Every year, lakhs of international students apply for jobs in the US, during and after graduating from their course of study. During the Trump era, job market in the US had slowed down for international students due to rigid immigration rules and organisations reluctant to hire foreign graduates. However, with the new US President Joe Biden's move to reverse Trump's immigration policies, international students looking for jobs are likely to benefit.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, foreign-born workers in the US accounted for 17.4% of the total workers, with 28.4 million people. Most immigrants were more likely to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations (33.9%) than production, natural resources, sales and service. With only 13.4% of the total foreign-born labour force in the USA, natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations were the least-preferred among all.
Almost all US companies think of international staff as keystone of their ability to succeed in the global market. This is because of several reasons such as subsidiaries of a company in your home country, assistance in dealing with international clients, maintaining a diversity percentage within the company and so on.
The labour market in the US for international students will also depend on the location of the university and the industry you wish to join. However, the US is widely-popular to welcome talented and recognised people from all over the world to serve and represent their country. For most US universities, around 90-96% of the graduates receive an offer or take uo further education after they have graduated.
Given that a lot of Fortune 500 firms are headquartered in the US, some of which include Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, international students would hardly face any scarcity in terms of employment opportunities. An entry-level job offered to an MS international graduate will guarantee an income of USD 69,000 to USD 90,000 per annum. This may further go up if you are from the fields of IT, finance, management, advertising or engineering.
Some of the top designations associated with jobs after completing MS in the US are business analyst, software engineer, computer systems analyst, web developer, health information technician, among others.
Being an international student in one of the top education hotspots in the world does push one to think of immigrating or settling down in the country. While working in the US during your study or even after graduation is possible, the process and transition come with several complications.
Most foreign students in the US usually start their professional journey in the country with on-campus jobs not only to ease the financial burden or cover other expenses but also to develop useful skills and build a professional network. Here’s a guide to working in the US:
Generally, an international student who wishes to pursue higher education in the US must first obtain either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Your student visa would be determined by your course of study and the type of student. However, most students entering the US usually hold either an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa.
Work While on F-1 Visa
International students with an F-1 visa can find off-campus employment opportunities under the three broad categories:F-1 visa holders are not allowed to work off-campus during the first year of study and only look for the various on-campus job opportunities that are offered by the higher education providers in the US. Also, during your study, you would be allowed to work for only 20 hours per week and not more than 40 hours a week during breaks.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): CPT is a temporary work permit directly in your field of study or related to it. Usually internships, co-ops or summer internships, the job would either be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion): Available for temporary employment, OPT must also be directly related to your field of study. It is divided into two types: pre-completion and post-completion. The pre-completion OPT lets you work while you are still enrolled in your programme and the post-completion OPT permits you to work after completing your studies. Both the OPTs let you engage in work for 20 hours a week.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT): Students who have received a STEM degree can extend their OPT for 24 more months. The student must also have been employed by an employer.
Severe Economic Hardship: When you are on an F1 visa, you can apply for a severe economic hardship, acceptance to which allows you to work off-campus in the US. This can be applied for only when you are suffering severe economic hardship due to sudden financial changes such as loss of financial support, fluctuations in the value of the currency, excessive medical bills, unexpected changes in the financial condition of your source, etc.
Work While on M-1 Visa
Students who are M-1 visa may also participate in practical training but only when they have completed their studies in the States.
The similarity between the F-1 visa and M-1 visa is that both ask students to be employed in their area of study or a related field. The same must be authorised by the official who has been authorised to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and USCIS.
Barista: The job at a coffee shop is considered one of the most fun and enriching jobs on campus for international students in the US. From making delicious coffee drinks to meeting new people, a Barista is rightly said to be the one who keeps a coffee shop running smoothly.
Mail Room Attendant: A mailroom attendant contributes immensely to improving the experience of residents of a university. The primary responsibilities include providing general administrative support, sorting and forwarding mail, accepting and tracking packages, among others.
Student Library Assistant: In great demand in almost every US university, a student library assistant is responsible for assisting staff in routine library operations. His/ her duties may include library searches, data entry, maintaining statistics, general office work, and more.
College Teaching Assistant: Also known as a TA, a college teaching assistant works with students in laboratories and directly with a professor. He/she may take classes, answer questions, grade papers, proctor examinations, conduct meettings with students, among other things.
Campus Ambassador: What a campus ambassador does is spread awareness about a product or service in the student community. He/ she would also be initiating marketing and promotional activities, organise events such as seminars, workshops, etc, and also act as the voice of the company.
Bank Teller: A bank teller performs duties such as taking cash or checks from customers, preparing specialised types of funds, clear account-related queries, record any transaction electronically, and more. They are usually the first point of contact as soon as they enter the bank.
