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Are foreign MAs accredited/accepted in the US?


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Hi guys!

 

I have a BA in History, and I have been accepted to several MA programs (all of them abroad). I have accepted a place to study at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain for an MA in Political Science, and I am still holding some offers from several schools in the UK (e.g. Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, etc.). Will the MA from Spain be accepted/accredited in the US? Or is it completely useless? I don't want to pursue the degree and spend all the time/money, if it won't be worth anything in the US. I need to decide whether or not to indeed go to Spain in September to do my MA, accept an offer from on of the UK universities, or forego them all. I know the Autonomous University of Barcelona is accredited by the Spanish government and is accredited/accepted in the European Academic area, but I can't find any information about it being accepted in the US.

 

Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Sorry I can't help withe the question in particular. I would say it depends on the prestige of the institution and on what you need the degree for. Anyway what i wanted to tell you is that you can't cross post your question on different forums.

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I don't think there is a centralized body in the US that accredits foreign degrees in fields like History (things are slightly different e.g. in medical fields, etc.). The question is simply what you want to do with your degree. If the goal is to go into industry, then the question will be whether employers will recognize the university's name and how impressed they'd be by the fact that you have a degree from there. My guess is that this university won't terribly familiar to employers in the US, but I don't know that they would be able to recognize what schools are considered good for History in the US either. Here it's more just about the fact that you have an MA, and about the school's name, but the specific program will probably matter less. It's also not clear what jobs you'd get that would require a training specifically in history, but that's another matter. If the goal is to get into a PhD program in the US or elsewhere, then you want to ask the program in Spain whether their students go on to attend such PhD programs. Here my guess would be that it's possible, but there is a question of how good the program is, what kind of research output you'd get out of it, and what name recognition the program and the professors that teach there might have. If you study Spanish history, there is an obvious story to be told about why you went to study in Spain. Similarly, if there is someone who specializes in your area of interest there who you could work with, it'd be clear why you chose to go to this university. If, on the other hand, this is not a place that is particularly well-suited for your research interests and also not particularly well-known, then (just like if you chose to attend such a school in the US) there could be questions about your judgment and choices. 

 

I am locking some threads you created asking this same question in multiple forums. There is no need to do that. 

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a friend of mine did his MA/PhD in Madrid  in Psychology and had a really tough time finding a job when he returned to the U.S. it was also during the financial crisis so that may have added to it, but he did get the impression that that American universities were not too impressed with what he did in Spain. the best he was able to score was a 1-year post-doc in order to try and beef up his CV/resume by working with people and publishing in journals that were better-known in the U.S. 

 

eventually he ended up moving down to Mexico because he secured a position there.

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a friend of mine did his MA/PhD in Madrid  in Psychology and had a really tough time finding a job when he returned to the U.S. it was also during the financial crisis so that may have added to it, but he did get the impression that that American universities were not too impressed with what he did in Spain. the best he was able to score was a 1-year post-doc in order to try and beef up his CV/resume by working with people and publishing in journals that were better-known in the U.S. 

 

eventually he ended up moving down to Mexico because he secured a position there.

 

Not to disrespect your friend since I don't know him or his work, but if it's true that he didn't publish is good journals then the problem is not where he went to school but with the output he produced. There is a question of whether this is the norm when you attend grad school in {Spain/Europe/elsewhere}, and I actually think there could be a systemic issue there because the European system is set up with a lot more independence for the student, and that sometimes means they don't have advisors that push them to publish or help them find good venues for publication. But then the question is not so much "is the program in Spain accredited" but "can this program prepare me for a PhD/job in the US after I graduate," which was the question I tried to pose above. This is something you can ask the school both directly ("have there been students from here who have gotten jobs/PhDs in the US? How many? Where was this job/school?") and indirectly ("do students tend to publish and attend conferences during their studies? How often? What do students tend to do after they graduate? Do they go on to do a PhD, and where? Do they get jobs - industry or academia, and where?") These are questions to ask any school you might attend anywhere--some simply do a better job than others preparing students for the job market. There is also a personality fit issue--some people require more external support than others, so you may or may not need that advisor who tells you when to write things up and where to send them.

 

If we assume (plausibly, I think) that the very best top tier schools are in the US, and the choice here is between different slightly less-good schools, we want to ask why the OP should choose this school over another. If they work on Spain-related topics, that's a clear answer. If the school has experts in the OP's subfield, that's another answer. If the school is good at educating students and sending them off to top tier PhD programs or good jobs, that's yet another answer. If this school fits none of the above criteria, maybe it's cheaper than similar options in the US, and that's a legitimate consideration too. But the bottom line is I think it's not so much about Spain vs. elsewhere, but about status of the particular program. 

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Not to disrespect your friend since I don't know him or his work, but if it's true that he didn't publish is good journals then the problem is not where he went to school but with the output he produced. 

