Curricular Practical Training

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.

You can use CPT for an internship or co-op experience that is directly related to your major or field of study.  See the Global Programs website for more information about CPT.

If you have an offer for an internship or co-op and you are eligible for CPT, our office can help with the process of obtaining it. Please note:

  • If you are planning to work part-time on campus, you do not need to apply for CPT.  See the Global Programs website for more information about rules and requirements for on-campus jobs. 
  • If you are graduating before your work experience will begin, you are not eligible for CPT and must seek Optional Practical Training (OPT) instead.

Undergraduate Students

Step 1: Obtain an Offer Letter

Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer (on letterhead) that meets CPT requirements, including all of the following:

  • Job title
  • Name of the company or organization, including street address, city, state, and zip/postal code
  • Exact start and end dates of employment (must be 12–15 weeks in either the fall or spring semesters or 10–12 weeks in the summer)
  • Number of hours of work per week (must be 20–40 hours)

Your employer must also provide a detailed description of the specific tasks you will be doing on the job; this may either be included in the offer letter or provided as a separate job description.

Step 2: Complete the iStart Application

Complete the iStart application (link provided on the Global Programs website), which is a requirement of the U.S. government. 

  • If you plan to be enrolled in ENGR 195 (internship), you may name either Carmen Bilén (Associate Director, Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations) or your academic adviser on the academic recommendation portion of the application.
    • Email a copy of your offer letter to whomever you have listed as your adviser. If you have listed Carmen Bilén, she will contact your academic department to get email confirmation of your academic standing prior to completing the recommendation.
    • After the listed adviser has completed the recommendation, you will receive an automated email message from the iStart system.
    • If you have named an adviser other than Carmen Bilén, please forward the iStart confirmation email to our CPT email account.
  • If you plan to be enrolled in an independent study, you must name the course instructor and provide his or her email address on the academic recommendation portion of the application. NOTE: It is extremely rare for international students to be approved for CPT for an independent study except under special circumstances.
    • Email a copy of your offer letter to your adviser.
    • Send the course number and the instructor’s name to our CPT email account.
  • If you plan to be enrolled in ENGR 295, 395, or 495 (co-op), you must name Carmen Bilén as the adviser on the academic recommendation portion of the application.
    • Email a copy of your offer letter to our CPT email account. Carmen Bilén will contact your academic department to get email confirmation of your academic standing prior to completing the recommendation.
    • After Carmen Bilén has completed the recommendation, you will receive an automated email message from the iStart system.
    • We must generate an additional form to support your request to complete a co-op.  We will complete this form and send it to the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) in the University Office of Global Programs. 

Step 3: Complete the Employment Survey

Complete the Employment Survey to notify us of your upcoming work assignment and to give us important information about your employer and the internship or co-op course you intend to take.

  • If you have an offer to work for a single summer semester at a company or organization, you are doing an internship. Your course will be ENGR 195 (or, less commonly, independent study (IS)).
    • Please note that you may not complete an internship in either the fall or spring semesters.
  • If you have an offer to work for at least two semesters at the same company or organization, you are doing a co-op. Your courses will be ENGR 295 (first co-op semester), ENGR 395 (second co-op semester) or ENGR 495 (third co-op semester).
    • If your co-op offer spans two consecutive semesters (e.g., spring through summer or summer through fall), you should complete one Employment Survey requesting both courses.
      • Example: If you have an offer to work at a company or organization from January through August, request both ENGR 295 and ENGR 395 to cover the entire period of your co-op.

If you are taking ENGR 195, 295, 395, or 495, the course will be added to your schedule within two business days of this notification. If you are doing an independent study, you will need to arrange for your department or course instructor to add the course to your schedule.

Step 4: Pay for the Course

Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course.  Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.

You should expect DISSA's CPT review and approval to take place within 10–14 days of receipt of your adviser’s submission of the CPT recommendation.  Note that delays may occur during peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.

Someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to advise you to pick up your new I-20.

Graduate Students

The specific steps that you must take as a graduate student seeking CPT depend on a number of factors, including when and where you plan to work, what type of degree you are pursuing, and where you are in your degree program.

Fall or Spring Work Experiences

Step 1: Obtain an Offer Letter

Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer (on letterhead) that meets CPT requirements, including:

  • Job title
  • Name of the company or organization, including street address, city, state, and zip/postal code
  • Exact start and end dates of employment (must be 12–15 weeks in either the fall or spring semesters)
  • Number of hours of work per week (must be 20–40 hours)

Your employer must also provide a detailed description of the specific tasks you will be doing on the job; this may either be included in the offer letter or provided as a separate job description.

