As the saying goes, money makes the world go round.
It is no surprise that for many, a list of the best countries for international students to earn the highest salaries.
Still, there are other things to consider. Some places are the best countries for international students who are foodies, whereas others are great for starting a new life.
Perhaps a good start is to consider the happiest countries in the world:
Here is the World Population Review’s Happiest Countries in the World 2024 list with their individual scores out of 10:
- Finland (7.80)
- Denmark (7.59)
- Iceland (7.53)
- Israel (7.47)
- Netherlands (7.40)
- Sweden (7.39)
- Norway (7.32)
- Switzerland (7.24)
- Luxembourg (7.23)
- New Zealand (7.12)
While this positive list is enlightening, it is perhaps necessary to consider the flipside.
The World Population Review also has the Worst Countries to Live in 2024 list:
- South Sudan (0.385)
- Chad (0.394)
- Niger (0.400)
- Central African Republic (0.404)
- Burundi (0.426)
- Mali (0.428)
- Mozambique (0.446)
- Burkina Faso (0.449)
- Yemen (0.455)
- Guinea (0.465)
Before you clap along feeling like happiness is the only measure that makes a country “the best” for international students, hold on.
There are many other factors you must factor before making a big decision to move country.
Why move and leave everything you know and love behind?
There are many reasons for wanting to move to another country (love, work) or study abroad (better unis, wordlier experiences).
Recently, the reasons have become more surprising.
Forbes reports that 30% of Americans cite climate change as a motivator to move in 2024.
For many in the US, climate change has been responsible for many unexpected moves.
The Climate Change Catastrophe Report found that 14.5 million homes were impacted by natural disasters in 2021.
While this has caused people to move within the US, there are many reasons why people would want to move to another country entirely.
For some, it is about stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring a new place.
While we are not encouraging frivolous gap years where you spend your parent’s money to “find yourself”, it is a great way to learn to be independent and self-reliant.
As an international student, you also have the opportunity to learn about new cultures, understand different perspectives and make friends from all over the world.
And at the end of it all, you get a degree that’ll set you up for another exciting phase in life — your first career.
How much money you make would make after graduating is important. It sets the bar for what you can ask for in the future.
As you move up, you’ll keep earning more than you would have if you’d started for a smaller first salary.
Someone who starts with a US$1,000 first salary will end up with less in five years’ time versus someone who gets US$4,000 — and that gap only grows as you become older.
While we know that certain degrees lead to higher-paying jobs, which country your first job is located in also makes a difference in how much you can earn.
Companies often pay according to their country’s market value — and international students are privileged to benefit from post-graduation visas that let them stay in their host country to work.
The rest of the world isn’t so lucky and has to face intense competition to not only win a job but to secure a work visa.
If you’re planning which country to go to university and secure a high-paying first job, below is our list of the best countries for international students.
Our list is based on countries with the highest salaries in 2023.
10 best countries for international students to get paid highly
It is no surprise that Switzerland is at the top of the list of the best countries for international students.
OECD Better Life Index notes that nearly 0% of employees work very long hours in paid work in the country.
This index also found that Swiss people rank their country at 7.5 for general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10.
This is well above the average of 6.7.
When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swiss people gave it a 7.5 grade on average, higher than the OECD average of 6.7.
The average monthly net salary is US$6,142.1.
After you graduate you can remain in Switzerland for a maximum of six months to look for a job.
The cosmopolitan country of Singapore is certainly one of the best countries for international students.
Considered one of the top countries in Asia for quality of living and safety (95% of people feel safe walking alone at night), students often flock here for a truly international experience.
It does help that the average monthly net salary is US$4,350.79.
This country is also the perfect spot to explore Asia as you can easily get direct flights to most places — one of the main reasons expats love it.
As an international student, you can enjoy the food and culture like the kind you saw in the hit film “Crazy Rich Asians” — and that’s just a small sampling of what this Southeast Asian country has to offer.
