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Work part time while studying in the United States

Published: 25th Sep 2021 11:33 pm

By Monika Setia

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Last week we talked about on-campus work opportunities, including assistantships and campus jobs, as part of our discussion on work options for international students in the United States. This week we continue the discussion on this special topic to better understand Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) options.

International students on an F-1 student visa who are pursuing their higher education in the United States can take advantage of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities after completing one year of coursework. On both CPT and OPT, an international student is allowed to work part time (20 hours or less per week) during the academic session and full time (over 20 hours per week) when the program is not in session.

CPT is an off-campus internship or practicum opportunity in the field of study related to a student’s major/specialisation. Some academic programmes mandate all students enrolled in the program to go through a practical work experience. This is termed as a required CPT. Students can also opt to gain work experience in their field of study through an optional CPT. CPT could be paid or unpaid. Students should note that they have to obtain a CPT authorisation from the international student office of their university for a paid CPT. For more details, students may visit:

OPT is also an off-campus work opportunity for which students may apply either:

  • After being “lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year” in a US institution (pre-completion OPT) or
  • After completion of an academic degree (post-completion OPT)

OPT consists of 12 months of work directly related to the student’s academic major/specialisation, extended up to 24 months for students pursuing programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. If a student has participated in pre-completion OPT, the duration is deducted from their authorised period of post completion OPT.

Students have to submit the request for their OPT to the Designated School Official (DSO) at their university/college and then file their application along with the fee and supporting documents with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A student must start the OPT only after receiving necessary approvals from USCIS.

To learn more about OPT, students may visit: or

It is important that students contact the international student office of their campus before considering the OPT or CPT option.

Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at the United States-India Educational Foundation based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad. Please visit – for more information)


Q1. I want to apply for programmes in mass communications in the United States. How should I search for accredited programmes in the field? – Shiva Krishna

While shortlisting universities, students should research accredited colleges and universities with journalism and mass communications programmes. The database of accredited programmes and institutions is published by the US Department of Education at and the Department of Homeland Security at Prospective students, particularly at the graduate level, should also identify academic programmes with professional accreditation. The professional accrediting association for the field of journalism and mass communications is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications

Q2. My son is preparing his applications for undergraduate programmes in the United States. What is the importance of essays in the application process? How many essays will he have to write? – Govind Rao

An important aspect of undergraduate or bachelor’s degree applications for US universities is the personal statement and essay. An essay allows a student to show the admissions committee what makes them stand out from other applicants. The content of the essay and the way it is written will allow admissions officers to understand students’ writing abilities and their personalities.

If a student is applying through the Common App, they have to write a Common App essay on one of the eight themes provided in the application. In addition, they may have to write university-specific essays based on the requirements of the university they have chosen for their application. The university-specific essay prompts are listed on the university website or the application portal. A few universities may also ask for supplementary essays that are optional.

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