Students worldwide often consider coming to the United States to study at some of the most prestigious universities around the globe. However, most students will travel here on a tight budget as education costs can be quite steep. For this reason, many schools began to offer employment options to international students like you! It’s important to note, though, not all schools offer work-study programs so you will want to consider asking your admissions counselor about employment options before you apply.
How can you go about finding an employment in a country you hardly even know? Well, let’s start with the basics…
Working while studying?
Work-study is becoming a popular option for US students and international students alike as education costs continues to rise. These programs allow you to hold a job while working on your degree. CPT, or Curricular Practical Training, can be optional or required based on your major. International students specifically have many opportunities design for them:
- Working part-time (20 hours a week or less) while being enrolled in classes full-time
- Working full-time (more than 20 hours a week) while enrolled full-time in classes. Some schools allow you to take evening, online, and/or weekend classes
- On and off campus employment
Required vs Optional CPT
CPT employment must be related to your field of study. Some majors mandate their students to participate in CPT in order to graduate. Optional CPT is work experience related to your degree that is not required. Work-study can be an internship, cooperative education, or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers. The employment must be related to your major. For example, an engineer student may intern at an engineering firm or work in research pertaining to engineering. CPT is also available to both undergraduate and master students.
CPT vs OPT
CPT is not to be confused with OPT (Optional Practical Training). CPT must be completed before graduation as it’s usually an integral part of your major. It allows you to receive course credit for this employment. OPT can be completed before or after graduation, you do not need to earn credit, and is not employer specific.
Note: If you work full-time during your CPT for 12 months, you will not be eligible for OPT in the future. Part-time CPT doesn’t affect your eligibility for OPT. Make sure you plan ahead and work closely with your international student advisor!
So what do you need?
Like anyone working in the US, you will need work authorization and a social security number in order to be employed. In order to apply for CPT, you must have an offer of employment related to your field of study, you must have a valid international student status, and generally schools require you to have completed at least one academic year unless you are applying for required CPT.
If you’re already studying in the US and are interested in your school’s CPT options you will want to consider talking to your admissions office, international student office, or the career help center to inquire about work-study opportunities for international students. They will also be able to direct you and help you process all of the required paperwork to apply for your work permit.
If you’re not yet studying in the US (or plan on switching schools when pursuing a graduate degree) and are searching for a university that will allow you to participate in CPT, you might want to consider a program like HTIR Work-Study USA. HTIR simplifies the process by connecting potential international students in pursuit of a graduate degree with a university that meets their needs.
Working in the US is a great experience. Not only will you be able to earn some money while you work on your degree and be able to cover some of your school expenses, but you will also be exposed to the US workforce as an employee. This could even lead to future permanent employment in the US!