Practical training provides international students with experience in their field of study during or after completing a program in the United States. This training offers valuable work experience by sharpening and adding to the skills students have learned in school. Read below to learn about the types of practical training available to F-1 students.


Types of Practical Training for F-1 Students


Optional Practical Training (OPT)


OPT is a form of training that directly relates to a student’s program of study and can take place while they are still in school (pre-completion) or after they finish their program of study (post-completion).

Pre-completion OPT:

  • Occurs before a student’s program end date.
  • Lasts up to 12 months.

Post-completion OPT:

  • Occurs after a student’s program end date, or after completion of all course requirements.
  • Usually lasts up to 12 months, but time previously spent in pre-completion OPT will be deducted from this 12-month maximum allotment.

Students participating in either pre-completion or post-completion OPT can work for any employer, but the training must directly relate to the student’s program of study. Students are eligible for another 12 months of OPT when they change to a higher education level.




STEM OPT is a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT for qualifying students with DHS- approved science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

Students approved for STEM OPT can engage in training for an additional 24 months after finishing their regular post-completion OPT. Students can participate in up to two separate STEM OPT extensions if they earn a second qualifying STEM degree at a higher education level.

Students participating in STEM OPT must be compensated. Their employer must be enrolled in E-Verify and must also be able to provide a minimum of 20 hours of training per week.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT is training that directly relates to a student’s program of study that a sponsoring employer offers through agreements with a student’s college, university, seminary or conservatory to fulfill a required part of the curriculum. The training can take the form of alternative work/study, an internship, cooperative education or another type of required practicum. CPT must occur before a student’s program end date.

Practical Training for M-1 Students

M-1 students are also eligible to participate in practical training after completing their program of study.