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How to Find a Killer Masters Degree Abroad

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 15, 2021 Updated March 15, 2021

Sponsored by the University of Helsinki

Universities worldwide are offering a growing number of master’s degrees specifically designed for international students, often fully taught in English. In Finland, the University of Helsinki has just launched 28 international master’s programs – one example of the rapidly increasing number of options available to students seeking a master’s abroad.

With more possibilities than ever before, how should you decide on the best master’s degree for you? Here are six essential factors to consider when finding and comparing master’s degrees abroad…

1. Be smart about location.

When deciding on a study destination, consider a wide range of factors, such as cultural atmosphere, tuition fees and living standards. Depending on your personality and aspirations, you’ll want to prioritize different aspects of local life. Do you enjoy vegan food? Hiking? Live music? Exploring new landscapes? Connect with current students online to get a feel for the lifestyle. And if you’re hoping to work alongside or after your studies, make sure there are relevant opportunities and review the visa regulations.

2. Check out subject rankings.  

As well as consulting international rankings tables, take a look at specialized subject rankings to discover which institutions are at the top of your field. The University of Helsinki, for instance, ranks 91st in the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017. But how well does it fare in your subject area? If you’re interested in studying geography, Earth and marine sciences, English literature or economics (amongst other subjects), it could be a particularly good option for your master’s abroad. So, don’t neglect the subject rankings; they’re a great way to discover new options and focus your search.

3. Keep an eye out for universities that offer grants.

Studying a master’s abroad inevitably involves an investment… And a grant could really help you slash through the costs. The University of Helsinki offers generous grants covering between 50% and 100% of tuition fees, in addition to living stipends, awarded to students on the basis of academic merit. Could you be one of the next happy recipients? Find out more here.

4. Choose a course with a practical focus.

This is a pretty big one. Your master’s degree should prepare you for work in the real world – and this is not always guaranteed. When reading course descriptions, ask yourself:

  • Does the course involve applying theory to real-life situations?
  • Will I develop skills which are valued by employers?
  • Are there opportunities to gain practical experience?

When discussing the program with the university, ask how this particular master’s abroad will prepare you for the job market, and decide for yourself how convincing the answer sounds.

5. Find a university with a good language center.

While your master’s abroad may be taught in English, this is a great opportunity to increase your employability by learning a second (or third/fourth/fifth) language. Your university should be able to help you with this. Does it have a language center? How big is it, how many languages are offered, and how easy is it to join a course? The language center at the University of Helsinki employs more than 70 full-time staff members, offering training in over 30 languages!

6. Ensure that the university mirrors your personality and priorities.

Your number one priority should be to find a master’s degree and university that resemble you and your preoccupations and values. Don’t be afraid of being introspective: what do you care the most about? Is it your earning potential? Problem-solving? Expressing your creativity? Improving people’s lives?

Whatever it is, make sure your institution’s ethos reflects your own. If you’re passionate about sustainability, the University of Helsinki could be your perfect match, being well-known for its research focus in this field. Many programs at the school involve contact with public policy organizations and businesses to find credible solutions to global crises. Sound like your kind of challenge?

Sleep on it. 

This article was originally published in November 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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