The most powerful countries in the world are mighty beyond what we can see with our eyes.
They can exert their strength globally, not just through having the biggest military or the richest individuals in the world, but also in their ideas that shape how people all around the world act.
Power comes in all shapes and forms — and is crucial for many reasons.
And because of that, countries often engage in struggles to achieve international influence and prestige for their own nations.
There are elements that can contribute to a nation’s ability to protect its interests, project its influence globally, and shape international order.
This rings true for the most powerful countries in the world.
There are specific reasons why these countries have made our list; a few contributing factors have helped them get to the top.
Let’s take a look at how some of the elements have put these countries on the world map for being powerful.
- Strong militaries: Often backed by big budgets (up to US$1 trillion in the US), their armies, naval and aviation teams boast high-tech weapons (such as high-precision fighter jets)
- Strong economies: By being able to loan big amounts to poorer, more desperate countries, these strong economies can bully or bend them to their will, like China giving scholarships to African students, a move seen by analysts as the buying of the loyalty of Africa’s next generation of leaders
- Culturally vibrant: From K-pop to Hollywood and Bollywood, countries with these strong entertainment industries can disperse their ideas through songs, movies, and food.
- Technological capabilities: From Silicon Valley (US) to Silicon Wadi (Israel), countries creating and innovating these technologies have a greater say in matters of national security and who they sell these hi-tech inventions to.
- Diplomatic influence: Lording opinions on trade policies (US sanctions on Iran) or vaccine regulations are used by some countries to push an agenda.
Why should students study in the most powerful countries?
Picking a country to further your education can be a tricky decision to make.
Other than the usual factors like school fees, closeness to home, weather and quality of life, there are other things to consider.
Some might even say it is more important than all the factors combined above.
If you are wondering what we are on about – we’re talking about job opportunities and a solid career in the field you have studied.
Studying in the most powerful countries can provide you with both.
This is especially true if you have chosen to take courses that are related to the country’s key exports. For example, automotive engineering students can fare well in countries like Germany which is home to leading car brands such as BMW.
Meanwhile, cybersecurity students can find many opportunities in the US, which has a government with some of the most advanced technologies in the world.
Apart from career opportunities, studying in the most powerful countries in the world also leads to the following benefits:
- Receiving a quality education
- Reputation and recognition worldwide
- Research and innovation opportunities
- A strong network community
- Access to good infrastructure
- Cultural and personal growth
Good jobs equal good salaries
Graduates often look for jobs as soon as they are out of university.
But what you study can have a profound impact on what you earn in the future.
Research and higher education consulting firm HEA found that within four years of graduation, some majors will earn graduates up to US$256,539 yearly as opposed to less than US$10,000 for some.
The data collected also shows that half of the top 10 majors that can earn the most are subsets of the engineering field.
Majors that can provide specialised training for in-demand fields have a bright future as well. Think data mining, embedded engineering, and big data analyst.
So, if a lucrative salary is on your checklist, then studying in the most powerful countries can get you the job you want.
The most powerful countries in the world to study at
The top eight most powerful countries have been chosen because each country has bragging rights to one or more of the above reasons.
Some countries are even called superpowers and laud these benefits over other nations proudly, especially when a crisis arises.
It’s no surprise our list of the top eight most powerful countries in the world started off with the US.
This nation is a superpower for many reasons.
With the world’s most powerful military, a large economy, and playing a leading role in international organisations like the UN, the US has many reasons to be crowned one of the most powerful countries in the world.
They have the largest naval fleet globally and boast superior technological hardware. The scale of their defence weapons allows them to have a military presence anywhere in the world.
In fact, the US spent US$877 billion on its military alone in 2022.
Something else that makes the US one of the most powerful countries in the world is its contribution to the film, television and arts sectors.
Imagine 52.5 million people from all over the world who sat with their eyes fixed on their screens to watch the finale of Friends.
That is how popular and influential American TV is.
American television is a global force, with shows being dubbed in as many languages as possible.
Some of the most popular streaming services of all time originated in the US as well. Think Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime or Hulu; all have record-breaking subscriptions.
Students wanting to leverage on US’s status can consider programmes in criminal justice, strategic intelligence, fine arts, environmental studies, and sustainability.
India is next on our list of the most powerful countries in the world.
The country stands out for its military abilities, soft power, and cultural contributions to the rest of the world.
