Did you pass up study abroad opportunities during your undergraduate studies? If this is you, I have great news: getting a masters degree in Europe is a great way to improve your career prospects. More and more, US college graduates are supplementing their college education with a master's degree from grad schools in Europe. By the time you're done reading this article, you'll know how to get into grad school in Europe.
European countries are sponsors to some of the best grad schools in the world. The quality of education is difficult to surpass because the universities in Europe offering masters programs are known for their focus on both research and practice.
Many entry level jobs today now require a master's and virtually all senior management and senior professional positions require a master's.
This is Brian D. Kelley, chief information officer at Portage County Information Technology Services.
Also, having a master's degree will allow you to increase your annual income to a greater degree than just a bachelor's. Plus, if a master's degree isn't a requirement for your current position, it will likely be for the next position you want.
Having a master's degree will qualify you to apply for positions in management that your bachelor's degree and experience alone won't.
That's Jennifer Viemont, chief college advisor and author of College Beyond the States.
Is getting a master's starting to sound like a good idea? The problem is, even if you would love to get a master's, you may be concerned about taking on lots of additional debt... and that's a real concern. This is why more and more people are looking beyond the United States and finding their best fit university for their graduate degrees in Europe, where degrees are far more accessible and affordable than their US counterparts.
Maybe you're like me, and when you first learned about the option of an affordable, English-taught college degree in Europe, you were simultaneously intrigued, skeptical, and kind of jazzed. Eventually my mind was blown as I learned more, and I was hooked. So much so…that I eventually joined the Beyond the States team, helping more and more students study in Europe.
Know this - there are over 8,231 of accredited, 100% English-taught master's degrees to choose from across Europe; no foreign language required. More and more people from the US, and other countries, are heading to Europe for higher ed opportunities, and for good reason - there are so many affordable, high-quality English-taught programs that offer something…more.
But with so many options it can be difficult to know where to start. The admissions criteria and processes may be confusing, or you may have questions about the educational quality and degree recognition, or the logistics involved. We've made navigating these options easy and fun! We visit schools regularly to learn about programs and bring first-hand information to our community of members.
Unlike other portals, we don't accept any compensation from the schools we include in our database and materials, which allows us to be objective, comprehensive, and honest about what we provide. Read on, as we give you the goods on exploring and pursuing your graduate degree as an international student in continental Europe and Ireland.
Perhaps you did a semester abroad while getting your bachelor's degree, and you have a taste for more. Maybe you want to see more of the world before settling into a career. You may have experienced the problems around ROI with your undergraduate degree. Or it could be that you have the goal to establish a career abroad. In any case, you are open-minded and eager to have different academic and life experiences. If any of these resonate with you, then a master's degree in the EU is something to consider. Even if you ultimately end up choosing a school in the US, just knowing these options exist will help you make an informed decision.
Regardless of whether you're currently in the middle of a bachelor's program, looking to make a career change, or are somewhere in the middle, opportunities for a masters in Europe are abundant. So long as you are willing to travel and step outside your comfort zone, exploring master's programs in the EU will show you that exciting and affordable higher education alternatives are within your grasp.
According to FinAid.org, the average tuition fees for master's degree programs in the US ranges from $30,000 – $120,000. This depends on whether a student is paying in-state tuition, other universities that are out-of-state or offer private tuition. Given that the average student completes their undergraduate degree with $33,310 of debt, taking on the further expense of graduate school can be financially devastating.
English-taught master's degrees in Europe are much more affordable. When you study in Europe as an international student, the average tuition fees across the EU and European Higher Education Area countries is just below $9,000 per year. Affordability can be found even with the higher priced programs, like MBAs, so it is significant to note that there are over 1,300 options in our database of master's degrees under $3,000 per year and hundreds that are tuition free (yep!) - even for international students. The savings continue to reveal themselves when you consider that many of these master's programs are just one year in duration!
As well, consider the false perception that the cost of living in Europe is much greater than in the US, and that cost of living, along with increased travel expenses, erase the savings provided by lower tuition.
Let's debunk this myth by looking at a couple of comparisons around this. Our founder, Jenn Viemont's son, Sam, is in the International Studies bachelor's program at Leiden University. People in this program choose a region and related language and then study politics, economics, international relations, culture and such as it pertains to that area. For the sake of this example, we will look at related masters degrees in Europe and compare them to the costs of attendance in their state of North Carolina.
