Different countries have different education requirements and many handle the transfer of secondary education credits earned internationally very differently. Although you can study abroad through various types of foreign exchange programs, the credits at a foreign university may not always transfer. If you’re a student in a foreign country, you may have an even more difficult time getting your credits to transfer back to the US.
Students coming to study in America may find that a degree may not transfer completely, qualifications earned overseas might not be accepted by employers, and credits might not transfer from one university to another. Before studying abroad or immigrating to the U.S., it’s a good idea to figure out how your education may transfer before packing your bags.
In order to verify whether your degree will count in the United States, you’ll need to have the foreign degree evaluated. Foreign credential evaluation services look over your academic record course by course and determine the equivalent of your GPA in American grades and determine whether certifications are useful in the country.
Why Degrees Don’t Always Transfer
In American universities, grades are calculated on a 4.0 GPA, and there are generally accepted requirements for different degree programs. Some degrees will require a certain number of credit hours, for example, in order to complete. Also, any kinds of licensing or certification required as part of a degree is usually state-specific, so you often will need to retake it when you move to a new state or out of the country.
Other countries do not necessarily base their grades on a 4.0 GPA. This means that the criteria for a “passing” or “failing” grade may be different in other countries, and grade equivalencies need to be calculated and approved by a credential evaluation service. Moreover, a degree earner may not have obtained sufficient credit hours or experience in a foreign program. For example, the requirements to get a doctoral degree in one country may be lower than in another; this means that a degree earner cannot necessarily begin practicing in the U.S. without obtaining further education or certifications.
When Do You Need Credential Evaluation?
Just because you’re moving to the United States from a foreign country or after going to school overseas doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily need to have your degree evaluated. Traveling to a new country doesn’t negate the effects of your education, and many employers won’t care about what type of degree you have. But there are certain situations when you will need an evaluation of your degree.
— If you’re transferring to a school in the United States without having completed a degree program, you’ll need to have your GPA calculated and determine how many of your credits are transferable.
— If you’re pursuing an advanced degree, you’ll need to have a service review your degree for the appropriate credits and re-calculate your GPA. Depending on the situation, you may need to take some additional undergraduate classes before moving on to graduate school.
— If you’re working in a field that requires certifications, such as law or medicine, you’ll need to have your degree validated. You’ll also need to retake the certification or licensing exam for whatever state you plan to work in. This may require you to take additional courses or obtain practical experience to prove your proficiency; be sure to check with your prospective employer for requirements.
— Depending on your career field, your future employer might require your foreign degree to be validated. This varies from one industry to the next; some care more about the actual content of your classes than the degree itself, but others are very concerned about degrees.
If you studied as part of a foreign exchange program, the credits obtained overseas will probably transfer directly to the school back home (assuming the exchange program was tied to your school’s degree program). However, you need to discuss this with your advisor, so you know how the credits will apply to your transcript before you travel.
Course requirements vary from one situation to the next so it’s always a good idea to review the specific requirements for your career or education. In many cases, your degree will transfer over just fine as long as it’s validated and the credits and grades are translated into an American system. In other cases, you might need to take additional classes or certifications before practicing in the United States. For the most part, though, you don’t have to worry about retaking all of your classes or repeating your education; your experiences will usually transfer with a bit of ingenuity as long as the foreign school was accredited.