India recently procured a significant number of military platforms and weapons like anti-ship missiles, light tanks, and long-range guided bombs.
Perhaps more than anything else, India is known for its Bollywood phenomenon permeating many cultures worldwide.
The diverse and vibrant country has proven itself as one of the leading film markets in selling seats. The industry is estimated to be worth US$2.83 billion.
Thinking of joining the ranks of Shah Rukh Khan or Kareena Kapoor? Consider exploring a Bachelor of Arts in acting or dancing to dominate the cinematic world.
China has the world’s second-largest economy. That alone is enough to make it one of the most powerful countries in the world.
China is a major player in global trade; it became the largest exporter of goods in 2009 and is the largest export destination for 33 countries.
Its economy is backed by robust trade and finances that have continuously outperformed the expectations of experts.
In the global race for arms, China has been determined not to be left behind.
Last year, President Xi Jinping ordered China’s armed forces to expand and modernise by 2035.
“They should become a world-class military power, capable of fighting and winning wars by 2049,” he says.
On top of that, its Belt and Road Initiative was a clever way of slowly inching into other nations with the aim of strengthening its connectivity with the world.
So, for students looking to study and work in China, endless possibilities are yours.
Look for courses in engineering, business, economics, law, finance or Chinese (the language).
One of the top eight most powerful countries in the world is the UK.
The country has a well-regraded education sector that is filled with some of the world’s best universities.
Think Oxford, LSE or Cambridge. But other than just prestigious universities, the UK holds its ground on this list for its soft power capabilities.
“Soft power” is defined as the positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives.
One main achievement that put the UK on this list was its development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine when Covid-19 hit.
It has also played an important role in equipping Ukraine with the means to defend its own.
This tells us that the UK is more than capable of being a leading force in decision-making and influence.
Students wanting to further their education can look at courses in law, international trade, and business analytics.
Germany is next on our list of the top eight most powerful countries in the world.
It holds the title of Europe’s most powerful economy.
The country is known for its highly developed industrial sectors with unrivalled prowess in automotive, mechanical engineering, chemical and electrical engineering.
Global players like Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, and Ford-Werke have made their mark all across the globe for excellence in vehicle standards.
Last year, Germany shipped US$1.7 trillion worth of products globally. These mainly consisted of cars, medication mixes, and automotive parts.
With such a booming export industry, those wanting to study in Germany should consider enrolling in engineering, medical sciences, or information technology.
Japan has one of the largest economies in the world due to its large population and productive workforce.
The country is known for its manufacturing industry which is very diverse.
Its range of expansion within this field covers semiconductors, optical fibres, consumer electronics, optoelectronics, and others.
Japan is also widely renowned for its car manufacturing, with companies like Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru, and Nissan being made there.
Not only that, but the country is fast becoming a leader in biochemistry and the fermentation process in the food industry.
Students wanting to start their education journey with job opportunities should look into courses in engineering, business, science and technology, or finance.
Israel has established itself as the most technologically advanced military in the world.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a formidable army that possesses superior intelligence capabilities, guided missiles, and a well-trained military force.
Today, its army is widely recognised and contributes to the overall safety and security of the country.
Aspiring start-up entrepreneurs find Israel to be a haven, with its own version of Silicon Valley called Silicon Wadi.
There have been 2,000 startups in the last decade, 3,000 small and medium-sized startups, and 50 large technology companies founded there.
The country boasts of a long list of firsts, including disk-on-key technology, IP telephony, ZIP compression, and the ingestible pill-size camera.
This is thanks to the fact that it’s home to the largest percentage of scientists and engineers, so you’d know what fields to venture into if you ever wanted to work in this nation.
France is one of the top eight most powerful countries in the world for many reasons.
One of them is that the country is the largest net exporter of electricity due to the low cost of generation.
Since January, the net electricity export balance has amounted to 1.4 terawatt hours.
The European nation has been active in developing nuclear technology too, giving it a level of influence and recognition on a global scale.
Its military is also no small feat. The French Armed Forces are one of Western Europe’s most capable and boast of high-intensity conventional warfare.
Culturally, France has contributed plenty in terms of art, food, music, and fashion.
Hermès, L’Oréal Paris, Chanel, Cartier and other famous names all come out of this nation.
Students wanting to get a leg up in job opportunities here should focus on fine arts, culinary, or fashion design.