Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary work authorization for international students who hold an F-1 visa and who have been enrolled full-time in a college-level degree program for at least one academic year. Both undergraduate and graduate students can use CPT for an internship or co-op experience that is directly related to their major or field of study. International students are expected to review the detailed CPT information on our website and be familiar with the specific steps they must complete for the application process.

If you are considering hiring an international student for an internship or co-op experience, you should be aware of the timeframes in which international students may work and what information they will require from you in order to apply successfully for CPT.

Work Timeframes

International undergraduate students have more limited timeframes in which they may work than domestic undergraduate students do:

  • They may complete on-site internships—work experiences of one semester or less—during summer semesters only. They may work at remote or local internships during the fall or spring semesters as long as they are:
    • Working fewer than 20 hours per week
    • Concurrently enrolled in a full load of resident instruction courses
  • They may complete either on-site or virtual co-ops—two or more rotational work experiences with a single employer—during either one fall or one spring semester plus a summer semester. For example, students may work spring/summer, summer/fall, or fall/following summer. They may not work for both a fall and a spring semester. Students completing co-op experiences must work at least 20 hours per week to meet the requirements of the co-op program.

International graduate students have more flexibility about when they may work.

Offer Letter Requirements

Offer letters for international students must meet specific requirements for CPT, per International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA) at Penn State.

In addition to being issued on official employer letterhead, they must contain all of the following:

  • Job title (e.g., Software Engineering Intern)
  • Name of the company or organization and full address, including street/number, city, state, and zip/postal code
    • If the work experience will be done on-site, this address should be the specific location where the student will be working (if the employer has multiple sites)
    • If the work experience will be remote or hybrid, the address where the student will be physically working must also be included (home, apartment, friend's apartment, etc.)—the student must provide this information to be included in the offer letter
  • Exact start and end dates of employment (in general, must be 12–15 weeks in either the fall or spring semesters or 10–12 weeks in the summer)
  • Specific number of hours the student will work per week (in general, must be 20–40 hours); "part-time" or "full-time" are not sufficient

An offer letter for a co-op student must include both intended work semesters in order to verify that the offer will be for a rotational experience. For example, an offer letter should state that the offer is "for a summer/fall 20xx co-op." Employers may include a clause stating that they intend to bring the student back for at least two co-op rotations "if business conditions and student performance permit."

Students also require a detailed description of the specific tasks they will be doing on the job; this may either be included in the offer letter or provided as a separate job description. Please note that students' work tasks must be directly related to their major. A general description of duties (e.g., perform duties as assigned, work with managers and peers to learn more about the business) will not be sufficient for ISSA approval. 

See a sample offer letter/job description that meets ISSA requirements for CPT

Once they have obtained an appropriate offer letter and job description, students must request CPT online and it must be issued by ISSA—a process that typically takes at least 14 business days (longer during busy times of the year). Once CPT has been approved, students will receive a new I-20 and may begin their internship or co-op experience. You should communicate with individual students about onboarding and expectations in the first days and weeks of work.

For any questions about CPT, please contact Carmen Bilén, Associate Director, Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032