CPT vs OPT: Why international students need them​?

There’s a long list of reasons why students all over the world pursue a degree in the US. Topping that list is the unparalleled abundance of top-ranking schools in the country – Ivy League or otherwise – and the fact that many of these institutions house the brilliant minds of world-class professors from around the globe.

Apart from the prestige and quality of education, many students are looking to study in the US because of their long-term plans to stay in the country. A successful career in the US is an enticing prospect for many, considering that some of the world’s largest companies are found there. However, getting a Green Card in the US is not an easy task, especially if you don’t have an immediate relative in the country. That is why many international students leave the country after graduation, which not only affects their plans to migrate but also disallows the US from keeping promising global talent from their pool of graduates who can potentially make significant contributions to the country.

To protect and retain international talent, the US offers opportunities for students to work in the country during or after their studies. The two options for international students are Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

The complex immigration policies for foreign workers can make finding a job in the US challenging. Students looking to stay in the country immediately need to learn about both opportunities.

Optional Practical Training

Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students temporary employment that is directly related to their major area of study. Through OPT, students with an F-1 visa can work up to 12 months in the country, which can be completed both before (pre-completion OPT) or after they complete their studies (post-completion OPT), with the latter being the more usual case.

Students who choose to begin their employment while earning their degree may deduct their periods of pre-completion OPT from the available period of post-completion OPT.

While OTP allows students to work for 12 months only, students with a STEM degree are excepted. International STEM students can extend their employment by up to 24 months—a total of three years of work authorisation.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Where OPT is usually for international students who want to work in the US immediately after they complete their studies, the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is mostly for internship, practicum, and co-op purposes for students who are actively studying.

CPT allows students to work full-time (over 20 hours per week) or part time (20 hours or less per week) and gain experience in their field of interest. Working on CPT is required, since it is an integral part of the student’s degree requirements, for instance a practical or clinical internship. And unlike OTP, CPT is employer-specific and must be completed before graduation.

Students pursuing OPT should note that when they are authorised for a total of 12 months of full-time CPT, they will no longer be eligible for OPT.


OPT extension for Golden Gate University’s international STEM students

When international students are permitted to work in the US, everyone benefits. To help international talent further develop their skills and contribute to the growth, innovation, and competitiveness of the San Francisco and Silicon Valley regions, Golden Gate University (GGU) in downtown San Francisco provides STEM degree offerings.

Through their STEM OPT, international graduates can more easily gain work experience, begin their careers, and make meaningful contributions to the US economy while also extending their stay in the country temporarily. After their STEM OPT, some graduates have been sponsored by their employers for an H1B work visa and eventually obtained immigrant visas (“green cards”). In the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Silicon Valley, the region offers opportunities for jobs at leading tech companies, like Apple, Google, Facebook/Meta, Twitter, LinkedIn, Intel, Cisco, HP, Adobe, eBay, Uber, Lyft, Salesforce, and Broadcom.

According to research, during the 2020-2021 academic year, international students contributed $28.4 billion to and filled 306,308 jobs within the US economy—and this was during a pandemic. This is expected to increase as more international students look to the US for their education.

At GGU, STEM students are eligible for a 24-month extension, which means they will have a three-year work authorisation after completing their degree! Here is a list of GGU’s STEM degrees:

  • BS in Data Analytics
  • BA in Management 
    • Data Analytics Minor
    • Finance Minor
    • Information Technology Minor
  • MS Business Analytics
    • Marketing concentration
    • Management concentration
  •  MS Information Technology Management
  • MS Project Management-Information Technology Management
  • MBA
    • Information Technology Management concentration
    • Business Analytics concentration
    • Industrial-Organisation Psychology concentration
    • Finance concentration
  •  MA Industrial-Organisational Psychology
  • MS Financial Analytics
  • MS Finance
  • MS Accounting Data and Analytics
    • Advanced Analytics for Accountants concentration
  •  Doctor of Business Administration
    • Business Analytics concentration
    • Digital Strategy concentration
    • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning concentration
OPT employment authorisation for GGU students is granted through USCIS.

Why study at Golden Gate University?

“I finished my MBA [at GGU] and immediately found a job as a HR Generalist on my OPT. Then I applied for my H1B visa and got a job as the Senior Human Resources Manager at a tech firm in downtown San Francisco” — Amisha Hada, Nepal, Golden Gate University MBA Human Resource Management ’08

Founded in 1901, Golden Gate University is a private, not-for-profit university specialising in law, business, tax, psychology, public administration, and accounting. The university is located in San Francisco, California, and was named the best place to study in the United States by the American Institute for Economic Research.

Golden Gate University’s urban campus offers a non-traditional, adult-centric learning environment, and is “walking distance from the most ‘happening’ businesses in San Francisco like Salesforce, Twitter, LinkedIn, Deloitte, Ernst and Young, and JP Morgan,” according to GGU 2018 alumnus, Hussain Aziz Sham. Moreover, to help international students find their footing once they start their studies, the university also maintains a list of nearby off campus housing reserved for and available to GGU students.

Placed 312th in College Factual’s 2023 ranking of best overall college in the United States (top 15% of all US schools), GGU prepares its students for the competitive global job market through its skills-based degrees while also offering flexible class schedules and a student-centric approach.

Here are more fast facts about the University:

  • 17% of Golden Gate University students are international
  • 48+ countries are represented in the University’s student body
  • Scholarships up to $15,000 are available to international students
  • $92K is the average post-graduation salary for GGU students
  • 80% + of courses are taught by professors who do what they teach 

Keen to learn more about Golden Gate University, the available courses, and how to apply? Click here.

To learn more about OPT, CPT, and other work opportunities for international students, chat with Global Study Partners experts today!

Images by: Golden Gate University

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