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Can an international student do a summer internship?

20120717_InternMax from Oklahoma City University asked:

I am an international student in my second semester of my graduate study. I want to do a summer internship, but a friend told me that I can’t  because of my status as an international student.  He also told me there are many other things that I need to do before I can apply for an internship.   Can you tell me what I need to do so that I can apply for a internship?

Hi Max –

Getting an internship as an international student in the U.S. certainly can be challenging.  Precisely how challenging depends largely on your visa status, your field of study and your degree requirements and options.

You visa status will determine what you can and cannot do legally.  Your field of study will determine how challenging it will be for you to find an internship in your desired professional field.  You degree requirements and options will determine whether or not an internship for academic credit is an option or, perhaps, a requirement for your degree.

You must look at these three elements together.  So, here is my advice:

First, consult the International Student Office at your University

Oklahoma City University’s International Student Office has a web page dedicated to Employment Information.  It is your responsibility to understand  what you can and cannot do under the terms of your visa.  Every individual situation is unique, so you cannot expect potential employers to have those answers for you.  When an employer asks “As an international student, are you eligible to to an internships?”, you must be ready to answer the question.  Your International Student Office can help.

Next, work with your campus Career Services Office

Did you know that OCU Career Services has resources specifically for international students? Based upon your field of study and your stated career objectives, your career services office can help you understand your internship options, recognize the challenges you will face pursuing an internship in your chose field, and take advantage of the internship search resources available.  Seek the advice of your campus career center.

Finally, talk to your academic advisor about internship options in your degree plan

Does your degree plan require an internship?  If not, does it offer the option to do an internship for academic credit? Your academic advisor will be able to help you identify if and how an internship might fit into your curriculum and/or meet some of your degree requirements.

Good luck!



How can an international student find a job in the US?

MAP2Max from Oklahoma City University asked:

I am an international student, and I went to my University bookstore to apply for an on-campus job.  They told me they could not hire me because my Visa will expired in June of this year.  I am legally in the US, and I am really frustrated because I need to study and work in the US.  How can I as an international student find a job in the US while I am in school?

Hi Max –

The answer here is easy, but I am not sure it will solve your problem.

Your work eligibility in the US as a foreign student is completely determined by your Visa status.  This can be complex, and I am not an expert in immigration law, so I cannot give you  a specific answer – but your International Student Office can.

The International Student Office at your university should be able to tell you specifically what your Visa does and does not allow with regard to working in the US.  There is no gray area here.  It will be very clear cut.

The answer you get may not be the answer you are hoping to get, but it will be based on your visa status and it will be accurate. Once you know what your options are, use that information when you look for a job.  You need to know what your work eligibility is before you apply for a job.  Don’t depend upon a potential employer to know your options.

Good luck


How do I show my education from another country on my US resume?

resumeAna from El Paso Community College asked: 

I live along the border with Mexico and have previous university education in Mexico. but I am not really sure how to input that information into my resume. I know they list education differently on resumes in Mexico. How should I list my education in Mexico (degrees completed and just classes take) on my US resume?

Hi Ana –

Thanks for your question.

When you are crafting a resume the first thing you need to consider is your target audience:

Who do you want to read your resume and how can you make your qualifications and credentials as accessible to them as possible?

If you are in the US and you are interested in working in the US, your target audience (US employers) has a clear frame of reference when it comes to resumes – US resumes and the US employment market.  Speak to them in their language, literally and figuratively.

When you are listing a degree you received from a university in another country on your US resume, provided the US/English language equivalent of the degree and the institution  along with the degree and institution  in the original language.  For example:

Bachelor of Engineering in Renewable Energy (La Licenciatura de Ingeniería en Energías Renovables – LIER), May 2012
National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – UNAM)

If you have just taken some coursework in a specific field, just list that coursework and the school where you studied and include the period of time you studied there.

Remember, the goal with your resume is to present your relevant qualifications in a meaningful way.

Hope this helps,


What kind of on-campus job should I get?

Claresta from the University of Massachusetts – Boston asked: 

I’m a sophomore  international student. I’m currently looking for on-campus jobs and volunteer opportunities because I don’t have any work experience. What type of jobs/positions I should consider?

Hi Claresta –

First, I commend you for thinking about a job and getting experience early in your college career.  This is a wise move, because most employers want to see candidates with more than just a college degree when they graduate.

Your question is really broad; so broad, in fact, that in order to answer it, you have to answer a few other questions first.  Such as:

  • What type of experience are you looking for?
  • What is your primary objective in finding a campus job?  Money? General/Specific Experience?
  • What skills do you offer?
  • What types of work environments suit you best?
  • What do you like to do?

Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

If you are an accounting or finance major, you might check with the Financial Aid Office or the Development Office to see if they have any work-study positions available.  Both of these offices deal with money, budgets and finances, so working there could benefit your career.

If you like sports and recreation, check out your campus gym or rec center.  Student workers in these departments often gain exposure to intramural sports and event management, athletic facility management, wellness, and other related fields.