UNC Chapel Hill offers a master's degree in Global Studies. In-state tuition is $10,552 per year while you'll pay $28,278 in out-of-state tuition a year. Duke University offers a Political Science master's degree program for $60,727 per year. Both of these programs take two years to complete. The cost of living in Durham and Chapel Hill is similar, estimated by the schools to cost about $2,000 per month, so $18,000 for an academic year thus, the total cost of attendance for in-state at UNC Chapel Hill is $59,104, out-of-state is $94,556, and private is $242,908.
With this example in mind, let's look at the European higher education area. Groningen University, in the Netherlands, is one of many universities that offers one year master's degree programs, and has a Middle Eastern Studies master's program. The tuition is $14,241 and cost of living estimates are $14,437. The total cost of attendance is $28,679. Even budgeting for two flights home during the year, it's still half of what you would pay overall for in-state, a third of what you would pay for out-of-state, and just over a tenth of what you would pay for private US universities. Funding options are also strong in the EU, with GI Bills and other financial aid options available for Americans and other international students.
There are also countries in the European Union with a much lower cost of living to explore. Charles University, in Prague, Czech Republic, offers a two year International Relations program for $6,835 per year. The estimated cost of living for the year is even lower than tuition at $5,481. The entire two-year degree, then, is $24,633. Note that both of these schools are highly reputable, globally ranked universities with stellar funding options.
Even factoring in the cost of living and 2 flights home per year, you would save anywhere between $28,000-$214,275 using these examples! The cost comparisons between an American education and a master's degrees in EU countries are endlessly eye-popping.
As an international student, you'll be living and studying abroad with peers from around the world. The cultural differences between a student from Atlanta, Georgia and one from Tbilisi, Georgia are glaring. These contrasts are recognized, openly discussed, and valued. Though there are differences in background, there are meaningful common experiences and values among them. They are all experiencing living outside of their home country, which is a significant and life-changing experience. Further, most of these students do have the values associated with global citizenship, which connects them on a very deep level.
This is also when your jaw-drops. Unlike in the US, schools in the EU don't use admissions rates as an indicator of educational quality or prestige. In most cases, the reputation of the school is not generally linked to how selective it is. At most schools, the admissions process is less competitive, even at highly-ranked, reputable ones. Each school has its own set of admissions requirements. If you meet those requirements and there is room in the program, then you are admitted - it's that simple.
When it comes to a master's program in the EU, the main requirement for international students is that you have a certain number of credits, usually your major, in a related field of study. You'll be carefully checking each program's requirements, as the related fields and number of credits required are usually spelled out quite thoroughly. They may also require motivation letters, online interviews, or portfolios. From time to time, you will see other requirements, such as GMAT/GRE scores, but these are generally only required for business related programs. Other programs may require a minimum GPA, entrance exam, or post-bachelor work experience. Each program's listing in our database will include admissions requirements, but you can also confirm details using the program's web link we include as well.
Find the specific programs you might be a good fit for by joining Beyond the States and searching the database.
The application process varies from program to school to country. Once you’ve explored our database of accredited, English-taught master’s programs across the European Union and Ireland, and carefully narrowed down a list of prospects, you’ll use the info we include within each program listing in the database to learn about the school (or country) admissions process. From there, you’ll head to the program’s web link - also included in each database listing - to learn even more details around admissions requirements and how to apply.
If you're grimacing right now at the thought of having to slog through this process, we can lovingly help - check out our Best Fit List service. 😁 We make the study in Europe process, including getting your full time master, an easy one to pursue and prepare for.
A Pre Master is a series of courses, usually one year in duration, designed to fill in the missing pieces of your transcript, if it ever came to that. This pertains to people who choose to change their area of study between their bachelor's and the master's degree they're applying for, or for those who want to change their career, and/or for those who don't meet all the program requirements. A Pre Master isn't available across the board for all programs, but it does allow access for those who are changing the direction of their studies or career. Explore How to Fill the Missing Pieces of Your Transcript with a Pre Master.
While many schools in the European higher education area work with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), many do not. However, sometimes they offer other funding opportunities. At most schools in the Netherlands, for instance, incoming foreigners can apply for the merit-based Holland Scholarship, which is a one-time payment of 5,000 euros. And in France, all students— including internationals—can receive a housing subsidy, called CAF, of around 100 euros per month. Finland just recently began charging tuition fees; however, along with the fees came a mandate that every school offer scholarship opportunities. These scholarships are generally a merit-based tuition waiver for anywhere from 25-100% of tuition.
So what happens if you have money saved in a 529 account and the European school you want to go to doesn’t have a FAFSA number? Here’s a podcast episode we did on this very topic. Super insightful!
