The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Working in the USA: Internships and Co-ops

Some graduate students wish to gain real-world experience through internships and co-ops. These students should first speak with their advisor/research professor to ask about their funding and research obligations which may affect outside employment options. Experiential learning for international students requires a different application and authorization process to maintain F-1 visa status. Students going on a summer internship or semester-long co-op must enroll in a one-credit independent study course and apply for CPT (Curricular Practical Training) authorization in order to participate. Students going on semester-long co-op must also enroll in an Externship through the UMass Graduate School office. For instructions on how to apply for CPT authorization, please go to: internships-coops-research and review the International Programs Office webpage at on the application process for CPT authorization.

Please visit the CPT guidelines for international students page for more information and detailed instructions on applying for CPT and OPT work authorization.

Working in the USA: Post-Graduation

If the international F-1 student’s goal is to remain in the USA to gain work experience then employment must be obtained and a timeline established for completion of degree requirements and application for legal work authorization. The best way to begin this process is with a career portfolio prepared and ready. The Engineering Career Development and Experiential Learning Center can assist with resumes, cover letters, CVs, lists of potential employers and interview practice. OPT (Optional Practical Training) work authorization is endorsed by the UMass IPO. The most common path is for the F-1 student to apply for OPT 2 to 3 months before completing their degree requirements. OPT work authorization is for a maximum of 12 months with a possible one-time extension of 24 additional months available to certain STEM degree recipients. The flow chart below shows the e various optional work visa procurement paths:

Graphic showing  various optional work visa procurement paths

The H-1B visa is sponsored by the employer. H-1B is highly regulated according to place of employment, salary, job duties and job title. After an F-1 student is hired, and the employer files a petition for an H1B visa, sponsorship of the F-1 visa shifts from UMass to the employer. H1-B visas can be valid for up to 6 years.