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U.S. Curricular Practical Training: Important Information

You can now gain valuable work experience while studying in the United States if your program incorporates practical training in its curriculum.


United States of AmericaStudent Resource
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U.S. Curricular Practical Training: Important Information
Written by Jennifer Aranda.
Updated February 14, 2017 | United States of America

Haven't there been times while you were studying when you wished that you could get hands-on experience and not just lectures or seminars?  Some institutions of higher learning in the United States have already incorporated practical training in some of their programs and made this extra training experience integral to the curriculum.  There are two types of practical training:

The following are important points concerning CPT:

  • As an alternative work/study, internship, practicum participation or cooperative education arrangement, the work experience that CPT brings must be "integral part of an established curriculum." 

Remember, CPT is a temporary authorization for practical training and from this, you can get valuable work experience where you can practice what you have previously learned during class lectures.

  • And one cannot just start on CPT immediately work as you must be enrolled on a full-time basis for at least one academic year (2 semesters) before you will be eligible to begin CPT. 

The exception to this is if you are enrolled at the graduate level and your program requires immediate participation in CPT.  Check the program requirement in the relevant website first.  It should be listed in the curriculum description.

Further, In accounting for the one year requirement, you may still be eligible for CPT If you shifted from one program to another, provided there was no break between the programs.

  • You may not be paid for your CPT.

As an international student, your primary purpose for being admitted to the United States is to study.  You should therefore not think about compensation from CPT as a means to defray some of your living expenses while  studying.  In fact, while sponsoring employers may enter into cooperative agreements with an institution, compensation is not a consideration for approving an agreement. Before you make a decision to study in the United States, it would be best if you get to read important information about the U.S. student visa category and documentation requirements for a U.S. student visa application.

Some colleges and universities consider full-time internship as full-time enrollment but you should confirm if this is correct.  As an F-1 student, you are required to maintain status while completing CPT.  Therefore, if you decide to seek authorization for full-time CPT, ensure that the school will consider you as being enrolled full-time.  In addition to the CPT, there may be other options to work while studying in the United States as an international student.

To help you further along in your studies, in CPT you will not be restricted as to the number of hours you can work per week.  However, once you are authorized and complete an equivalent of 12 months (365 days) of full-time CPT, you may be ineligible to participate in Optional Practical Training, or OPT at that education level. To be considered eligible for OPT, your CPT work experience should be part-time.  Otherwise to remain in legal status in the United States, you will have to enroll in the next higher academic level or apply for employment authorization. 

Be sure to check if your choice of U.S. academic institution is authorized to accept international students!

About the Author

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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