These posts will help as well:
Things have changed a lot in European higher education in the past couple of decades. In 1999, the Bologna declaration was signed by Education Ministers from 29 European countries. The purpose of the declaration was to create a European Higher Education Area with comparable and understandable degrees and credits across its member states. This enabled greater mobility for students in the EU. Degrees across the participating countries coordinated the duration and structure of degrees which makes learning outcomes consistent and helps with quality control. There are now 47 participating countries. This is also helpful to US students who get their bachelors in Europe, but want to get their masters in the US. Their qualifications and education are much more understandable to the admissions officers in the US than in the past. This helps the European Higher Education Area with transparency for international students.
When it comes to campus life, as is similar to some urban schools in the United States, such as New York University, the majority of campuses in Europe are decentralized, with various buildings spread throughout the town or city, even for each course. However, since students have most of their classes with one academic department, this has little impact on their lives. Most academic departments at large universities are fairly self-contained and provide you with the majority of the resources and services they need, like academic advisors, an international office, cafés—often referred to as “canteens”—and a career counseling/internship office.
It is here that you will find the most striking differences between US colleges and their European counterparts. In Europe, the schools almost never provide housing. Student residences (dorms) are scattered throughout the city and house students from different schools. Sometimes, a school may contract with a student residence provider and hold blocks of rooms for you, but rarely do schools own their own housing. One advantage to this system is that it creates market competition. Housing in student residences is much more affordable than in the US dorms, while also offering layouts that are more appealing. Otherwise, using a realtor can be valuable, or Facebook groups associated with the school or city, or Airbnb and hostels, the Student Hotel, or even home-sharing can be an option.
Schools in Europe also have many student associations that can connect you with various interest groups based on religion, culture, the arts, sports, or other hobbies. Americans also have access to an abundance of social opportunities through the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). This group works with all internationals (full-degree program and semester abroad) to help acclimate them to life outside their home country.
Sports are another area that may be tied more to the city than the school. Many schools have their own sports facilities and teams, but they are generally fairly small. More commonly, there is a Student Sports Center for the town, often with several locations and facilities. Just because you won’t be tailgating outside a big stadium, like you might at an American college football game, does not mean that a sports fan will be bored in Europe. There are opportunities for spectators or participants in soccer, rugby, ice hockey, basketball, and more, with popularity generally dictated by the country.
To live in Europe as an international student you’ll need to show a “proof of means”. This is an amount of money set by each country that you must prove that they have access to in order to support themselves for their student visa and residence permit. This amount varies from country to country. Most countries fall between $6,000-10,000 per year. The money you provide for proof of means is the money you will use to live on during the year.
First of all, unlike typically homogeneous classrooms in the United States, the English-taught postgraduate Europe programs are developed to attract prospects from around the world. Needless to say, classroom discussions reflect an expanse of perspectives and experiences, which allow Americans to have a better understanding of the world and how current issues affect their citizens.
Another distinction is that in in the EU, there are different types of higher education institutions: research universities, universities of applied science (UAS), and university colleges. We discuss these school categories in depth in our resources, and in our classes.
As well, there is the Erasmus Mundus program which offers all degree-seeking students in the EU, including Americans, the opportunity to study in another country with no additional fees, as well as the possibility for a monthly stipend. These are really interesting and often multidisciplinary master’s degree programs that are developed and implemented by a consortium of higher education institutions in at least two different countries. You'll study in at least two countries and receive a joint degree from the universities of the consortium. There are more than 100 of these programs that are conducted entirely in English. There are options for just about every field of study that you can think of: Agriculture, Arts, Design, Humanities, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Computer Science and Technology, Business, and more. These programs are relevant to today’s issues and often involve professionals from related companies which helps you understand how to apply the knowledge – not to mention network!
We could go on and on about the positive aspects of studying outside your home country, even its impacts on employment, due both to globalization and also the skills (especially “soft skills”) students gain by the dynamic experience of studying abroad. Degree recognition is so rarely a hindrance. Just take a look at the international student percentages for master’s degree programs in any US university, and you’ll see that degrees are accepted by accredited universities from all over the world. In fact, there were more than 1 million international students studying at universities in the US during the 2019-2020 school year alone.
With that, let’s talk a little bit about accreditation, and the different types. In the US the government doesn’t give accreditation to universities itself, but instead approves various accrediting agencies, as does the Council for Higher Education. And so these are often, but not always, regionally based. Then there are national and specialized accrediting agencies also, for degrees like law, nursing, medicine, and on.
