The Price of Being International

Career Outcomes of International Master's Recipients in U.S. Labor Market


  • Xiushan Jiang College of Charleston
  • Dongbin Kim Michigan State University



annual salary, career outcomes, international master's recipients job satisfaction, major-job match


This study sought to examine whether international master’s recipients (IMRs) who graduated from U.S. institutions have different early career outcomes in major and job match, annual earnings, and career satisfaction from their counterpart domestic master’s recipients (DMRs). By analyzing combined datasets of National Survey of Recent College Graduates, this study found that IMRs were 2 times more likely than DMRs to hold jobs that are related to their master’s degree. On the other hand, IMRs faced an 8% earnings disadvantage as compared with DMRs. There was no statistically significant difference in job satisfaction between IMRs and DMRs. The policy implications for postsecondary institutions and the U.S. were discussed.


Author Biographies

Xiushan Jiang, College of Charleston

XIUSHAN JIANG, PhD, is the Associate Director of Analytical Research & Planning at the Office for Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning at the College of Charleston. His research interests include international higher education, employment outcomes of international students and STEM education in the college setting. 

Dongbin Kim, Michigan State University

DONGBIN KIM, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Higher, Adult Learning and Education (HALE) at Michigan State University. Through her scholarly endeavors, Dr. Kim seeks to examine how mobility (and different types of mobility) interacts with issues of stratification in higher education, both in national and international settings.


Altbach, P. G. (2004). Higher education crosses borders: Can the United States remain the top destination for foreign students. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 36(2), 18–25. doi: 10.1080/00091380409604964

Anisef, P., Sweet, R., & Frempong, G. (2003). Labor market outcomes of immigrant and racial minority university graduates in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 4(4), 499–522.

Arbeit, C. A., & Warren, J. R. (2013). Labor market penalties for foreign degrees among college educated immigrants. Social Science Research, 42(3), 852–871.

Arthur, N., & Flynn, S. (2011). Career development influences of international students who pursue permanent immigration to Canada. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 11(3), 221–237.

Balibar, E. (1991). Is there a “neo-racism”? In: E. Balibar, & I. Wallerstein, Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities (pp. 17–28). Verso, New York.

Becker, G. S. (2009). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Bender, K. A., & Heywood, J. S. (2011). Educational mismatch and the careers of scientists. Education Economics, 19(3), 253–274.

Bleakley, H., & Chin, A. (2010). Age at arrival, English proficiency, and social assimilation among US immigrants. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(1), 165–192. doi: 10.1257/app.2.1.165

Borgen, N. T. (2015). College quality and the positive selection hypothesis: The second filter on family background in high-paid jobs. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 39(2), 32–47.

Boyd, M., & Thomas, D. (2002). Skilled immigrant labor: Country of origin and the occupational locations of male engineers. Canadian Studies in Population, 29(1), 71–99.

Bratsberg, B., & Ragan, F., Jr. (2002). The impact of host-country schooling on earnings: A study of male immigrants in the United States. Journal of Human Resources, 37(5), 63–105. doi: 10.2307/3069604

Bruin, J. (2006). New test: Command to compute new test. Retrieved from

Cantwell, B., & Lee, J. (2010). Unseen workers in the academic factory: Perceptions of neo-racism among international postdocs in the United States and the United Kingdom. Harvard Educational Review, 80(4), 490–517.

Carlson, H. K., & McHenry, M. A. (2006). Effect of accent and dialect on employability. Journal of Employment Counseling, 43(2), 70–83.

Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2010). Help wanted projections of job and education requirements through 2018: Lumina Foundation. Retrieved from

Chakravartty, P. (2006). Symbolic analysts or indentured servants? Indian high-tech migrants in America’s information economy. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 19(3), 27–43.

Chand, M., & Ghorbani, M. (2011). National culture, networks and ethnic entrepreneurship: A comparison of the Indian and Chinese immigrants in the US. International Business Review, 20(6), 593–606.

Chiswick, B. R., & Miller, P. W. (2007). The economics of language: International analyses. New York, NY: Routledge.

CPI Inflation Calculator. (2015). CPI Inflation Calculator. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

Corley, E. A., & Sabharwal, M. (2007). Foreign-born academic scientists and engineers: producing more and getting less than their US-born peers? Research in Higher Education, 48(8), 909–940.

Dean, J. (2009). Labor market outcomes of Canadian immigrants: The role of education-job mismatches (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). McGill University, Quebec, Canada.

