Education Migrants and Their Success in the Turkmen Labor Market

Turkmen students are increasingly pursuing higher education abroad, seeking to return to Turkmenistan afterwards. However, according to the study published in 2017, Labor market integration of returned educational migrants in Turkmenistan by Erin Trouth Hofmann of the Department of Sociology, Social Work, & Anthropology, Utah State University, getting a degree abroad does not necessarily make it easier for Turkmen citizens to get a job back in Turkmenistan.

Higher Education in Turkmenistan

  • The quality of higher education in the country has gone down since Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s presidency.
  • Women account for only 32% of students attending university in Turkmenistan.
  • Out of those women who choose to pursue higher education, the majority choose fields that are traditionally associated with women’s gender roles, such as medicine and teaching.
  • The drastic decline in the quality of higher education since the collapse of the Soviet Union has led many young people to pursue educational opportunities elsewhere.

Foreign Higher Education Restrictions

  • Despite many education agreements and programs that were established jointly between Turkmenistan and countries such as Russia, Turkey, and the United States, the Turkmen government strongly discourages educational migration.
  • In 2001, the Turkmen government issued a presidential decree declaring foreign diplomas invalid. In 2004, a new law was passed making foreign diplomas valid, but stating that those who obtain a foreign diploma must get a special certification to make it valid.
  • In 2014, the Turkmen government passed a law stating that diplomas that were acquired abroad through part-time programs are not eligible for certification.
  • Furthermore, students studying abroad in specific countries risk not being able to leave the country without government approval.
  • However, in spite of harsh restrictions, Turkmen students continue to study abroad in substantial numbers.

Foreign Education and the Turkmen Labor Market

  • In the study that Hofmann conducted, Turkmen students answered a survey about their educational and work experience, making for a sample size of 98 people. Out of the respondents, 41 were men, 52 were women, and 5 did not identify their gender.
  •  50% of the survey respondents currently reside in Turkmenistan, with the other half residing in Russia, the United States, as well as former Soviet states and Middle Eastern countries.
  • Only 24% of the survey respondents obtained higher education in Turkmenistan, displaying the trend that despite studying in foreign countries, Turkmen students tend to return home.
  • 38% of the survey respondents pursued higher education in Russia and other former Soviet states, with the other 62% being a wide array of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, China, Japan, South Korea, and Hungary.
  • Among the respondents who graduated from Turkmen universities, only one could not find a job upon graduation, making for a 95.8% employment rate among this group. Among those who were educated abroad, the employment rate upon graduation was lower, at 83.8%.
  • According to this study, all graduates of Turkmen universities were employed in Turkmenistan, but only 40% of those who were educated abroad were employed in Turkmenistan.
  • 63% of the people who graduated from Turkmen institutions believe that a foreign degree does not increase the likelihood of employment in Turkmenistan, and 34% of foreign graduates agree.
  • While the study indicated that graduates of Turkmen universities are better integrated into the labor market in Turkmenistan, the employment gap between foreign graduates and Turkmen graduates is low.


  • Hofmann suggests that the Turkmen government should work to create more jobs and attract various types of specialties.
  • Hoffmann also emphasized that it is important for Turkmenistan to embrace graduates from foreign universities and to utilize their skills and experience, rather than alienating them.

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