According to the OECD Better Life Index, Australia deserves to be high on this list.
It outperforms the average in income, jobs, education, health, environmental quality, social connections, civic engagement and life satisfaction.
Like with all of these top-ranking places in our list of best countries for international students, you should consider the high cost of living especially in bigger cities like Sydney.
Although some cities are painfully expensive, international students love the country because of its diversity (just under 30% of Australia’s population was born abroad in 2021), friendly locals and laid-back culture.
Depending on your chosen career, your potential average monthly net salary is US$3,721.64.
While some can list 44 reasons why you should move to the US, others highlight access to great higher education.
The US has some of the most prestigious universities in the world, like Harvard and MIT.
What you should consider before deciding to move is the cost of living. Inflation has hit hard.
So much so that it now takes US$119.27 to buy the same goods and services a family could afford with US $100 before the pandemic.
5. United Arab Emirates
As one of the fastest-growing and most diversified economies in the world, UAE offers employment opportunities in fields, such as oil and gas, tourism, trade, finance, technology, media, and education.
Here the average monthly net salary is US$3,663.27.
For graduates, entry level roles can range from 7,000 to 15,000 United Arab Emirates Dirham monthly in Dubai. Another major benefit of working in this city is that your income is tax-free.
This culturally rich place boasts over 200 nationalities, making it a diverse space that is ideal to meet people from all over the world.
If you are from EU/EEA and Switzerland tuition in Norway is free, and international students from other locations pay tuition according to their chosen subject.
The reason this country is sought after by international students is the emphasis of work-life-balance.
In fact, spending time outdoors and being free in nature is part of the national identity. From fjords and forests to the Northern Lights, there is so much to explore and experience.
Boasting a large economy, the country is filled with internship opportunities and graduate jobs for international students.
The country also has an average monthly net salary of US$3,457.69.
In the OECD Better Life Index, Norway has a 7.3 grade on average.
Canada’s welcoming immigration process certainly attracts international students. Getting here is more seamless thanks to a speedy visa application process.
After completing your programme, you can apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).
For this visa, you need to have completed a study programme at a designated learning institution and meet certain programme requirements.
Canada’s average monthly net salary of US$3,338.62 is certainly a good reason to ensure that you’re eligible for the PGWP.
However, you should keep in mind that there has been a recent increase in the cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants.
Denmark boasts one of the highest GDP per capita in the world: 58,000 euros per year.
A highlight of working here is the 37 hours work week and five weeks of holiday per year.
There are interesting success stories of international people making their way to Denmark and living happily ever after.
For instance, a 30-year-old American teacher who moved to Denmark lives in a luxury apartment and is much happier.
“The cost of living in Copenhagen is sometimes high,” says Ilana Buhl. “But I know that my salary goes way further here than it did in Dallas, especially in terms of what I was paying for healthcare and transportation in the US.”
The country’s average monthly net salary is US $3,294.72.
If you’re looking to run away from city life, the “land of fire and ice” is certainly the place for you.
With the current population standing at 376,648, there is a strong sense of community in the country. This is ideal for those who prefer a close-knit community.
After graduation there are extensive job opportunities in the tourism industry, teaching English in Iceland, construction work, nursing jobs in Iceland, and more.
With annual events such as Reykjavik Arts Festival, the Reykjavik International Film Festival and DesignMarch, the country has a thriving arts scene.
Many also consider Iceland the place for aspiring filmmakers. The country’s most famous production? “Star Wars The Force Awakens.”
Scoring an OECD 7.5 grade on average, the Netherlands has always been popular with international students.
It does help that the average monthly net salary is US$3,215.52.
The average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is US$34,984 annually.
Still, one should note that while the Netherlands is one of the most in-demand cities, it is also one of the most expensive.
If this does not sway you, there is a Startup Visa that you can apply for if you have an innovative business idea (perhaps you come up with one while you study there).