Espenshade, T., & Fu, H. (1997). An analysis of English-language proficiency among U.S. immigrants. American Sociological Review, 62(2), 288–305. doi: 10.2307/2657305

Fischer, K. (2013). In disturbing reversal, Chinese applications fall at U.S. graduate schools. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Fischer, K. (2014). For some foreign students, U.S. education is losing its attraction. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Fogg, P., & Harrington, E. (2012). The earnings of foreign-educated college graduates. Retrieved from

Frank, K. (2013). Immigrant employment success in Canada: Examining the rate of obtaining a job match. International Migration Review, 47(1), 76–105.

Freeman, R. B. (1978). Job satisfaction as an economic variable. American Economic Review, 68(2), 135–141. doi:10.3386/w0225

Fritz, M. V., Chin, D., & DeMarinis, V. (2008). Stressors, anxiety, acculturation and adjustment among international and North American students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32(3), 244–259.

Jiang, X. (2018). Early career outcomes of international bachelor’s degree recipients from US institutions: The role of international status and region of origin. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 925–959.

Gonzales, L., Remington, J., & Allum, J. (2013). Findings from the 2013 Council of Graduate Schools International Graduate Admissions Survey. Council of Graduate schools. Retrieved from

Gribble, C. (2014). Employment, work placements and work integrated learning of international students in Australia. International Education Association of Australia Research Digest, 14(2), 1–10.

Hellman, C. M. (1997). Job satisfaction and intent to leave. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137(6), 677–689.

Hervik, P. (2004). Anthropological perspectives on the new racism in Europe. Ethnos, 69(2), 149–155.

Hofstede, G. (2007). Asian management in the 21st century. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 24(4), 411–420.

Hosmer, D., Lemeshow, S., & Sturdivant, X. (2000). Model‐building strategies and methods for logistic regression. In D. W. Hosmer, & S. Lemeshow, Applied logistic regression, second edition (pp. 91–142). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hou, F., & Balakrishnan, T. (1996). The integration of visible minorities in contemporary Canadian society. The Canadian Journal of Sociology, 21(3), 307–326. doi: 10.2307/3341769

Institute of International Education. (2000–2015). International students by academic level and country of origin. Retrieved from

International Average Salary Income Database. (2008). Engineer salaries-international comparison. Retrieved from

Judge, T. A., Cable, D. M., Boudreau, J. W., & Bretz, R. D. (1995). An empirical investigation of the predictors of executive career success. Personnel Psychology, 48(3), 485–519.

Jones, E. B., & Jackson, J. D. (1990). College grades and labor market rewards. The Journal of Human Resources, 25(2), 253–266. doi: 10.2307/145756

Keith, T. Z. (2014). Multiple regression and beyond: An introduction to multiple regression and structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Kim, C., & Sakamoto, A. (2010). Have Asian American men achieved labor market parity with white men? American Sociological Review, 75(6), 934–957.

Kim, D., Saatcioglu, A., & Neufeld, A. (2012). College departure: Exploring multiple mobility patterns and the implications of financial assistance. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 42(3), 3–24.

Kim, D., Wolf-Wendel, L. & Twombly, S. (2011). International faculty: experiences of academic life and productivity in U.S. universities. The Journal of Higher Education, 82(6), 720–747.

Koh, H. (2015). Trends in international student flows to the United States. International Higher Education, 28(2), 18–20. DOI:

Kuncel, N. R., Credé, M., & Thomas, L. L. (2007). A meta-analysis of the predictive validity of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and Undergraduate Grade Point Average (UGPA) for graduate student academic performance. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 51–68.

Lan, X. (2013). The effects of green cards on the wages and innovations of new PhDs. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4), 807–834.

Lawrence, R. (2013). Improving the employment outcomes of international students. Retrieved from

Lee, J., & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination. Higher Education, 53(3), 381–409.

Lee, J., & Opio, T. (2011). Coming to America: challenges and difficulties faced by African student athletes. Sport, Education and Society, 16(5), 629–644.

Levina, N., & Xin, M. (2007). Research note-Comparing IT workers' compensation across country contexts: Demographic, human capital, and institutional factors. Information Systems Research, 18(2), 193–210.

Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2006). Regression models for categorical dependent variables using Stata (2nd ed.). College Station, TX: Stata Press.

