurs due to more restrictive immigration laws in the United States.

“Depending on the industry, it seems that the overall perception is that foreign education is not as welcomed or respected as if the person earned their degree here in the United States.”

Janel Sandoval, M.S.H.R.

A US graduate degree is also an asset to a foreign citizen looking to enter a specialized field.

“Medicine, law and education are all fields that would require graduate level education,” Sandoval said.

“And in most cases, a US education would definitely be more accepted.”

A graduate degree is also an asset to a foreign citizen looking to become an American citizen.

According to 2013 survey conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy (3), more than 70% of graduate students attempting to earn electrical engineering degrees, 63% of graduate students attempting to earn computer science degrees and 55% of graduate students attempting to earn economics degrees were foreign citizens. Aulet and Marx wrote that skilled and educated would-be immigrants can apply for an H-1B visa once hired into the workforce. The visa is contingent upon the holder maintaining employment with the company that sponsored the visa.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (4), the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa allowing foreign citizens with at least a bachelor’s degree in a specialty field (i.e., biotechnology, business, chemistry, education, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health and law) to work in the United States for up to six years without obtaining residency status.

Additionally, while federal law allows only 65,000 foreign citizens to hold H-1B visas, some 20,000 additional foreign citizens who work universities, non-profit research facilities associated with universities or government research facilities are exempt from the law limiting the number H-1B visas granted.

Finally, just like times have changed for Americans with undergraduate degrees, the acquisition of a graduate degree also gives foreign students an advantage over those without.

“More and more people earn a graduate degree to get that leg up. In many areas, that is the difference between getting a job and not getting a job,” Sandoval said. “If they received a business degree in a different country and took a job in the administrative capacity or in a position where a degree is preferred but not required, then I do not think attaining a graduate level education would be a necessity. However, it is in my strong opinion that a graduate degree is never a bad thing.”


  1. Findings from the 2013 GCS International Graduate Admissions Survey. (2013). Council of Graduate Schools. (Return)
  2. U.S. Immigration Policy Is Killing Entrepreneurship. Here's What to Do About It. (2013). Forbes.com. (Return)
  3. The Importance of International Students to America. (2013). National Foundation for American Policy. (Return)
  4. Understanding H-1B Requirements. (2014). U.S> Department of Homeland Security. (Return)