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FAQ: Work and Study Internships


Q. What is Curricular Practical Training?

A. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is the legal description for the paid internship employment that students engage in while in a graduate school work-study program. The purpose of CPT is to give students practical experience in the workplace to augment what they are learning in the classroom. Read more about CPT

Q. What is Optional Practical Training?

A. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is the legal description for the one year employment that you are allowed to engage in after you graduate from your Master's program. The purpose of OPT is to give you further practical experience in the workplace relating to your major. Read more about OPT

Q. Am I allowed to engage in both CPT and OPT?

A. Yes, but not at the same time. CPT is training during your studies and OPT is training after graduation

Q. If I choose to work in CPT for the entire length of time I am in the Master's program, will I be allowed to do so?

A. This will depend on the school and program you choose. If CPT is required and is an integral component of the whole program, then yes you will need to work for the entire Master's program. If the CPT is not program based, but instead is an integral part of a course, then you can only work as long as you are enrolled in a course requiring CPT.

Q. How can I go to school and work at the same time?

A. Most graduate programs have many classes offered in the executive format. That is, classes will be offered in the evenings and/or on weekends, so students have the flexibility to work during the day.

Q. Can I take online courses?

A. Yes. Some courses offered in the Master degree programs are available on-line. However, it is only legal for international students to take one on-line course along with two on-site classes per semester. You can not, however, take stand alone online courses. You must have at least 2/3 of your courses be in a physical class.

Q. Can I transfer my credits from another school?

A. The university may give credit for some courses already taken at another school, if the other school is accredited and if the course content being transferred is basically the same as one of the courses in the university's requirement for that major. The Registrar at the school will make this decision when you arrive for registration.

Q. What if I decide to transfer to a different university?

A. If you enroll at the university and choose to transfer to another university you are free to do so, so long as your bills at the university are all paid in full up to the date of transfer.

Q. Is there any financial aid available?

A. Yes, some schools have tuition payment plans and some schools provide scholarships.

Q. I am a nurse. Can I apply for the Health Care Management work study program?

A. Yes. If you have a bachelor degree you can apply to a Health Care Management program.

Q. My English is not very good. Can I still apply?

A. Yes. However you will need to apply to a school which has an English instruction program or apply for an ESL or English Language program before you apply for the degree program.

Q. Will I have to pay taxes?

A. Your employer will be required to hold back funds from your monthly earnings to cover any taxes that you might owe. However, after April 15th of each year most international students find that they get a refund for some of this withheld amount. Please read this article for more information on taxes.

Q. Will the university secure an internship job for me?

A. Often the university will assist in securing employment for the students. Since the internship is mandatory, the school's Career Counselor usually will assist the applicants in finding and applying for an employment position. The school associates will help the student in this endeavor by assisting with the preparation of a resume, introductions to companies looking for employees and showing students how to search for employment through the newspapers, the internet, job fairs or other placement services. In the end, however, it is your responsibility to obtain your internship position.

Q. What is the likelihood that I will find my internship employment?

A. New internship positions become available on a regular basis. However, the type of internship position and how long it takes you to obtain it will depend on your skills, your experience, your English ability and your personal ambition. Read more about internships

Q. How long will it take for me to obtain my internship employment?

A. Most students will obtain employment in the first few weeks of starting their employment search. For those with limited skills, it may take much longer to find a suitable internship position. English ability is also a factor in how quickly a student can obtain his/her internship position. For those schools where CPT is a mandatory part of the curriculum, students will start their internship employment in the first or second semester of study. Legally students can not start the internship until they have 1) enrolled and paid for school, 2) started classes and 3) obtained the Social Security number. Getting the social security number takes on average, about two to four weeks. For those schools that have a regular CPT program, students must wait one academic year before they are allowed to start their internship employment. One important aspect is how well your American English ability is.Read more about internships

Q. Will my internship job be arranged before I come to the U.S.?

A. It is very difficult to have a job arranged for students prior to their arrival due to the fact that employers almost always want to interview the candidates personally. However, the university has contacts with companies that will hire students for a temporary entry level job, so they can be employed as soon as possible. At some of the schools the entry level job may be pre-arranged. While working in the entry level position, the student can simultaneously be searching for a more suitable job, and still fulfill the requirement of being in an internship.

