All you need to know about CPT and Second Masters in the US

Updated on April 11, 2024

Why are so many people applying for a second master’s degree in the States? And what is CPT? Is CPT the same as OPT? All these and many more questions come to mind when you talk about working in the US.

At a Glance

  • For those unable to secure an H1B visa, pursuing a second master’s degree and utilizing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) may seem like an option for working in the US.
  • CPT is intended for academic purposes and degree program completion, not as a means to continue employment abroad.
  • F-1 students must be enrolled full-time for at least one academic year to be eligible for CPT, requiring approval from the academic department and DSO.
  • OPT is typically granted for 12 months, and additional OPT is not available during the second master’s if exhausted during the first master’s. Beware of schools offering CPT from day one, as they may be fraudulent and should be reported.

Read on to learn more, or check out our video CPT and Second Masters in the US. Legally work in US without H1B Visa!

Second Masters and CPT

All those who are keen on working in the US, and could not get through the H1B visa lottery, may still look for ways to work abroad. And one such way may seem like applying for a second master’s in the US.

They might think it is wise to apply for master’s degree and work on CPT (Curricular Practical Training) in the US. And if you are already working on OPT (Optional Practical Training), then you can apply for second master’s and work on OPT or CPT, considering you have not exhausted your full 12 months yet. In case you have, the only option is to enroll full-time in a second master’s program at school for at least 12 months, to be eligible to earn CPT.

Curricular Practical Training, i.e., CPT is a mandatory employment program for F1 students. It is normally part of the academic curriculum in the US. You are required to finish this mandatory hands-on training for a designated period of time, to complete the degree program. Normally it is fieldwork in a supervised manner, for on-the-job practical knowledge.

CPT can be of various types—mandatory training as part of the degree course, to get practical knowledge; an elective CPT, which can be done as an additional credit towards the end of the degree; CPT as a cooperative program, to combine education with practical knowledge; CPT as part of the research program, to finish field experience for thesis.

To avail CPT, an F1 student needs to be enrolled full-time in a program at any school in the US. The enrollment has to be for at least one academic year, the only exception being if the program requires practical training from the first semester itself. CPT can only be given after approval from the academic department and your DSO (International Student Advisor). Also, if you do CPT full-time for 12 months, then you lose the option to use your OPT. To be able to utilize your OPT, you can do CPT part-time.

So, if you are going for a second master’s in the US, and wish to work there. The next question would be if you can take up CPT from day one of your second master’s in the US. The answer is, No you can’t! The requirement to be enrolled full-time in an academic program, remains the same, even if you have come back to do a second master’s.

And, how about OPT? will you be able to do OPT straight away? The answer remains the same. OPT is normally given for 12 months, one for bachelor’s, one for master’s, and one for Ph.D. So, you get a 12-month OPT only once during your MS, and if you have exhausted it then you can’t have any during your second MS. You need to progress to a higher level to get additional OPT.

As per USCIS and ICE, it has been clearly stated that F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in CPT or OPT.

All in all, the goal of CPT is academic. It is for the purpose of academic hands-on training only, the objective is the completion of your degree. USCIS and ICE, the governing authority for F1 students, is very strict about assigning CPT. They keep a close watch on foreign students, to make sure it isn’t abused. And it is definitely not an option to continue your employment abroad. As stated, the objective is purely academic and research.

A word of caution- stay away from colleges offering CPT from Day1. Such schools are frauds and should be reported. They lure foreign students on the pretext of getting them to work. Many such colleges have lost their license for indulging in such activities in the past.

Need help with your F-1 visa?

Embarking on your academic journey in the U.S. with an F-1 visa can be exciting yet overwhelming due to the rigorous application requirements. If you’re feeling lost among the myriad of eligibility requirements, necessary documents, and the comprehensive application process, Stilt is here to assist. Our team of F-1 visa specialists is dedicated to simplifying the complexity, helping you understand and navigate each step with confidence.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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