Hands-on experience gives students the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom in a real-world environment. 

Experiential learning can take a variety of forms including internships, co-ops, research, service learning, volunteering, projects through classes or student organizations, study abroad, clinical experiences, job shadowing, and career-related summer jobs. 

The CNS Career Center is happy to help you learn how to search for these types of opportunities. Make an appointment in Handshake to meet 1:1 with a Career Advisor. 

CPT (Curricular Practical Training) 

As an international student, in order to use CPT for an off-campus experience, you must be: 

  • In lawful F-1 status 
  • Have been enrolled in the University and in the United States on a full-time basis for at least two consecutive semesters 
  • Have an internship or co-op offer that is "an integral part of an established curriculum...and is directly related to the student's major area of study" 
  • In good academic standing, have 45 credits and a GPA over 2.0.  If you don't have this, you will need a Dean's Approval Letter signed. 
  • Please note: CPT is to be used while you are enrolled in a degree, not after you graduate.  You can use OPT (Optional Practical Training) for that, see below.

Most STEM experiences are paid, but some are not.  As an international student, you will always need to take at least 1 credit for this experience so you stay connected to the University, even if you are being paid.  You are welcome to take more credits if you want to.  Credits during the summer are paid through University Without Walls and are less expensive than credits during the academic year. 

Next steps: 

  1. Obtain a written offer letter from the company or organization on company letterhead, or an official email. This needs to have: 
    • Your name on it and is addressed to you 
    • State that it is an internships or co-op, and give you a job title as well as a brief description of duties 
    • The number of hours a week you will be working 
    • The start and end date of your internship or co-op 
    • The complete address where you will be working with street, city, state and zip code; or mention that the experience is remote 
    • And the salary or related compensation 
  2. Ask a faculty member to sponsor your internship. If you are unsure of who to ask, start with your academic advisor. Together with this professor, you will decide how many credits you will get, the course number, and what the academic component of the experience will be. 
  3. Once all of the above is complete, you are ready to submit your Academic Internship Contract between you, your faculty sponsor, and UMass Amherst, through the Field Experience office in the Central Career Development & Professional Connections Hub.  You submit this contract called an Experience in Handshake
    • Log into Handshake 
    • Click on "Career Center" on the top right 
    • Click on "Experiences" 
    • Then, "Request an Experience" 
    • Follow the prompts.  You will need the offer letter and your faculty sponsor's name. 
    • After you submit this application, you can then request CPT from the IPO 
    • Please note: You can accept your internship offer without CPT approval, but you cannot start your internship until the IPO has authorized your CPT 
    • Once the above steps are completed, you are ready to proceed to the CPT Request E-Form to upload your job offer letter, and approved Handshake contract 
    • Please note:  Allow 5 business days for IPO processing of your CPT request. 

OPT (Optional Practical Training): 

OPT is a benefit you can use after you graduate to gain additional training at a place of employment. Currently, OPT provides for an initial 12 month period, and for STEM students an additional 2 years, so in essence, STEM students have 3 years of OPT. 

The timing of applying for OPT is critical. Follow the steps outlined by the IPO, paying particular attention to when you apply for OPT. OPT applications take approximately 3-4 months to process. The IPO holds many workshops throughout the year and in the summer, to explain these details.  Please attend them to understand this process. 

More information about CPT and OPT can be obtained from the International Programs Office, or from Katie Ahlman, the CNS International Student & Scholar Advisor. 

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