Step 2: Complete the iStart Application

Complete the iStart application (link provided on the Global Programs website), which is a requirement of the U.S. government. 

  • If you are currently working on your thesis and the work you plan to do in your internship will be used for your thesis, your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the course number and the name of your adviser to Carmen Bilén (Associate Director, Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations).
  • If you are currently working on your thesis and the work you plan to do will not be used for your thesis or if you are not currently working on your thesis:
    • If your prospective employer is located near University Park (or another Penn State campus), you may be eligible for CPT if you register concurrently for a full-time course load while working and for either ENGR 595 (internship) or a non-thesis research course.
      • If you register for ENGR 595, either Carmen Bilén from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list Carmen Bilén, she will contact your academic department to get email confirmation of your academic standing prior to completing the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Carmen Bilén.
      • If you register for a non-thesis research course, your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the course number and the name of the supervising faculty member to Carmen Bilén.
    • If your prospective employer is not located near University Park, you may only be eligible for CPT if you are willing to pay for 9 credits of department-approved research associated with your internship. Most students in this situation opt not to complete an internship.
  • Email a copy of your offer letter to whomever you have listed to complete the iStart recommendation.
  • Once the recommendation has been completed, you will automatically be notified through the iStart system.
    • If you are taking ENGR 595, the course will be added within two business days of this notification.
    • If you are taking a non-thesis research course, please forward the iStart notification of the recommendation submission and the number of the course you are taking to Carmen Bilén.

Step 3: Complete the Employment Survey

Complete the Employment Survey to notify our office of your upcoming internship and to give us important information about your employer and the course you plan to take.

Step 4: Pay for the Course

Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course.  Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.

You should expect DISSA's CPT review and approval to take place within 10–14 business days of receipt of the CPT recommendation being submitted. Note that delays may occur in peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.

Someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to pick up your new I-20.

Summer-Only Work Experiences

Step 1: Obtain an Offer Letter

Obtain an offer letter from your prospective employer (on letterhead) that meets CPT requirements, including:

  • Job title
  • Name of the company or organization, including street address, city, state, and zip/postal code
  • Exact start and end dates of employment (must be 10–12 weeks)
  • Number of hours of work per week (must be 20–40 hours)

Your employer must also provide a detailed description of the specific tasks you will be doing on the job; this may either be included in the offer letter or provided as a separate job description.

Step 2: Complete the iStart Application

Complete the iStart application (link provided on the Global Programs website), which is a requirement of the U.S. government. 

If you are pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D. degree:

  • If you are currently working on your thesis, you must register for thesis credit and your adviser must complete the recommendation. Send the course number and the name of your adviser to Carmen Bilén (Associate Director, Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations).
  • If you are not currently working on your thesis, you may be registered for either ENGR 595 (internship) or a non-thesis research course.
    • If you are registered for ENGR 595, either Carmen Bilén from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list Carmen Bilén, she will contact your academic department to get email confirmation of your academic standing prior to completing the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Carmen Bilén.
    • If you are registered for a non-thesis research course, your adviser must complete the recommendation. Please forward the iStart notification of the recommendation submission, the course number, and the name of the supervising faculty member to Carmen Bilén.

If you are pursuing an M.Eng. degree, you may be registered for either ENGR 595 (internship) or a non-thesis research course.

  • If you are registered for ENGR 595, either Carmen Bilén from our office or your adviser may complete the recommendation. If you list Carmen Bilén, she will contact your academic department to get email confirmation of your academic standing prior to completing the recommendation. If you list your adviser, forward the iStart email to Carmen Bilén.
  • If you are taking a non-thesis research course, your adviser must complete the recommendation.

Email a copy of your offer letter to whomever you have listed to complete the iStart recommendation.

Once the recommendation has been completed, you will automatically be notified through the iStart system.

  • If you are taking ENGR 595, the course will be added within two business days of this notification.
  • If you are taking a non-thesis research course, please forward the iStart notification of the recommendation submission and the name and number of the course you are taking to Carmen Bilén.

Step 3: Complete the Employment Survey

Complete the Employment Survey to notify our office of your upcoming internship and to give us important information about your employer and the course you wish to take.

Step 4: Pay for the Course

Once you see the course on your schedule for the appropriate semester, submit payment for the course.  Your CPT request will not be finalized until course payment is completed.

You should expect DISSA's CPT review and approval to take place within 10–14 days of receipt of your adviser’s submission of the CPT recommendation. Note that delays may occur in peak times, especially at the end of the spring semester.

Someone from Global Programs will contact you directly to pick up your new I-20.

 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032