 

Oh that is entirely true. He definitely shares a big burden of the blame for the mess he got himself into…  but I also think the overall system in which he was working made things a tad bit more difficult so that he should have worked a little extra in order to ‘Americanize’ (for lack of a better word) his experience there. For instance, he is the son of Mexican immigrants, so he’s fully fluent in Spanish. No one else in his research group knew English at the level needed for publishing in journals, so he ended up doing all his work in Spanish. And not many Spanish publishers offer English translations (most only do the abstract) which meant his hiring committees couldn’t even understand most of his research. He *could* have translated some of his research and sent it out to English publishers but decided not to. I also found it weird that he had no research methods courses on his transcripts (which seemed incredibly odd for a Psychology PhD, since they tend to be strong on their quantitative training). He said that research methods was something you tended to learn ‘on the go’ as opposed to taking formal courses on it. Now I found this odd, maybe he was right or maybe he just avoided taking those courses (which is something you just can’t get out of in the U.S.). Either way, not being able to show experience in research methods definitely worked against him.

 

I totally agree with you that there is no formal ‘accreditation’ process between American and Spanish universities, but the point I’m trying to make is that the OP might want to ensure his/her experience is something potential hiring committees in the U.S. could relate to so it can be evaluated more fairly. This freedom at the graduate level that you mentioned can very easily work against you (like it happened to my friend) and end up like another Millenial poster-child : overeducated and underemployed. 

Edited by spunky
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Thank you guys for your input. I really appreciate it.

 

The reason I want to do my MA in Spain is because it is significantly cheaper (I'm funding my studies myself), and it is taught in English. The university I got accepted to is also ranked as the best in Spain and very high up on the world rankings as well. Furthermore, I did not have a great experience with my department at my undergraduate university, so, understandably, I didn't want to stay there for my MA.

 

Also, as I'm doing a degree in Political Science, I feel that learning another language will really benefit me, and I'd like to learn Spanish while living/studying in Spain.

 

I would like to work for a think tank upon the completion of my MA, or with the FBI/CIA/work in another US (or foreign) government agency. My political science interests lie predominantly in Middle Eastern and European issues.

 

What are your guys' thoughts?

 

Thanks!

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If you were taking a degree in the language then I'd say it was impressive and could be used to achieve your stated goal- but you're not. Master's degrees are a cash cow over here and Spain has around  25% unemployment and a lifestyle/culture that is not about American exceptionalism or bootstrap work ethic(Things to consider when you are going to uni based on cost- have you carefully considered why it costs so much less?!?). HR people in the States will wonder if your degree is legitimate because they have all of 20 seconds to scan your CV. They are not going to let you explain. 

 

Here's what could be problematic:

 

What are the language requirements?  Taking a degree in a cohort where people are not proficient in English is frustrating. English is a complex language and the standard tests used to determine proficiency don't capture what is necessary. If you want to be in seminar discussion with people who's language skills are more suitable to discuss the weather or order from a menu and talk about complex theory... well, then.

 

A year in Spain to learn the language is not enough time. Moreover, if you do not speak Spanish - trying to get basic things done like doctor visits, setting up bank accounts, getting a cell phone, getting directions are going to be  hard. It's not necessarily true that you will find English speakers. It's Spain they speak Spanish ( and Basque and Catalan).

 

If you can't find information about your Uni and transferability to the US... don't you think the University would publish that sort of stuff? Universities world wide have something to say about the quality of their degrees and what their alumni do after graduation.

 

Finally before you commit, understand living abroad even in an English speaking country is a challenge. It just is- no matter how open minded or prepared you think you are. Add school, new language, completely different culture and the very real possibility that  your degree will never be transferable or useable  for further ed or job purposes and the low cost doesn't matter. If on the other hand, you want a year long educational vacation and plan to spin the experience- go ahead and bless you! 

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While I agree with some of the post above (specifically, it's hard to live abroad, and HR may not be very patient if they don't know the university's name), there are several things I think are too harsh, or too US-centric.

 

Master's degrees are a cash cow over here and Spain has around 25% unemployment and a lifestyle/culture that is not about American exceptionalism or bootstrap work ethic(Things to consider when you are going to uni based on cost- have you carefully considered why it costs so much less?!?). 

Actually, education is prohibitively expensive in the US, and much cheaper almost anywhere else you go. You should be wondering not why the MA is cheap in Spain, but why it (and worse, the BA) is so expensive in the US (hint: it's not about "American exceptionalism or bootstrap work ethic"). It's cheap in Spain and other parts of Europe because it is subsidized by the government, so that everyone, not just the rich--or people who are wiling and able to take out ridiculous amounts of loans--can have access to this important public good. In some countries students also get a stipend from the government, so they can concentrate on their studies and don't have to work.

