How to Find Internship Opportunities While Studying in the US
If you want to reach your highest potential while you study in the US, you should consider undertaking practical training related to your specific field of study. This is the best way to gain knowledge and skills that will promote your future career development and to build a network of people that can help you expand your horizons.
International students who are studying in the US on an F-1 visa are faced to some work limitations, but there are many internship opportunities for you that you should not miss.
Understanding visa regulations
If you wish to undertake an internship while you study in the US, you must first understand the opportunities you have based on your type of visa. Assuming you are already studying at a US university, that means that you have an F1-student visa, which typically allows you to take part in an unpaid internship or an internship on your campus.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot become an intern at an off-campus organization. But while working on campus is very accessible and doesn’t require additional paperwork, working outside the campus of your university can be a more complicated process.
Many international students want to kick-start their career while they are still studying, so universities developed two programs especially created for students who wish to gain experience in their field of study: Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). To check if you are eligible, discuss these with your designated school official (DSO).
CPT internship opportunities
While participation in these programs is not free of limitations for international students, they still offer amazing opportunities for gaining experience in your chosen field and developing your career. In order to be eligible for a CPT internship, you must have completed your first year at university and the internship must be related to your field of study. Some CPT internship opportunities are paid and some not.
OPT internship opportunities
This type of internship can be undertaken while you are still studying or after graduation, and can be up to 12 months. Because this program allows international students to search for a job in the US after completing their studies, it is best to take advantage of this opportunity after you graduate. An OPT internship doesn’t need to be directly related to your degree, but the process is a little bit more complicated than in the case of the CPT program, so you will need to talk with your DSO about getting approval.
Career development programs at US universities
Now that you know the conditions and regulations, you can start searching for your dream internship. The smartest way of doing that is by finding out if your university offers career programs for students. Most US universities offer guidance for students who wish to undertake an internship and can walk you through the possibilities out there.
For instance, Oklahoma City University has a partnership with The Washington Center and is able to offer its students opportunities for full-time internships in the nation’s capital. The internship is tailored to the interest of the student and provides many benefits, including academic credit, lectures by national and international leaders, embassy visits, and workshops.
If you’re studying social sciences, you may benefit from an internship program such as those tailored by the University of Idaho for psychology or communication students. These programs are basically structured experiences that are offered each semester, to help students discover more about their field of employment.
Another example is provided by Southern New Hampshire University, which has developed partnerships with numerous employers, designed to help students find internships and full-time jobs in their field of study. Participants are paid between $8-15 per hour depending on the industry and job description, as well as their own skills and experience. You can choose to work on a semester basis or during summer break. You will benefit from career guidance before choosing your internship, and will then be put in touch with your desired employer for an interview.
Now that you have all the information you need, you’re ready to start an extraordinary career!
This article was originally published in January 2016 . It was last updated in January 2020