Curricular Practical Training

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, including: “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” CPT is available only prior to the completion of your degree program and you must have a job offer at the time of application. CPT may not delay completion of the academic program.


To be eligible for CPT, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have been a full-time student for at least one full academic year.
  • You have a letter from your prospective employer for work in your major field of study.
  • You have registered for an appropriate course that covers the duration of the employment. Which course you are required to register for depends on what CPT option you pursue.

In addition, the employment must meet one of the following three conditions:

  1. The work fulfills an optional or required internship/co-op or practicum in your academic program. Registration in an internship/co-op or practicum course is required.  OR
  2. The work fulfills the course requirements of a standard course or independent study course in your academic program. Registration in the standard course or independent study course is required. OR
  3. PhD Students in dissertation status where the training opportunity is an absolutely necessary component of the student's research - without which the doctoral dissertation cannot be completed - may be authorized to undertake CPT. A letter from the student's dissertation advisor explaining in detail the relationship between the proposed employment and the student's doctoral dissertation research must be provided.  Registration in an internship or practicum course is required.

Full Time vs Part Time CPT

Students engaging in part-time CPT (20 hours or less/week) during the academic term (fall and spring semesters), must be concurrently enrolled for a full courseload in order to maintain F1 status.

Full-time CPT (more than 20 hours /week) is not permitted during the academic term (fall and spring semesters) except in cases where students are approved for Cooperative education (or co-op). Students approved for co-op need only register for the course that qualifies him/her for CPT (e.g. COP 501, etc).

During the summer/annual vacation period, students may be eligible for part-time or full-time CPT. Students engaged in CPT employment need only register for the course that qualifies him/her for CPT.

Students should meet with an ISSS advisor before accepting any job offer.

Job Start/End Dates

Because CPT has a curricular component and our curriculum is semester based, the majority of your job must occur within the semester. We recognize that employers will want students to start before or finish after the semester. Consult with an ISSS advisor if you need to start before or finish after the semester.

CPT and Unpaid Internships

There is a difference between volunteering and engaging in an unpaid internship. Volunteering is donating time without compensation to an organization whose primary purpose is charitable in nature. Paid or unpaid internships, however, are offered by businesses and related to the intern’s field of study. The following six criteria must be met for an internship to be considered a legitimate unpaid internship:

  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation on the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship

CPT authorization is recommended for unpaid internships regardless of whether the student needs to demonstrate work authorization. CPT authorization is more than just permission to get paid. CPT authorization:

  • Reports the student's activity, employment, and location to the government.
  • Demonstrates that this practical experience is part of the curriculum.
  • Formalizes unpaid internships that someone would be hired and paid for.
  • Facilitates changes from unpaid to paid internships in the event your employer later decides to pay you. Please keep in mind that F-1 students cannot be retroactively remunerated or in any way compensated for work done in an unpaid internship if they did not obtain work authorization prior to when the work was performed.

If the position is unpaid and it is not possible to obtain CPT authorization, make sure that your prospective employer is aware of U.S. Department of Labor regulations concerning unpaid internships and that you have assurances (preferably written) to that effect before you accept the position. ISSS also recommend that at the end of your internship you request a letter from your employer confirming that there was no compensation.


  1. Submit the CPT Request Form. Refer to CPT Request Form (link to Forms page) for specific instructions.
  2. ISSS will review your request and if eligible update your I-20 to reflect the CPT.
  3. You will be notified by e-mail when this process is complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

What affect does my CPT have on OPT?
The time you spend on CPT will not be deducted from the twelve months of allowable OPT unless you use 12 months or more of full-time CPT.
What is considered part-time?
Employment for 20 hours or less per week while you are enrolled for classes is considered part-time CPT. The employment authorization page of your I-20 will specify permission to engage in part-time training and you must limit your work to no more than 20 hours per week. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in part-time CPT cumulatively, but you must be simultaneously enrolled as a full-time student in order to maintain lawful F-1 status.
What is considered full-time?
20 hours or more of employment per week is considered full-time CPT, regardless of whether you are enrolled full-time or part-time for classes. The employment authorization page on your I-20 will specify permission to participate in full-time training. If you use twelve months or more of full-time CPT you will not be eligible for OPT.
Do I need to have a job offer prior to submitting my application?
Yes. Your CPT authorization will be employer and date specific.
How can I show my employer that I am authorized to work?
Your I-20 with CPT authorization is evidence of your work authorization.