 

A year in Spain to learn the language is not enough time. Moreover, if you do not speak Spanish - trying to get basic things done like doctor visits, setting up bank accounts, getting a cell phone, getting directions are going to be  hard. It's not necessarily true that you will find English speakers. It's Spain they speak Spanish ( and Basque and Catalan).

Language skills vary from person to person. I think you could achieve a high proficiency level in one year, if you made that a priority. It sounds like you don't have to, though I agree it's probably a good idea to learn at least some basic level. While it's true that dealing with bureaucracy is difficult if you don't speak the language well, there are ways to solve this that don't need to involve giving up on your plans. For example, you can have someone local come with you for errands once or twice. If you move in with roommates, everything in your apartment will be taken care of (internet, gas, etc), you'll have ready-made friends to help read stuff you're confused about, and you'll just deal with the other stuff. Getting a phone is actually probably going to be one of the easier things to deal with, if you ask me. You can usually buy a sim card at any medium to large store. Moving sucks, generally. Regardless of where you move. Moving to another country is even more difficult, even if you do speak the language. So it's true that it's something to keep in mind, but it wouldn't stop me (and hasn't in the past) from going abroad for my education if I otherwise thought that's where I want to be. I'm still not convinced at all that the OP should go to Spain, but I don't think this is a good reason not to go.

 

If you can't find information about your Uni and transferability to the US... don't you think the University would publish that sort of stuff? Universities world wide have something to say about the quality of their degrees and what their alumni do after graduation.

Again, US-centric. This information is not going to be relevant to the vast majority of students/alums. If anything, I'm sure more Spanish students/citizens go on to work in other EU countries, and perhaps in South America, where they already speak the language. We're talking about one of leading universities in Spain, not a third rate community college in a small town. I think you made a good point about HR in the beginning of your post, which I don't think translates to further ed, but this one goes too far.

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A year living in Spain could easily bump you to an intermediate level if you don't shy away from speaking Spanish, but you need to both converse and take some Spanish classes.

 

I would advise finding Spanish roommates and particularly looking for a Spanish girlfriend.

Edited by victorydance
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In my experience, English-language masters-level programmes in the EU are designed for students from third-world countries that can't afford/can't get into US/UK/Canadian universities, or for non-EU citizens of any kind who wish to live in the country in question on a permanent basis. The way it works is that you come to the country for a long time (1-2 years), you get to learn the local way of life, you get yourself a social network, and after you graduate, it is exponentially easier to find a job/get married/get some kind of residency. Although, if you study a humanity in a country with 25% unemployment rate, that's maybe not such an obvious strategy.

 

The only reason this would make sense for you, if your goal is to go for a PhD in the States, is if you intend to focus on Spain/the EU/need a lot of Spanish for your research - and the latter point is easier/cheaper done by living in the country/going on a Spanish language course.  Maybe, if the university in question houses an OMGWTFBBQ specialist in your area, it would make sense. Otherwise, it would be wiser to get an MA from a budget university in the states. The prestige impact would be the same, plus, you're not bothering the committee with converting your grades and trying to figure out what it is that you actually did in your PhD.

 

Although, all things are possible. The newest assistant professor at my institution (dev. economics) got his PhD at a middling university in Italy. And I literally don't understand why he is even here.

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In my experience, English-language masters-level programmes in the EU are designed for students from third-world countries that can't afford/can't get into US/UK/Canadian universities, or for non-EU citizens of any kind who wish to live in the country in question on a permanent basis

In my experience (coming from a European country) the English-language programs are mostly targeted at local students that want to improve their English. They are usually identical to the ones in the native language but offer the possibility to do a part of the degree in another country.

That being said, I don't see a reason why such a degree shouldn't be accepted in the US.

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Speaking as a dumb American, I don't think I'd bat an eye at seeing a Spanish university listed on a resume. I might decide to google it, but seeing wiki call it the best university in Spain is all I need to know to be satisfied. As for the cash cow stuff, I highly doubt American HR know anything about countries/universities have the English language programs as low effort degrees and which have them as rigorous programs. I didn't even think about such a thing before reading this thread, to be honest.

That said, I do think that getting into a US university is probably better, as more people will recognize it. If you do a non-US school a university in Canada or the UK would be a better bet.

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Dawg, idk, I've only driven through Germany, but in my European country, the English-language programs are definitely cash cows and definitely worse than the native programs.

 

I don't get the point you are trying to make here. Are you aware that most masters programs are cash-cows?

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Do you know what universities you would be more likely to apply to for the doctorate?  A lot of times they will respond to a query about "will you accept my degree from xxxxxxx."

 

Depending on your field, what matters more is what you're going to do with the degree once you have it.  I shifted fields from my MS to the PhD and my department didn't bat an eye - I was accepted to my first choice program and haven't looked back.  Clearly articulating how my MS prepared me for the program I wanted allowed me to attend where I want to.  The program you're looking at - how does it prepare you for the future better than other programs, other than through monetary savings?

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