Interested in healthcare?  Check out opportunities at the student health center.

Psychology?  Go to the Psychology Department to see if they need any student workers or if any faculty are looking for undergraduate research assistants.

Public Relations?  Talk to you campus public affairs office, the admissions department or the sports information office.

Hospitality?  Look into opportunities and residence life and housing.

I could go on and on, but I won’t! The point here is to let your interests lead your exploration and put yourself in a position to be around other people (particularly working professionals) who share your interests.

You should also consider the work environment. Do you work best in a traditional office environment, a retail environment, indoors or outdoors, a service organization?  Do you prefer working independently or in groups?  Do you see yourself working in business, education, government, non-profit?

Getting experience to complement your degree is important, but you should spend some time defining what you hope to get out of the experience before you start looking so you will know what types of positions to pursue.

Talk to the career advisers at your university.  They can help you sort through your options and, perhaps, refer you to departments on your campus that might need some student help.

Good luck,

How can an international student find a job in the US?

Two related questions have come in this week!

Eshani from the University of Missouri asked:

I am a counseling psychology graduate looking for jobs in the fields of career counseling and placements. I am an international student with a valid work permit (OPT) and an F1 visa. I have been following a couple of websites which post jobs in education (higheredjobs, Chronicle of Higher Education, NACE job-wire, etc). Unfortunately, these sites do not post the citizenship requirements for the positions. Could you recommend websites which highlight job opportunities available for international students on an F1 visa and a work permit ?

And, Max at Oklahoma City University asked: 

I am an international student, and I want to work in the US while I am in school. Am I eligible to work off-campus or must I find a on campus job?  What are my options?

Hi Eshani and Max –

You each are asking distinct and different questions, but both are rooted in the same fundamental issue – what options do international students/graduates have when seeking employment in the US?

Unfortunately, that is a really complex question, but there are logical steps you can follow to get the answers you need so you can explore your options.

Step One:  Talk to the Advisers in your International Student Office

Eshani -your University’s resources can be found online at

Max – your University’s resources can be found online at

Each student’s situation is unique, so be sure to consult with an international student adviser so you will know YOUR options and restrictions.  Your options as a currently enrolled student are different from your options as an alumnus, so make sure you know what you can and cannot do.

Typically, on-campus employment is a more viable option currently enrolled international students.  If earning money is your objective, that may be your best path.  If gaining experience is your objective, doing some relevant volunteer work or completing an internship for academic credit may be an option.

Step Two:  Research Your Options

There re a number of resources available to help international students assess their job prospects and options in the US and find job opportunities.  Here are a few that might be helpful:

Step Three:  Understand the Job Market in your Field

Make no mistake, unless you are in a high demand field (e.g., you majored in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math – STEM – field)  it is challenging for an international student to find employment in the US after graduation.

Why is that?  US employers must first consider candidates who are US citizens or who already have permanent work authorization in the US.  This is the primary candidate pool.  When that pool does not yield enough qualified candidates, employers start considering candidates with temporary work authorization (e.g., recent graduates with OPT authorization) and candidates needing employer sponsorship to get an H-1B work visa.

Candidates with OPT temporary work authorization have some appeal but are available only for a limited period of time (the duration of their visa), and unless that employer is willing to sponsor you after completing your OPT, they simply will have to let you go at the conclusion of your OPT (which is just about when you will be fully trained and able to contribute!).

Candidates needing employer sponsorship are most appealing when employers really don’t have any other options.  This is a bit of a last resort because it costs money and time for an employer to sponsor an employee for a work visa, and the government only allocates a certain number of work visas per year (typically in STEM areas, too!).

So, if you do not have permanent work authorization in the US, you have to work extra hard to position yourself as a viable candidate to prospective employers.  You don’t have the option of just submitting applications online and hoping for an interview. By the way – that strategy doesn’t work well for anyone!

Eshani, to answer your specific question:  Employers typically only mention their position on hiring/sponsoring international candidates (citizenship requirements) when they need to do so to attract candidates.  To my knowledge there isn’t a site or sites where employers post all of their jobs with that information front-and-center in the postings.

Step Four: Pursue Employment

Finding employment in the US is challenging for international students, so you have to do everything you can to position and present yourself as a competitive candidate.  You have to give employers a reason to consider you over other candidates that already have work authorization.

How do you do that?

Focus on the aspects of your qualifications that make you unique.  What do you offer that other similarly qualified candidates do not?  Language skills, relevant cultural knowledge, technical skills or expertise, specific and relevant education and training. Show why and how you are unique.

Develop an in depth understanding of the field you wish to enter.  How well do you really understand the profession you wish to enter? Who are the major employers?  What are the employment trends?  Be ready to answer two key interview questions:  What do you know about our industry? and What do you know about our company?

Leverage your existing professional contacts and grow you profession network. Your best assets in any job search are the people in your personal and professional network of contacts that know you and your capabilities.  Seek out their advice and assistance and work to grow the size and diversity of your professional network.

Your career services office can assist you, too! Be sure to seek their advice and guidance.

Good Luck!