Your degree determines, to a large extent, the range of career opportunities you can access in the future. This is one of the reasons hundreds of thousands take the leap to study abroad every year. It’s daunting for many to leave the comfort and familiarity of home to live, study, and potentially work in a different country. Nonetheless, many also believe the benefits outweigh the costs! The University of California Merced reports that a whopping 97% of students secure full-time employment within a year of graduating. Study abroad students also tend to earn more than their peers, build diverse skill sets that add value to their careers, and more. So, what are the best countries to study and work in for international students?
Our Comprehensive List of Best Study Abroad Countries
1. The United States
It’s only fitting that we kick off the list with the USA. The country’s higher education system is a behemoth - a fancy way of bringing up the sheer number of world-ranking universities concentrated in the States alone. To put this into perspective, let’s go through some numbers. 177 US universities land among QS’ 2022 World University Rankings. And these include the #1 spot, going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The USA boasts the largest number (by far) of world-ranking universities out of all the major study abroad destinations.
What makes it even more attractive to international students is that diversity is a key priority of many of these institutions! US universities are keen to diversify their campuses. This is evident in the fact that the USA annually hosts the world’s largest international student population, dipping below a million only during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. From attractive scholarship opportunities exclusive to foreign-born students to pathway programs that transition students into top courses, US schools put in the legwork to welcome international students into their communities.
Work opportunities for international students in the USA
Getting work experience in one of the world’s top economic and financial epicentres can make all the difference to your career goals and ambitions. Luckily, you have a few options to get in that valuable experience during and even after your degree program.
With an F-1 student visa, you would be able to work on-campus for the first year of your program. These include part-time opportunities like working as a library assistant or a barista at one of the campus cafes. You might find some of the administrative offices on campus eager to take on a few helping hands too.
After your first year, you may have the chance to get some work experience off-campus through Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
CPT is professional training that is a part of your curriculum. This means that to complete your program, you have to undergo some work experience relevant to your field of study. Your university will not help you secure your CPT - you’ll have to find and apply for the job yourself.
OPT on the other hand is optional training, again relevant to your field of study. OPT can be pre-completion - where you work while studying - or post-completion, where you get the chance to stay in the USA after completing your program to continue working.
There are some caveats to both CPT and OPT. For example, you have to be a full-time student, in a non-ESL program, and secure your work offer yourself. Depending on whether you do CPT and pre-completion OPT, the time you can allocate for post-completion OPT varies too.
Nonetheless, with the right planning, CPT and OPT can create post-study opportunities for you, like working toward the H-1B work visa.
2. The United Kingdom
Home to some of the world’s oldest universities, the UK education system is the foundation of many of the education systems around the world. The country prides itself on its standards of educational excellence, with many benchmarks in place to make sure its higher education providers are continuously excelling in teaching and academic quality.
This is pretty apparent looking at the UK’s world-class universities. Out of over 150 higher education institutes, an impressive 87 find a place on the 2022 QS World University Rankings. These include the prestigious University of Oxford at #2 and the University of Cambridge in third place.
With centuries of history hosting international students and a very multicultural community country-wide, the UK remains one of the most coveted higher education destinations. A degree from the UK translates globally as a sign of your knowledge and skills, unlocking numerous career opportunities. Speaking of which -
Work opportunities for international students in the UK
Your Student visa will clarify whether or not you can work as a student in the UK! With the right authorisation and at degree level, you can work:
- 20 hours a week while your classes are ongoing
- 40 hours a week or full time during semester breaks.
Even if your Student visa does not authorise you to work as a student, you may still have an opportunity through program-mandated internships or work placements. These are compulsory components you need to complete for your study program. A valid work placement can make up to half - but not more than half - of your course.
Working in the UK can uplift your career opportunities a great deal. This island nation has been at the centre of industry and the global economy for hundreds of years. With many leading companies and enterprises populating the country, work experience here can be invaluable in your career advancement.
And yes - the UK has post-study opportunities available too! The Graduate visa is your next likely pathway after completing a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. This visa lets you stay and search for work in the UK. The duration of your stay depends on the degree you complete. Bachelor’s and master’s degree holders receive a two-year visa. Meanwhile, PhD and doctoral degree holders receive a three-year visa.
The Land Down Under may have fewer universities than the USA and the UK, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a force to reckon with in higher education. Out of the country's 43 universities, 38 feature in the 2022 QS rankings for top global universities!
At the top of the list sit Australia’s esteemed Group of Eight (Go8) institutions. These are world-renowned universities, recognised as academic and research leaders. An Australian university promises you top-tier education, earning you a respected degree with global recognition.
