Stevens International Students Gain Relevant Work Experience

12/16/2011

Hailing from China, Nigeria, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, the United Kingdom and dozens of other countries, the 1,626 international students enrolled at Stevens for graduate and undergraduate study are drawn not only to the university’s excellent academic programs, but its ability to connect students with great jobs post-graduation.

Full-time international students who hold F-1 visas can be granted work authorization through the federal Optional Practical Training benefit, allowing them to gain job experience directly related to their area of academic study.

“The primary reason students engage in OPT is to get work experience in the U.S. in their field of study, thereby giving them a competitive advantage when they return to their home countries,” said Doris Clausen, JD, Director of International Student and Scholar Services at Stevens. “Many students also use OPT to segue into other professional opportunities and visa sponsorships that will enable them to work in the U.S. for a longer period of time, and earn a higher salary in proportion to what they would otherwise make in their home countries.”

To be eligible for OPT, a student must have F-1 status in the U.S. for at least one academic year. At that point, they are eligible for 12 months of OPT for each degree level they pursue – either during or after completion of their studies.

“All F-1 students who meet the requirements for OPT may participate,” said Clausen.

Currently, 984 of F-1 students at Stevens are in programs of study on campus, and 642 graduated students are on post-completion OPT, which is granted for 12 months after completion of studies. Almost half of the OPT students at Stevens have been granted a special 17-month OPT extension specifically designated for STEM majors who are pursuing degrees in fields like computer science, engineering, life sciences and mathematics. These students can work full-time for 29 months while in the country on F-1 visas.

At Stevens, international students are employed at many well-known firms and companies, including the Associated Press, Google, Credit Suisse, IBM, Goldman Sachs and Barclay’s Capital.

“The students and graduates in these and other high profile organizations demonstrate the value the corporate community places on a Stevens education and in candidates who have developed as global professionals,” said Pam Cohen, Assistant Director of the Office of Career Development at Stevens.

Elliot MacMillan is one such student. A citizen of Jamaica, MacMillan enrolled at Stevens because of its recognition as a top-notch engineering school as well as its renowned Cooperative Education program and proximity to New York City. He is working as an analyst for the Risk Technology department at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Capital Markets in Manhattan.

“I applied for OPT, like co-op, for the real world work experience,” said MacMillan, an Engineering Management major. “I hope to stay in the U.S. for a while and gain more experience before I head back to Jamaica.”

Sushita Eswaran, a graduate student from India who is pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science, works for Deloitte as a technical risk consultant. She hopes to contribute to the ever-growing software industry while also obtaining financial industry experience.

“My plans for the next couple of years are to gain good work experience at Deloitte that is relevant to my master’s degree,” she said.

Some students secure job offers on their own, but many aided by the Office of Career Development. MacMillan, for example, turned an interview with RBC representatives at a Stevens career fair into an offer. Eswaran applied for Deloitte with the help of her career advisor and was offered the position after three rounds of interviews. Even the Office of Career Development’s 2011 Graduate Student of the Year, Harshavardhan Shinde, was an international student from India.

“All employers worldwide value candidates who have developed professional skills through employment,” said Cohen. “At Stevens, our career advisors are dedicated to assisting our international students in accessing opportunities in American companies to develop bilingual communication skills, decision-making, technical-writing, team participation, leadership, and an appreciation for cultural diversity.”

To learn more, visit the Office of Career Development and International Student and Scholar Services.