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For the Masters’ program, the USA, Canada, England, and Australia are the most common destination for higher study abroad. Besides these countries, some European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland are also an immensely popular choice for higher-level studies. These countries offer the best quality of education for the next generation. They have world-renowned universities to offer lots of courses under various departments.

Applying for a Masters’ program

Applying process for a Masters’ degree program is different in these countries. All top-class universities have some common requirements besides their specific entry requirements.  

Applying for a Masters in the USA, UK and Canada

Applying to a US, UK and Canada Masters degree can be quite an extensive process. Universities want to make sure students end up on the right graduate programmes and therefore put a lot of time and effort into their admissions process. They expect you to do the same with your application.

This doesn’t mean that it’s harder to get a place on a Masters degree in these countries. But you will need to provide more material and more detail about your existing qualifications than you might be asked for elsewhere.

Remember too that you will also need to secure a student visa alongside your university place.

Entry Requirements

Universities will require more from you than an undergraduate degree result. You will be expected to have a minimum GPA often a 3.0/4.0 for your undergraduate degree.

You will have to submit the following as part of your application:

  • A completed application form, which is often submitted online
  • Academic cover letter
  • Certified copies of your degree and academic transcripts
  • Research proposal (if you’re applying for a research Masters like an MPhil or MRes)
  • A curriculum vitae
  • Proof of English and/or French proficiency, depending on the programme that you are applying for. If English is not your first language you may also be asked for a certain language test score.
  • References / recommendation letters
  • Letter of motivation / personal statement
  • Proof that you meet financial requirements
  • Evidence of your Overseas Student Health Cover (for Australia)

More selective graduate programmes often require scores from graduate admissions tests. Some will ask to interview you if you are shortlisted.

Academic programmes may also ask you to submit a specific research statement with your application. This is particularly likely if you are applying to a graduate programme with the opportunity to continue on to PhD work.

Graduate admissions tests are a more common requirement in the US, UK, Australia, and the Canadian education system than they are in other countries. They allow your university to assess general skills such as abstract reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.

A number of tests are in use, but the two most common are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

  • The general GRE test is not specific to any particular discipline (though some subject-specific variants are offered).
  • The GMAT is generally associated with applications for MBA degrees at graduate business schools.

Your prospective university should be able to tell you which test it requires. some programmes may accept either a GRE or a GMAT score. You should not need to sit both unless you are applying to multiple institutions with preferences for different tests.

Masters fees and funding in the USA

As a rough guide, a Masters at a public university in America will charge tuition fees of around $20,000-35,000 per year for international students. However, as you’d expect from a country the size of America, there is a lot of variation between programmes and institutions.

It’s also important to remember that relatively few Masters students in America pay the full cost of their course. Many receive funding from their university or from other organisations.

Masters fees and funding in Canada

Tuition fees for international students in Canada are relatively affordable compared to those in the UK and America, with most programmes costing somewhere between CAD $13,000 and CAD $20,500 (USD $9,966-15,715). Arts and Humanities subjects will be at the lower end of this scale, with Dentistry, Architecture and Business nearer the top. Domestic Canadian students generally pay tuition fees at around half the rate paid by foreign students.

Average Masters fees and funding in the UK

TypeE.g.UK / EUOverseas
ClassroomMA (Arts / Social Sciences)£7,946£15,097
LaboratoryMSc (Science / Engineering)£8,860£17,493
ResearchMRes / MPhil£4,000+£10,000+

*Based on the most recent survey of UK postgraduate fees, published by the Times Higher Education magazine

Masters fees and funding in Australia

In Australia, postgraduate tuition fees are set by individual universities and not the government, so you’ll find a wide range of costs across different institutions and courses.

As a rough guide, programmes cost between AUD $22,000 and AUD $50,000 per year per year (USD $15,100-34,305) for overseas students. Masters in the Arts and Humanities will be at the lower end of this scale, while Science-based programmes will be towards the top. Subjects like Veterinary Science and Medicine could be even higher.

Course Duration

A Masters degree at an American university usually takes around two years of full-time study to complete (though some courses are shorter).

This is longer than in some other countries (such as the UK) but reflects the greater emphasis on structured training and regular assessment on a US graduate programme.

In most cases, the greater length of your degree will be offset by the additional development opportunities and transferable skills you acquire during it.