Alongside its incredible academic institutions, Australia is home to several of the world’s best student cities. An attractive feature of these is the diversity you’ll find everywhere you go in Australia. Student mixes in cities like Sydney and Melbourne are at near one-hundred per cent! Thriving multicultural communities make international students feel welcome despite being away from everything they know. There’s always going to be something to remind you of home in Australia’s cosmopolitan cities.
Work opportunities for international students in Australia
While on your Subclass 500 visa, you can work as an international student in Australia! Your visa entitles you to a total of 40 hours of work a fortnight. This means you can work 40 hours over two weeks, starting on Monday and ending on Sunday the following week. It’s up to you to make sure you distribute your time properly over one fortnight, not going over the set limit. You can work full-time over the semester breaks.
Students often find part-time jobs in retail, the service industry, food service, and so on. You can also access on-campus work opportunities, like being a student ambassador, library assistant, or administrative worker.
Post-study opportunities also make Australia one of the best countries to study and work in for international students. The Temporary Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) is your route to staying and working in Australia after completing your program.
How long you can stay and work in Australia depends on your degree program:
- Bachelor’s degree/Bachelor’s (honours) degree: 2 years
- Master’s degree (coursework): 2 years
- Master’s degree (research): 3 years
- Doctoral degree: 4 years
If seeking permanent residency is in your future plans, the good news is that the Subclass 485 visa is a step in that direction. To qualify for Australia’s work-stream permanent residence visa, you need sponsorship from an Australian employer or possess an in-demand skill. Your time working in Australia after graduation can help you build the right professional connections to access this sponsorship!
Canada increasingly shows up among the best countries to study and work in for international students. And for good reason, seeing the country’s combination of excellent higher education institutions and flexible immigration policies! Canada also leans a bit more on the affordable side for higher education compared to English-speaking equivalents in the USA, UK, and Australia. If your budget is tight, Canada is a great option to get a world-class degree without breaking the bank.
QS World University Rankings 2022 lists 28 Canadian universities among its top global institutions. That’s not to mention the universities and colleges that stand out for their academic instruction by degree-level or in specific fields. A Canadian university education communicates a lot about you. Employers and educators will know that you possess the knowledge, expertise, and skills to thrive in your field. And just like the other contenders on this list, this can open numerous opportunities for you in the future!
Work opportunities for international students in Canada
One of the best things about a Canadian higher education is the confidence that you’re totally job-ready when you graduate. Canadian institutions work closely with industry experts to keep course content on the same page as real-time industry demand and trends. One way they do this is through co-op placements that are a part of your curriculum!
A co-op placement lets you get hands-on professional experience as part of your degree. Generally, your university will arrange a placement in your field with its industry partners. You alternate semesters between studying in the classroom and learning practically at work. Graduating from a program with co-op placements means you graduate as an all-rounder. You have both the know-how as well as the expertise to hit the ground running entering the job market.
As Study Permit holders, international students may also qualify to work part- and full-time in Canada. During semester-time, you can work up to, but not over, 20 hours a week. During semester breaks (annual holiday months) you can work full-time! Student jobs can be anything from doing window cleaning down to clerical roles at your campus offices.
These job opportunities don’t end at graduation either. One of the factors making Canada so attractive to international students is its post-study work opportunities. With the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), you can stay in the country beyond graduation, applying for and accepting jobs. Like Australia, the time you spend working professionally in Canada can contribute toward permanent residency options in the future!
Ireland may be a small island nation with a dozen universities and several more institutes of technology. But given that nearly all Irish universities - eight, to be precise - land among QS’ World University Rankings, it’s certainly a strong contender as an attractive higher education destination. The Emerald Isle has a long-standing reputation in the academic world. Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592, is one of the oldest universities not just in Ireland but in the world.
Couple this legacy of academic excellence with the country’s friendly international student policies and overall charm, and Ireland is quickly carving a place for itself among major study abroad players. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may not even need a visa to arrive in Ireland! Both visa-holders and non-visa holders need to register themselves as international students upon arriving in Ireland, however. Doing so gets you a Stamp 2 certificate of permission from the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). You need this authorisation to live and study in Ireland!
Work opportunities for international students in Ireland
As an international student enrolling full-time at university level, you can work as a student while on Stamp 2 permission! Specifically, you can apply for and accept casual employment in Ireland. Understanding casual employment has to do with the number of hours you can work as an international student. While semesters are ongoing, you can work part-time, i.e. 20 hours a week. You can work full-time over the breaks, which in Ireland falls between 15th December and 15th January, and between June and September. These full-time work windows correspond with typical university breaks. Note, though, that you can only work full-time within these windows. If your university goes on break outside these set timeframes, you won’t be able to work full-time.
Ireland is an economic engine in its own right, with booming corporate and financial centres and rich industrial history. As such, work placements are often an integral part of university curriculum. If you enrol in a program with work placement or internship requirements, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get practical experience in an industrial powerhouse.
