University Career Services helps international students navigate the U.S. world of work and acclimate to the American work culture through individual appointments as well as specialized programs.
As an international student, you may be able to work while studying. The type of visa you are on determines your eligibility to work in the U.S. The Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) can help you understand your work options and obtain proper work authorization.
Using CPT through the Co-op Program for F-1 Students
The Cooperative Education Program (Co-op) allows you to receive recognition on your transcript for your experiential work. If you have been offered a paid co-op or internship and are not enrolling in an internship course for academic credit, you may be eligible to use
your CPT through the Co-op Program. Regarding unpaid internships,
please check with the OIPS as they may require you to enroll in the
- Minimum overall GPA requirements: Undergraduates: 2.0, Graduates: 3.0, Juris Doctor: 2.33
- Completion of one academic year (fall and spring semesters) of full-time study and at least one semester at Mason under an F-1 visa status
- Completion of mid-semester feedback and an evaluation at the end of your work experience
- You may not work more than 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters. Full-time hours are permitted during the summer.
- Proper work authorization obtained through the Office of International Programs and Services.
- The position must be must be related to your field of study.
- The position must be paid or compensated.
- The position must offer a minimum of 160 hours of work during the academic term.
- Consult with an advisor in the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) regarding your eligibility to use your CPT through enrollment in the Co-op Program.
- Complete the Curricular Practical Training Application Form and the Co-op Work Agreement.
- Give the Co-op Work Agreement to the employer to review and sign.
- Once all of your forms are completely filled out, submit your offer letter, position description, completed Co-op Work Agreement, Curricular Practical Training Application Form, and the Co-op Program fee of $25 (cash or check only) to Debbie Zuiker, Experiential Learning Coordinator, in University Career Services. You may submit these via email or you may schedule an in-person appointment with Debbie. Partially completed forms will not be accepted.
- Return to OIPS with your documents to obtain the work authorization on your I-20.
Once you accept a position and complete the paperwork, you cannot change your mind and switch to another employer during the same academic period. Weigh all of your options carefully. If you need assistance in negotiating with employers, please call University Career Services at 703-993-2370 to speak with an Industry Advisor.
Please allow enough time to walk through all of the steps listed above (about one to three weeks). Authorizations may take up to two additional weeks.
Fall 2016 Deadline: October 18
The deadline to enroll for fall 2016 CPT use through the Co-op Program is October 18. All paperwork for CPT and for enrollment in the Co-op Program must be submitted to the Office of International Programs and Services and to University Career Services by this date.
Job and Internship Search Tips
Use Passport Career to find jobs and internships in over 75 countries across the globe including the United States. Passport Career features an H-1B database with 300,000+ employer profiles for U.S. job searches. Select "Register Now!" in the upper right corner of the homepage and enter "gmuniver" as the registration key.
Set up a search agent in HireMason, and select your work authorization to identify employers who are hiring international students.
Networking means developing relationships through in-person meetings or social situations. Reach out to your friends, family members, faculty, and alumni to see if they are aware of any employers who have worked with international students in the past. Volunteer at seminars, job fairs, and other university events. This will help you develop social skills required in the workplace.
Schedule an informational interview with professionals in fields that interest you. Use a neutral greeting (dear sir or madam) if you do not know the person you are writing to.
Resume and Cover Letter
Develop well-written resumes and cover letters that focus on your strengths and achievements. Highlight your multicultural background including work, educational experience, and language skills. Do not include personal information about yourself or your photo. Make sure all of your materials are error-free, and do not use the same resume and cover letter for every job application. Change it according to the job requirements.
Job Boards and Other Resources
For international students, finding employment in the United States can be challenging. The best way to overcome barriers is preparation.
Some international students may not understand or feel confident about the job search process in the U.S. Attend University Career Services events and talk to a career counselor or industry advisor for advice about the U.S. job search. Know your skills and strengths, and be prepared to demonstrate why you are a competitive candidate.
Because English is typically a second language for most international students, some may not feel comfortable with their speaking or writing abilities. Consider enrolling in the Academic English Program or joining Mason's Toastmasters Club to practice your speaking skills, and visit the Writing Center to have your papers or written documents critiqued.
International students may have some anxiety about when to reveal their visa status to an employer. Educate yourself on the process of hiring an international student so that you may inform potential employers.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Students and Employment
- International Student: Working in the USA
Interviewing in the U.S.
Interviewing for a position in the U.S. can be very different than in your home country. If you would like to practice your interviewing skills, schedule a practice interview with a career counselor or use InterviewStream to practice on your own.
Give a firm handshake
First impressions are important during an interview. One of the first impressions you will make with an interviewer is through your handshake. A firm handshake communicates confidence and enthusiasm.
Maintain eye contact
In the U.S., maintaining eye contact with an interviewer conveys confidence and trustworthiness.
Beware of illegal interview questions
It is illegal for employers in the U.S. to ask questions about your age, religion, politics, sexual orientation, disability, race, sex, or marital status.
In some cultures, it is considered inappropriate or rude to talk about yourself. In the U.S., employers expect you to talk about your accomplishments, skills, and talents. Assertiveness is expected, as well as open discussion of your personal strengths and job fit. Employers like to hear about how you work in a team, but also how you contributed as an individual to the success of the group.
Dress professionally keeping accessories simple and avoiding strong perfumes. And do not forget to turn off your cell phone!
Academic Training is training directly related to a student's field of study and may involve sequential or simultaneous activities, either paid or unpaid, with several employers. A program sponsor must evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the academic training in achieving the stated goals and objectives in order to ensure the quality of the academic training program.
- J-1 degree seeking undergraduate students are eligible for 18 months total of Academic Training pre and post-completion (during or after they finish their coursework).
- The student is in the U.S. primarily to study rather than engage in Academic Training.
- Students must spend at least one year in their degree program before beginning Academic Training.
- When school is in session, Academic Training cannot exceed 20 hours per week. During the summer it can be full-time.
- If a student opts for post-completion Academic Training, their program must be extended prior to Academic Training authorization by OIPS.
- Students must have health insurance for the duration of the Academic Training.
- OIPS is not involved in approving Academic Training for credit.