Possession of an American Masters degree may also shorten the amount of time required to achieve a PhD in the same field.

Canadian Masters programmes usually last between one and two years (there might be additional internships or placements).

Several Canadian universities offer Masters programmes through the ‘co-operative education option’.

Co-op enables current students to gain hands-on, paid experience in placements related to their field of study. These opportunities are available in all disciplines and provide valuable work experience and contacts. Employers involved in the co-op programme get highly qualified and motivated students to undertake specialised projects. Many of them also use it as a recruitment tool, allowing them to really get to know potential candidates and their abilities. For Masters students these internships are usually between two and four months.

The UK higher education system encompasses many different kinds of qualification at Masters level, ranging from academic programmes to more practical, vocational postgraduate courses. Most programmes require one year of full-time study (90 ECTS), although research-based Masters are usually two years long.

In the UK, academic Masters degrees involve advanced study of a subject that you may have had experience of at undergraduate level, allowing you to specialise in a certain topic within the discipline.

They can be divided into two broad types: taught programmes, which are generally more structured, and research Masters, which require a greater amount of independent research.

Masters in European countries

Entry Requirements

Most of the European universities’ entry requirements are very much similar to the USA or UK. Sometimes universities ask for special proof of evidence.

Application deadlines

University application deadlines are very different from country to country. And they sometimes depend on whether you need a student visa. To start studying in autumn, applications might close as early as January (Sweden or Finland) up until as late as July (Germany) or even August/September (Austria or Poland).

CountryCommon application deadlines
AustriaJune to September 2020 (varies by university)
Belgium1 June 2020 (students from the EU/EEA); February/March (non-EEA students)
Czech Republicusually February to April for most universities
Denmark15 March 2020 (Bachelor degrees); varies for Master degrees
Estoniabetween March and June 2020; deadlines for non-EEA citizens are usually earlier
FinlandJanuary 2020 (most universities); March/April 2020 (some UAS)
Francebetween February and April 2020 for most universities
Germany15 July 2020 (most universities/programmes)
Hungarybetween February and May 2020 for most universities
Icelandvaries by university; between January and April 2020
IrelandBachelors: 1 February 2020 (online) or 1 May 2020 (late paper applications); Masters: varies by university and programme
Italyvaries by university; but generally from May to July, and earlier for students who need a visa
LatviaMay/June 2020; varies by university
LithuaniaJune 2020
Netherlands (Holland)1 April 2020 or 1 May 2020 for most universities; some universities offer assistance with accommodation if you apply early
Norway1 December 2019 for non-European students, 1 March 2020 for students from EU/EEA; might be different for some universities
Polandvaries by university; but generally from July to August
Russiabeginning of July 2020 for most universities
Spainvaries by university; some as early as January, some as late as July
Sweden15 January 2020 to register application, and 1 February 2020 to submit all documents
Switzerlandvaries by university; but generally from February to April, and earlier for students who need a visa
United Kingdomvaries by university; some accept applications until the summer; some popular courses are full much earlier

*Some study programmes, or some private universities, may have different application deadlines before or after the entries in the table. Be sure to do your research early so that you will not be caught in a hurry.

Universities in some countries require you to send your applications exceedingly early, for example, Sweden or Finland, where first-round closing dates are usually in January. However, it is common that you can send in late applications for a second admissions round. This could be successful if the courses you apply to did not otherwise get enough applicants.

Otherwise, some countries generally have late application deadlines. In the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – you can usually apply to university until June. German public universities commonly accept applications until mid-July. In Austria and Poland, you can sometimes send in your application until shortly before the start of the semester.

Tuition fees for Non-EU citizens studying in the EU

European higher education institutions welcome non-EU students in Europe. Although they are required to pay for tuition fees, international students can apply for scholarships or funding almost everywhere. Europe has a total of over 16 billion EUR worth of scholarships available every year.

Tuition fees in Europe can vary significantly, but they are generally lower when compared to North America and Australia. That does not mean that the quality of education is also lower. Many European universities are listed as some of the best in the world in top rankings.

Tuition fees in Europe range between:

  • 0 – 42,500 EUR/academic year for Bachelor’s degrees
  • 0 – 56,000 EUR/academic year for Master’s degrees

You can find Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes with higher tuition fees, but they are few and far between and are usually offered by private universities in disciplines like Business & Management or Medicine.

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