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How to earn money in the U.S. while going to school

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USA Work Study paid internship options are a big draw for international students interested in pursuing a master degree in the United States. These internships provide both real life learning in conjunction with their studies at the university, as well as earning money to help pay for tuition and living arrangements. What makes HTIR options unique from most other U.S. study abroad programs is that the universities HTIR works with have establish mandatory curricular practical training (CPT) options, which legally allow students to being working in off-campus paid employment immediately. In order to participate in the CPT internship, the job must be an integral part of the program or class for which they are studying.

Students participate in a CPT internship program are able to not only gain valuable work experience, but also are able to earn U.S. wages to help pay for their educational and living expenses. 

How does a CPT internship work?

As mentioned above, the student needs to be enrolled in a mandatory CPT class or program.  Otherwise, any off-campus employment is illegal. 

Although it is up to students to search and apply for their internship position, each university has a career counselor on site to assist the students.  The counselor can help with resume writing, interview skills, as well assisting the students in searching out employment opportunities via the school's job network, newspapers, the Internet, job fairs or through other placement opportunities.

Prior to working in an off-campus internship, students must be enrolled in school, have started classes and have obtained a Social Security number.  The social security number is similar to a work permit.  Nobody can legally work without having a social security number.  The number is what the employers use to track and pay employee taxes. Before an intenrational student can obtain their Social Security number, they need to have been in the U.S. for at least 10 days, they need to have a job offer letter, and they need to have the school issue an updated I-20 form showing the student has legal authorization to work.  This can sometimes be a "catch 22" situation.  Because often, when applying for employment, the company asks for a social security number.  Yet, in order to obtain the SS number,  the international student needs to have an offer of employment letter.  There are ways to get around this issue, so be sure to work with the career counselor at your school.

Once students have applied for their Social Security number, they can immediately begin working, even though they have not yet received their SS# in the mail.  It may take two to three weeks to receive the actual number.  You can read more about the SS# here

Most students traditionally are able to find employment within a couple of weeks of starting their search. Students are encouraged to apply for entry-level jobs paying between $8 and $12 an hour, so they can get some U.S. work experience before they apply for the more professional jobs.  These entry level jobs are traditionally below the skill level for which students are actually qualified to perform. However, it is important for students to understand the American job place before they try and get the better job.  We have seen students not understand the U.S. job culture and then lose really great jobs because they made unintentional social or cultural mistakes or illegal actions. 

As students are integrated into the U.S. workforce culture, we encourange them to apply for and accept a position more suited to their job skills and experience.

In the United States, a full time work week is up to 40 hours. If employees work longer than the 40 hour work week, they are eligible for overtime pay, depending on if the employee is being paid by the hour or by monthly salary.  If an employee is on a salary wage, there is no overtime paid for time put in over the 40 hours a week.  For those on an hourly wage, overtime is paid at one and half of regular pay.  So, for example, if an employee is working for $10 an hour, the overtime pay will be $15.

Employees are free to quit and change jobs any time.  However, it is customary to give a two-week notice of resignation to current employers before starting a new job.

If you have any questions about employment in the U.S. please do contact us.  We are happy to answer your questions.

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