Working While Getting Your Degree
International students on F-1 and J-1 visas must follow specific employment rules and restrictions while they are enrolled in their degree program. The International Programs office has the most current information for international students wishing to get professional experience while attending Cal State LA. We've summarized the guidelines below and offer some resources for finding internships, part-time work and other resume-building opportunities. Please read through the following sections carefully and consult with an International Student Advisor if you have any questions or concerns.
Different employment rules apply for F-1 and J-1 students. We've summarized the basic work opportunity rules and regulations for each classification below.
- Students are limited to working a maximum of 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.
- Students can work up to a maximum of 40 hours per week during the summer and winter breaks.
- Students are limited to working only on-campus at Cal State LA for the first 9 months or 2 semesters.
- Students should have F-1 or J-1 status for at least one academic year before they can apply for off-campus work permit.
- Students should start the filing and job search 3-6 months in advance of when they want to work.
Working on Campus for F-1/J-1 Students:
The types of positions for which the students can apply include:
- Teaching Assistant and Graduate Assistant positions in the Colleges
- Student Assistant positions in the Colleges and Administrative units
- Support positions with on-campus vendors
Working Off Campus for F-1 Students:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training is defined as a work experience that is an integral part of your program of study. This type of employment must be a required part of your academic program or work for which you receive academic course credit. You must have a firm job offer from an employer before you apply for CPT. Note that work done under CPT counts against time available for OPT. Completing the necessary paperwork can take weeks so plan ahead. More information can be available on the International Page and from the F-1 CPT Handout.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from your academic program to a practical work experience. This employment must be directly related to your major field of study. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may be authorized for twelve (12) months of OPT and another twelve months of OPT when you complete a higher education level. OPT requires authorization from USCIS before you can start work; this procedure takes at least 90 days but can, and often does, take longer. More information can be available on the International page and from the F-1 OPT Handout.
Passport Career on the Career Express page has a USA H-1 Employer database. Passport Career is an online, country-specific, global job search platform designed for use by organizations looking to support the international career transitions of their mobile employees and by academic institutions looking to support the international career transitions of students, scholars.
An F-1 student is eligible to apply for CPT if the following requirements are met:
- Must be in F-1 status at the time CPT is approved.
- Must be full-time enrolled at least one academic year.
- Transfer Students (from U.S. university or college): Must have completed one semester at Cal State LA and have an F-1 visa
- Must have an unexpired passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
- Must maintain their F-1 status during the entire CPT experience
- Must be in good academic standing, defined as not on academic, administrative or graduate probation
CPT is authorized for a semester or a term (such as summer).
Students requesting CPT for multiple semesters must go through application process for each semester (including enrollment in an internship course for each semester).
For more Information on internship or work regulations visit the International Office website.
Building Experience Beyond Work
International Students looking to build professional skills while on campus have a variety of options. Employers value community service, leadership experience, academic publishing and participation in professional organizations as evidence of career readiness.
- Some staffing agencies like CSI Professionals, Inc. can find part-time and full-time work for international students.
- Get involved in Student Government: Contact Associated Students, Inc. for opportunities.
- Volunteer for a cause or group you feel passionate about. Look for opportunities from the on-campus Center for Engagement, Service and the Public Good and on volunteer action center sites like LA Works.
- Gain professional certifications or skills: Participate in the USU Leadership Academy or take free business application courses via Lynda.com. Some CBE departments, like CIS, offer training toward industry certifications like SAP.
- Talk with faculty about their research and topics you're interested in. Presenting papers at professional conferences or publishing articles demonstrates depth of subject knowledge.