Social Media Assistant: A social media assistant is someone that works closely with the marketing team and the social media manager. His/ her main job is to create content that engages the organisation’s target audience and further build their social media presence. He/ she should be able to manage a company’s social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
Cashier: The primary duties of a cashier include managing transactions with customers, collecting payments in cash or credit, ensuring pricing of products is correct, keeping track of all transactions and more. A cashier should have an idea of how to manage a cash register and how they operate.
Driver: With the shortage of truck drivers or truckers in the US, there has been a huge demand for truck drivers over a period of two to three years. Apart from that, a regular car driver is also very much in demand in the country for the smooth running of almost every organization.
Retail sales associate: A retail sales associate is responsible for serving customers by assisting them in their buying experience. His daily tasks would include driving sales , sharing product knowledge, greeting and receiving customers, responding to the queries of customers and so on.
Although the visa scenario in the States is one of the most debated topics with an uncertain future, international students from all over the world often tend to pursue work in the US after completing their studies. Reasons for the same include a wide array of opportunities, a chance at embracing adventure, workforce productivity, good work ethics, among others. Here’s what you need to know about post-study work opportunities in the US:
Work on H-1B Visa: The H-1B visa is granted to immigrants who are employed in a speciality occupation at US organisations. An H-1B visa holder has a higher education degree or its equivalent. The specialised field could be biotechnology, architecture, engineering, chemistry, computing, statistics, medicine and health, physical sciences, journalism, and more.
The duration of an H-1B visa is three years, which can further be extended to six years.
Under the Trump Administration, the H-1B visa had undergone a number of changes in relation to immigration and visa rules. With Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 US presidential elections, international students are hoping to benefit significantly as he has promised to reverse most of Trump’s visa policies.
Work on EB-5 Visa: The EB-5 Green Card permits immigrants to become permanent residents of the US if found eligible. In order to be considered for the visa, one has to invest a minimum of $900,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (TEA), which manages to employ at least 10 Americans.
Q. Is it difficult for international students to find jobs in the US?
A. Job hunting is always hard, be it in your home country or overseas. Often, international students in the US face hurdles such as reluctance of employers to hire a foreigner because of visa issues, fear of them leaving within the next few months or concern over poor English skills, etc. That being said, if an international student begins their hunt early, researches well and is able to form a good network with industry professionals, finding a job after graduation would not be so difficult. Also, many universities conduct placement drives and their dedicated career services department often help international students throughout their job search.
Q. Can an international student in the US pay their entire tuition fees by working part-time?
A. An international student working part-time in the US will be able to contribute their income to cover only a portion of their tuition fee. Most international students in the US pay around 50% of their tuition by working part-time on-campus. A part-time job usually pays around $10/hour, which can go up to $20/hours, amounting to around $800 per month. So, not just your living expenses, you can choose to earmark a part of this for your tuition fee. In addition, a number of US universities, government organisations in the US and home country also offer scholarships, which often cover a significant portion of international tuition fees in the US.
Q. May I participate in both CPT and OPT?
A. Yes, international students will be allowed to participate in both CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Curricular Training) although not simultaneously. However, CPT cannot be taken up unless you have completed a year of your degree. Also, if you have worked for more than one year of full-time CPT, you may not be allowed to do one year of OPT. For CPT, make sure the job is “directly related” to your field of study. While the OPT program allows an international student to work 20 hours/week when class is in session and 40 hours/week during holidays, the CPT program does not have any work hour limit.
Q. How can I go to school and work simultaneously in the US?
A. If you are participating in OPT, going to school and working on-campus part-time will not be so difficult as classes in the US are flexible enough for all. And, most courses in a CPT program will be conducted in the evenings and/or on weekends, which will allow you to work during the week. Also, given that CPT is crucial to your program, attending classes and working simultaneously would not be much of a problem as it will eventually get you your credits. Having said that, if you are facing troubles in concentrating on your studies, you can either talk to your supervisor or quit the job for at least the first year.
Q. Will I be allowed to work in CPT for the entire duration of my masters program?
A. You will not be allowed to work in CPT during the first year of your Master’s program. However, some schools may allow you to engage in CPT for the entire duration of your program. Also, if you work full-time CPT for over a year, you may not be eligible to engage in an additional year of OPT after you graduate. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult with your department or school regarding this before moving forward.
Q. How much does an international student earn on an internship in the US?
A. Recent graduates in the US usually take up internships or entry-level positions which pay around $7 to $9 per hour. However, if it is a skilled job, the recruiter may pay $10 or more an hour. Students are also allowed to work part-time on- or off-campus for 20 hours per week when classes are in session and 40 hours a week during holidays or breaks. This is the most-preferred option for international students to earn some extra money and contribute to their tuition fees. Depending on the role, an international student on internship may earn around $700 per month which may go as high as $800. This may further vary depending on the recruiter, skills required, location, your academic background, prior experience and more.
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