Home » Study in USA » What is return (ROI) for MS in USA? When will I be break-even? Average Salary after MS in US ? Savings after MS ? Return on Investment for MS in USA ?

What is return (ROI) for MS in USA? When will I be break-even? Average Salary after MS in US ? Savings after MS ? Return on Investment for MS in USA ?

One of the ways to look at a degree is what would be the return on your investment on education. It can be monetary or non-monetary. In this article, I will try to give my opinion on this and give some traditional and non-traditional thinking about MS in USA. This article is part of the series Guide / steps to study in USA for International students? How to plan?

How much does MS Cost?

As I have explained in previous article, What is the cost of studying in USA ? MS in US Cost? , you will have to pick and choose schools based on your financial situation and your scores.  For the sake of example, I am taking average and considering $ 7,000  for tution for a semester and $ 3,000 for expenses.  So, for four semesters it will be $28,000 + $12,000 = $ 40,000. It can be less like $20,000 or even less too(may be no cost) depending on scholarships, etc. I am just taking an average.

How much will I make after MS in USA? Average Salary After MS in USA ?

Though, it is getting tougher with the new H1B rules of 2011 to find a H1B sponsor, let’s assume you successfully graduate and get H1B visa to work in US and you join a company that pays minimum wage for an MS graduate. Let’s take average of $50,000 dollars. I know people in IT Jobs who start with $80,000 and even make more at their first job. But for the sake of reality, lets assume you take up  a job in small firm that pays you just the H1B minimum wage or LCA prevailing wage in an area . You can see from below statistics from Indeed job search site that it can be as low as $34,000 too. For the sake of reality, lets take $50,000 as average salary.

Average Salaries MS in USA

How much will I save after MS in USA and working in Job ?

Thought it seems we are making $50,000 salary per year, you have to pay 33% of it as taxes for the most part unless you live in state like Texas where there is no state tax. Lets assume you are paying  33% taxes to IRS, then you have net income of $33,500 per year, which is $2,791 per month.  Imagine you buy a new car and live in a single bed house in a decent outskirt of city and go out few times a month  ( NOT in Manhattan or downtown ). At the minimum, your expense  are around $1,700 – $ 2,000 per month including your monthly payment for Car.  Lets say, you have 1,700 as expenditure per month. You are now left with only $2,791 – $1,700 = $1,000. You are only able to save $1,000 only if you have a decent life style. Some may argue with this, but in all reality if you live decently and make only 50K per year this is how much you will be saving.

Break Even Analysis of MS in USA :

As we have spent almost $40,000 for education and we only save $1,000 a month, it will take us 40 months to clear our debt. Our breakeven point is after 3 years 4 months. That seems quite long. May be if you get promotion and make more money you may  clear a few months early may be 3 years or 2 years 9 months… This is only if you make 50K after graduation. If you make more, you clear early. You can look at the Average Salaries in the same places as above with Bachelors in USA and see the difference. It is not that much. In fact, some people do not hire MS students because you are over qualified and they cannot pay you that much as the state and USCIS mandates that you are paid as per minimum wage.

Traditional Thinking about MS and ROI :

As per traditional thinking you are making around an average of $7,000 more with your MS than Bachelors.

ROI = ( Profit / total investment )* 100

ROI for MS in USA = 7,000 / 40,000 * 100  =  17.5 %

That’s a pretty good return right?  Yes and NO. If you have taken loan for 12% interest from your home country, you are making only 5.5% that’s your real return. It does not sound good, if your interest rate was less then it is good. Also, you are not making any money until 3 years 4 months or actually longer(with interest more money) until you pay off the loan. Also, imagine  a person with Bachelors gets experience and moves into bigger roles after 5 years he makes as much as a masters degree person. It does not make much difference then.  I am thinking very traditionally here J  Anyways, traditionally thinking about MS in USA, it does not seem very attractive. The cost vs benefit of MS is not very impressive with 50K salary.  It may seem attractive if you start in a 80K job and do not spend anything for MS education.

Average Salaries Bachelors in USA

Non-Conventional way of thinking about MS and ROI :

As I wrote in my previous article about MBA and return on MBA and is it really worth studying in US, It is not just money that you should look at when doing a cost vs benefit analysis.

  • You are getting higher education and information that is invaluable.
  • You are investing in yourself. You are investing to grow yourself mentally
  • You are getting to know how things work internally in your field of interest.
  • You are studying in a new environment and learning new things.
  • You are constantly challenged to balance school, work and finances

I can keep on writing…some may argue, I do not care I just need money, that’s why I am coming to US for MS…for someone who thinks on those lines of money, honestly MS is just waste of time and money. You can get the same or actually more money by getting experience working and coming to US on L1 visa and then getting H1b visa. L1 to H1B has many advantages. For someone, who do not care about money and care about research, PhD or learning more in their field of interest, it is a good way to look at MS in US as investing in yourself seeking your passion for self improvement  and knowledge.


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  1. I did MS in a reputed University in USA and I find some of the facts in this article inaccurate and the overall tone of the blog pessimistic.

    1) The minimum wage for a company to be able to apply for H1B visa for an employee is $60,000. (Source – Government links: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/immigration/h1b; https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/wages.cfm)

    2) Most Indians who do their MS in USA, do so in Engineering fields and most people with a Masters in an Engineering field make more than $ 80,000
    (Specific field data can be found in: https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/wages.cfm)

    Other benefits of doing a MS are as follows:

    1) One gets more exposure in the field one is interested in. A lot of people publish papers on their research in Grad school adding to the society’s knowledge base.

    2) MS increases the probability of winning the H1B visa lottery due to the H1B Masters quota. (More details can be found at: https://www.immi-usa.com/h1b-masters-quota/)

    3) “Advanced Degree, or a person having exceptional ability” are the requirements for an employer to apply for Green Card for an employee, so most good companies that want to train and retain employees won’t recruit non-US citizens without at-least a Masters degree. Contract companies that do not intend to employee a person for more than 6 years in the USA, do not care about this. Usually the pay and working conditions in companies that do not intend to have you on their roll for more than 6 years are not as good as in companies that intend to have you on their roll as long as you are good at your job and their business needs what you do.

    4) One meets a lot of different people from all over the world during their MS and this broadens their perspectives

    From my personal experience I have seen that most people who do their Masters in at-least a decent University in the USA have no problem getting a job when they graduate and pay off their student loan within a year, after graduating. To get a better idea, I would recommend connecting to the alumni network in the Universities you are interested in and asking them specific questions on course quality, research and job prospects. At the end of the day there are more important things in life than money. Money can’t buy you happiness. Imagine being stuck at a job you hate for the rest of your life, just because it pays you more. If MBA is what you need, to do what you are passionate about, go for it; if MS is what you need, to do what you are passionate about, go for it. Do what you are passionate about and the money will follow.

    • Monisha,
      Thanks for adding your thoughts. This was written a while ago (at least 7 to 9 years ago), things have changed a lot since then. Will update the article with current facts.
      What you said about passion is true..But, there are more dependencies with job as H1B path is an unknown thing. Also, this article is for everyone not just Indians and making 80K is not always true, if you start outside of the Silicon valley, in smaller cities like Appleton… Either case, will try to update the article.

    • Amey,
      If you do part time on campus, you will be able to pay only for your living expenses. If you get some sort of funding from school that comes with tuition fee waiver, then it will be quite helpful and you will not have to pay anything for fee.


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