Lowell, B. L. (1999). Skilled temporary specialty workers in the United States. People and Place, 7(1), 24–39.

Mamiseishvili, K. (2011). Characteristics, job satisfaction, and workplace perceptions of foreign-born faculty at public 2-year institutions. Community College Review, 39(1), 26–45.

Matloff, N. (2003). On the need for reform of the H-1B non-immigrant work visa in computer-related occupations. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 36(4), 815–914.

McKee, A. J., Mallory, S. L., & Campbell, J. (2001). The Graduate Record Examination and undergraduate grade point average: Predicting graduate grade point averages in a criminal justice graduate program. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 12(2), 311–317.

Morphew, C. C., & Swanson, C. (2011). On the efficacy of raising your university’s rankings. In J. Shin, R. Toutkoushian, & U. Teichler (Eds.), University rankings. The changing academy–the changing academic profession in international comparative perspective, vol 3 (pp. 185–199). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Mount, M., Ilies, R., & Johnson, E. (2006). Relationship of personality traits and counterproductive work behaviors: The mediating effects of job satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 59(3), 591–622.

National Science Foundation. (2013). National Survey of Recent College Graduates. Retrieved from

National Academy of Sciences. (2007). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2008). The global competition for talent: Mobility of the highly skilled. Paris, France: OECD.

Papademetriou, D. G., & Sumption, M. (2011). Rethinking points systems and employer-selected immigration. Retrieved from

Paulsen, M. B. (2001). The economics of human capital and investment in higher education. In The finance of higher education: Theory, research, policy, and practice (pp.55–94). New York, NY: Agathon Press.

Phythian, K., Walters, D., & Anisef, P. (2011). Predicting earnings among immigrants to Canada: the role of source country. International Migration, 49(6), 129–154.

Pohlman, J. T., & Leitner, D. W. (2003). A comparison of ordinary least squares and logistic regression. Ohio Journal of Science, 103(5), 118–125

Rivera, L. A. (2015). Pedigree: How elite students get elite jobs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Robertson, S., Hoare, L., & Harwood, A. (2011). Returnees, student-migrants and second chance learners: case studies of positional and transformative outcomes of Australian international education. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41(5), 685–698.

Robst, J. (2007). Education and job match: The relatedness of college major and work. Economics of Education Review, 26(4), 397–407.

Rode, J. C. (2004). Job satisfaction and life satisfaction revisited: A longitudinal test of an integrated model. Human Relations, 57(9), 1205–1230.

Sabharwal, M. (2011). Job satisfaction patterns of scientists and engineers by status of birth. Research Policy, 40(6), 853–863.

Sangganjanavanich, V. F., Lenz, A. S., & Cavazos Jr., J. (2011). International students’ employment search in the United States: A phenomenological study. Journal of Employment Counseling, 48(1), 17–26.

Shachar, A. (2006). The race for talent: Highly skilled migrants and competitive immigration regimes, New York University Law Review, 81(2), 148–206.

Stephan, P., & Levin, S. (2003). Foreign scholars in U.S. science: Contributions and costs. CHERI Policy Research Conference: Science and the University. Retrieved from

Sun, W. (2013). The productivity of return migrants: The case of China’s “Sea Turtles.” IZA Journal of Migration, 2(1), 1–19.

The International Average Salary Income Database. (2005). Engineer salaries-international comparison. Retrieved from

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (2016). H-1B petition data FY1992–present. Retrieved from

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2015). H-1B specialty occupations, DOD cooperative research and development project workers, and fashion models. Retrieved from

U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2011). H-1B visa program: Reforms are needed to minimize the risks and costs of current program. Retrieved from

Xu, Y. (2013). Career outcomes of STEM and non-STEM college graduates: Persistence in majored-field and influential factors in career choices. Research in Higher Education, 54(3), 349–382.

Yap, M., Holmes, M., Hannan, C.A., & Cukier, W. (2014). Correlates of career satisfaction in Canada—the immigrants’ experience. Journal of International Migration & Integration, 15(1), 49–71.

Zeng, Z. (2011). The myth of the glass ceiling: Evidence from a stock-flow analysis of authority attainment. Social Science Research, 40(1), 312–325.




How to Cite

Jiang, X., & Kim, D. (2019). The Price of Being International: Career Outcomes of International Master’s Recipients in U.S. Labor Market. Journal of International Students, 9(3), 732–757.



Research Articles (English)