Q. What kind of employment will I get initially?

A. Initially, all students will be asked to accept an "entry level" position paying $8.00 to $12.00 per hour. These entry level jobs must be an "integral" part of the program or course. These initial jobs are generally below the skill and wage level of jobs for which the students are actually qualified. The entry level jobs give students a chance to understand the America work customs. However, at any time after starting in the initial employment, when the students have become accustomed to the American workplace and feel they are ready to find a position which is more satisfying and which pays a higher salary--they are free to change employers. Employees need to give a two week advance notice to the current employer in order to leave for a different job.

Q. How much can I earn in an internship job?

A. Some entry level jobs will pay approximately $8.00 to 12.00 per hour, but more highly skilled positions may pay $15 or more per hour. Students are allowed to work up to 40 hours per week, with overtime also possible, depending on the job. The type of job will depend on the school curriculum, along with a student's work experience, background, skills, English ability and personal ambition.Check out a sample of where interns are working

Q. What kind of work will I do?

A. The work you do will depend on the school curriculum, along with your background, previous work experience, bachelor degree's major, skills, English ability and personal "drive." We have interns in a variety of jobs, all at different levels and pay scales. The lower paying jobs are between $8-12 an hour and require little work experience and skills.

Q. Can you tell me some of the companies that I might be working for?

A. Although we can not tell you exactly where you will be working until the university has reviewed your file and resume, and you have completed the interviewing process, we can give an example of companies that have hired international students in the past.Sample list of companies .

Q. Must I find an internship job only in the field related to my major or is any job O.K?

A. The employment needs to be related to an integral part of the curriculum course or program. Consequently, a job which is related to concepts and principles that you may be learning in any of your internship classes will be acceptable

Q. How many working hours will I probably work each week?

A. If you are in a CPT or a similar curricular training option, your employment can be as a regular full time employee with the same benefits as are granted to all other employees. Most employees work 40 hours per week and receive a one week vacation per year. However, part-time employment is also available.

Q. How soon after my arrival can I begin Curricular Practical Training employment?

A. It depends on the type of program. In a regular CPT program you will need to wait one academic year (usually 9 months) before you can begin the CPT program. In a "mandatory" CPT program you can begin as early as your first semester of study. For the mandatory CPT program, you will need to begin working with the school career specialist at the campus in locating and identifying possible employers, as well as learning how to apply for employment in the U.S. Most students obtain employment in the first month of starting their employment search, while for others, it takes longer. The time required to obtain employment depends on the skill sets of the student, especially the level of the student's oral English and communication ability. By law, you can apply for a Social Security number10 days after your arrival, as long as you have an internship offer letter.

Q. Do I have to work overtime? Can I keep the overtime bonus?

A. Some companies want the interns to work overtime, while others do not have overtime available. However, you may keep for your own use all overtime income that you may earn.

Q. What if I can't find employment?

A. Because there are many entry level jobs available, it is highly likely that an intern would be able to find some type of employment. Your work experience, skills, English ability and personal ambition, will determine how long it will take to be placed in the entry level job. The more work experience you have, and the better your English skills, and the more positions you apply for, the quicker you will obtain a position.

Q. Do I have to have a social security card and a work permit?

A. Yes, you will need a social security card in order to start working. The procedure for obtaining a Social Security card and permission to work begins with obtaining a job offer letter from a prospective employer. Once an employer agrees to hire an applicant, such a letter will be issued by that employer. The letter is to be taken to the university for a signature on the student's original I-20 form where Curricular Practical Training is authorized. This signature by the university official on the I-20 serves as the work-study student's work permit. The next step is to take the job offer letter and the signed I-20 to the Social Security office where application is made for a Social Security Number.Read more government article on social security

Q. Is there a way for me to work before actually registering for school and starting to attend classes in order for me to save more money and add it to my current savings?

A. No. Students must first be registered and attending classes (or one academic year of classes for the regular CPT program), be in the US for at least ten days, obtain a job offer letter, and obtain a Social Secruity number before they can legally start working. This process can take two to four weeks. However, students are encouraged to start working with the career counselor as soon as they are registered for classes.

Q. Could the work authorization be possibly converted into a full time work permit upon completion of the Masters program?

A. Converting the internship job into a full time job, such as under an H1-b, is possible. But, it all depends upon whether the company you find to work for during the internship is willing to sponsor you for an H1-b.

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