You can continue staying in Ireland to look for and accept work after graduating with the Stamp 1G Permit. Under the Third Level Graduate Scheme, how long your permit is valid depends on your qualification level upon graduation.
- Bachelor’s Degree (Level 8) - 12-month validity
- Master’s/Doctoral Degree (Level 9/10) - 24-month validity
6. New Zealand
This small island country has eight universities - and all eight of them are world-ranking institutions according to QS Top Universities. The first-class higher education standards are on par with the first-class quality of life in New Zealand.
As an international student applying for a full-time course, you’ll need a Student Visa to live and study in New Zealand. The good news is, travel restrictions imposed in response to Covid-19 are finally lifting! Student Visas for New Zealand will begin processing again from 31 July 2022. There is no better time to work on your study abroad applications to enjoy New Zealand’s stellar higher education, welcoming communities, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant lifestyle, and more.
Work opportunities for international students in New Zealand
After reading through this article, you must have sensed the pattern by now. Yes, with the right provisions under your Student Visa, you can work in New Zealand as a student! Similar to countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, and Ireland, you can work 20 hours a week during semesters. Over the holidays, you can work full-time. For students of master’s by research or PhD programs, you have no restrictions on your work hours.
New Zealand also ranks among the countries with flexible immigration pathways for international students! The Post Study Work Visa can qualify you to stay and work in practically any sector in New Zealand for 1-3 years. At the moment, the length of the Post Study Work Visa for applicants after May 2022 is pending. Check back here for updates when New Zealand Immigration announces new information!
A Quick Overview of the Best Countries to Study and Work in for International Students
|Country||Higher Education Institutions for International Students||International Student Visa||Work While Studying Opportunities||Post-Study Work Opportunities/Visas|
*both CPT and OPT must be in your field of study
|UK||Student visa||Graduate visa|
|Australia||Subclass 500||Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate Visa)|
|Canada||Study Permit||Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)|
|Ireland||Stamp 2 Permit||Stamp 1G Permit|
|New Zealand||Eight universities, all eight of which land in the QS World University Rankings 2022||Student Visa||Post Study Work Visa|
Our Concluding Thoughts
Studying abroad is a big decision, with lots of factors and resources involved. To make the most of it, international students often seek destinations with both excellent academic standards as well as priceless professional opportunities. Our round-up of the best countries to study and work in for international students checks off both boxes. These countries are home to many of the world’s best universities, welcoming thousands of international students every year. They’re all hubs of financial and industrial activity, with attractive work opportunities that can help accelerate the future careers of students like you!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the best country in the world to live and study in?
The answer to this is subjective and would depend on what your priorities are for your study abroad destination. If a high standard of education is your top priority, the following countries all rank multiple institutions in global university rankings:
- The USA
- The UK
- New Zealand
While these are all majority-English speaking countries, there is a lot of variety between the countries and even within them. For example, the USA makes up a large chunk of the North American continent, and everything from food, climate, accents, cultures, landscapes, and diversity varies depending on where in America you are. Smaller countries like Ireland and New Zealand have their own distinctive charm. Meanwhile, tuition and costs of living play a big part in international students’ decision-making. Others are willing to fork up high tuition fees for the opportunity to access friendly post-study immigration pathways leading to permanent residency.
Depending on what you’re looking for in your study abroad destination, the ideal place for you can look different compared to someone else. The article above shortlists six options we believe check off most of the boxes international students prioritise when seeking higher education.
Which study abroad destination is best for work opportunities?
All of the major study abroad destinations covered in the article above have attractive work opportunities for international students! These countries also offer great post-study work opportunities for international students.
An important thing to note is that simply studying abroad does not guarantee that you have work authorisation in the above countries. Your visa or permit needs to authorise you to work as a student. This authorisation may depend on the university you’re studying in, the length of the course, or even the type of course. For example, most countries will typically offer work authorisation to students enrolling in full-time programs at universities with government authorisation to host international students. You may not be able to access the same authorisation if you’re studying a short course or an English pathway program.
Access to post-study work options may also vary from country to country. For example, Australia, Canada, the UK, and Ireland offer post-study work visas of different lengths depending on the length of your program or your qualification level. In the USA, post-completion OPT can be up to 12 months long but can be lower if you took part in pre-completion OPT or CPT. The USA also limits you to working in fields relevant to your program of study.
If working as a student and after you graduate is an important consideration for your study abroad plans, research your options thoroughly before you make your final decision. Note also that in most cases, while you may be able to secure the right authorisation, finding and securing a job is your responsibility. Universities in some countries may help with work or co-op placements that are part of the curriculum. For off-campus, optional jobs, you’ll need to work independently to find and apply for work.