In most other countries accreditation is granted by a governmental body, which is usually the Ministry of Education. Since public universities in the EU are heavily funded by taxes, the accreditation process is really quite thorough. And since there’s only one accreditation agency per country - the Ministry of Education - the criteria used is consistent. This is the type of accreditation we rely on at Beyond the States when we list schools in our database, since this is what’s going to matter, and we take no risks here. This type of accreditation is a deal breaker for us.
Even further, there is degree recognition. This is the process of getting your foreign degree accepted as valid by an employer, a graduate school, or licensure board. Most grad schools will use a credentialing agency to do this. This is why national accreditation is key - it’s a required component. Some employers will just look at accreditation, or they may already know the school, especially if it’s a multinational company that recruits from around the world. And there are so many companies that hire in this way, often making a degree from outside the US is a non-issue, and often a plus.
Learning for learning's sake is a noble proposition, but few students go to college for reasons that don't relate to employability in some way or another. Students with an undergraduate degree know that a high-level degree at a top-ranked university is required to access many career opportunities, but few pursue study abroad because they're not well-informed on the topic.
Applicants to masters programs in EU universities will almost always be required to have a major in a related field of study. You usually won't be admitted to a psychology program, for instance, with a major in business. The benefit is that all full-time and part-time masters students come to the program with a certain base knowledge of the topic which allows the program to dig deep into the content from day one. Further, internships and field experiences are often emphasized and sometimes required. employers hire 50-70% of their interns (depending on the field), and so this is a huge advantage. Internship opportunities include those with multinational companies like BP, Google, Accenture, and Deloitte. Of course there are exciting possibilities with EU specific institutions like the International Criminal Courts, the World Health Organization,The UN, or NATO's Cyber Defense Center.
More to the point, if you're concerned about employment post-graduation, you can certainly find employability numbers advertised on certain EU school or program pages. Schools that have high levels of employability for their graduates will certainly make that known on their pages. Schools and programs featured in any of our Beyond the States world ranking lists for masters often have high employability numbers. Check those out!
You can get a master's in Europe in only 1 Year. That's another big advantage of getting a masters in Europe: the one-year master's degree. In many instances, you can get a master's degree in just a year which can be half the time it would take elsewhere. The course content is condensed, but achievable. In the Beyond the States database, there are 952 master's programs that are one year in duration. A truly frugal person would do well to focus the 176 one year programs that offer tuition between 0 and $5,000, then begin looking at places with a low cost of living.
Besides the course content, a masters degree in Europe will build skills that are desired by employers and help you to stand out in the job market. Today, employers are looking to hire people with the soft skills who can excel in cross-functional teams with people from different backgrounds. The emphasis on group work at these schools provides experience in working with different perspectives. Study abroad graduates are often flexible, adaptable, and experienced navigating unfamiliar circumstances – all of which lead to success in the workplace, including management, engineering, science, arts, and more.
Getting a Masters is easier in Europe
This is literally at the heart of what we do at Beyond the States, and have done for many years, and for thousands of families in the US, so our database is a good place to start. It opens the doors to a treasure-trove of our resources and materials, including of course our proprietary database of over 8,231 accredited, English-taught master's programs across the EU and Ireland.
There are options in Engineering, Management, International Business, Humanities, and 212 other specialized areas of study in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and 27 other countries with over 870 universities.
This is what our members are saying about the database:
Laura is loving all the financial benefits that finding a program with Beyond the States gave her.
BTS has the most comprehensive information for American undergraduate students looking to study in Europe. Without it, we would never have found the school we ultimately chose. Start with one-month membership. Dig around and see what possibilities are available. A European school is not for everyone, but everyone should consider universities in Europe. Beyond the financial benefits, the quality of education, and the increased job opportunities upon graduation, there is self awareness and personal growth from the experience of living in another culture for 3 or 4 years that cannot be found from attending an American university.
Pasquale wonders if he could've gone to study abroad without Beyond the States.
The membership offers tons of great information and guidance. The videos are excellent, as are the classes. The BTS team is very friendly and responsive. I do not know how we would have navigated the process successfully without this membership. Worth every penny!
Heidi found it daunting to research study abroad until she found Beyond the States.
The options for studying in Europe are amazing, but starting your research can be daunting! Beyond the States was indispensable in providing the information my student needed to understand how the European system works, which programs fit his interests, how to apply, and much more. It was well worth the investment!
If you're looking to search for specific programs you might be a good fit for, join Beyond the States and search the database for your best fit masters universities today.
Our rankings reflect many years of on-the-ground research, vetting, and experience by ourselves and our members, and speaks directly to what really matters in pursuing English-taught college degrees in continental Europe and Ireland. For those that want to study in Europe, explore the Top 10 Graduate Universities in Europe. Countries include the EU and others in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).