U.S. Higher Education Degree for Job Hunting in China

Most of the Chinese parents, especially that in middle class, are sending their children to United States to receive quality education and get a US degree. Attracted by the outstanding reputation of US universities and the unique style of US education, Chinese parents believe that earning a US degree is a rewarding investment, though sending their children to a completely new environment. According to the open source survey conducted by South China Morning Post, the total number of international students enrolled in US higher education was 886,052 students in 2013/14. The Chinese student enrollments was increased by 17 percent to more than 274,000 students, making up 31 percent of all international students in the US. Judging from the data, the number of Chinese students are more than twice of Indian students (102,673) in US higher education facilities.


The top five US universities with the highest number of Chinese students are New York University (NYU), University of Southern California (USC), University of Illinois, University of Columbia, and Purdue University. Due to large base of Chinese students, the Chinese media sometimes deems USC as University of Southern China. However, with the rapid increasing admission rates of US universities and more graduates in recent years, most of the Chinese students are now in the dilemma of going back to China after graduation or stay here in US for job hunting. It is obvious that finding a desirable job here in US is very difficult for an international students, and hence lots of Chinese students choose to return home. But does US degree hold a tremendous advantage over Chinese University degree?


Surely there is no easy answer for this question. The situation totally depends on your degree and the US university. Judging from my own experience, if you obtain an US Bachelor degree from Top 30 US universities (sometimes TOP 50), you may have the equal chance to get hired with Chinese 985/211 students. Exceptions include students enrolling in family business, establishing a new business and get hired by international companies. The sad thing is, if you are an undergrad in VT, there is a big chance that you will not receive any job offer in China since the majority of Chinese HR have not heard about this school. Hence, securing a top job offer in Chinese big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, requires a background of Ivy league or top public university, whereas most of your competitors are from 985 (or Top 30) Chinese universities.

If you are holding an US Master degree, the chance of finding a satisfying job in China is dimmer, even with an Ivy league background. Due to enrollment expansion of masters to solve the university’s financial crisis (e.g. University of Columbia and NYU), the one- or two-year master programs are considered to be of low quality in China, comparing to Chinese three-year master program. There are lots of examples which students with a Chinese bachelor degree find their salary become less as they come back with a US master degree. Considering the huge investment for pursuing a master degree (usually self-funded), Chinese masters tend to continue pursuing a Ph.D. degree or find a job in US.

If you finally get your hands on an US Ph.D. degree, your competition is still fierce in China. Unless you earn the degree in top US universities, there is no obvious advantages for you to get hired in Chinese top universities, research institutes, and major companies as compared to a Ph.D. degree of Peking and Tsinghua University. However, the chances may be more optimistic in normal universities/companies. The reason is that with the rapid development of Chinese University and huge investment of Chinese government, Ph.D.s from China can have more than 5 publications on high impact journals, exerting a notable advantage on the job market. Besides, students with a US Ph.D. degree normally have higher expectations on salary, weakening their negotiation conditions.

The discussion mentioned above is purely based on job hunting, and with no doubt there are many obvious and additional benefits (e.g. academic freedom) for studying in US. However, it is certain that with the development of China, having an US degree does not have an obvious advantage on the job market nowadays. Before stepping out the country, it is best to have a Chinese bachelor degree first if you cannot be admitted (undergraduate admission) to top 30 US universities.

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