Taking Full Advantage of Professional Development: CPT, OPT & STEM-OPT
CU Denver’s International Students in Thriving Business Economy
“One of the best things is that Denver has a very strong job market; the city and state have a lot of work opportunities for international graduates who are on OPT and STEM-OPT ,” recently graduated University of Colorado Denver alumnus, Mohammed Faraz Ali, enthusiastically explained. Born in India, Ali spent much of his childhood in Saudi Arabia. Upon graduation, he stepped up to Denver’s thriving business economy with a master’s in electrical engineering that included the study of energy and power systems, as well computer engineering and embedded system design, and the development of artificial intelligence.
During the Fall 2018 to Summer 2019 academic year, 475 international graduates from CU Denver | CU Anschutz Medical Campus were involved in Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM-OPT (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) employment opportunities. Within the past several years, work opportunities have been provided by dozens of Colorado companies and organizations, including CH2M Hill, Classico Design and Marketing, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG LLP, Nasdaq, Oracle America Inc., Precision Construction Estimating, Western Dental and Orthodontics, World Trade Center Denver, Salient Power Engineering LLC, Wells Fargo, and more.
Ali’s depth of knowledge and professional skills will continue to increase rapidly. He landed a job as a full-time Integrations Developer for the CU System, due to his internship performance and his eligibility for the United States’ Optional Practical Training program. OPT provides up to one year of temporary work authorization for international graduates who are in F-1 visa status for employment that is related to their major area of study.
Ali appreciates that the CU System offered to hire him for OPT, and he is focused on providing excellent service. He would like to gain further professional experience for up to another two years by applying for a STEM-OPT extension.
“When I was selecting a school in the United States, I personally had four criteria,” said Ali. “Those were: diversity, academic programs geared to careers, the on-campus and local job market, as well as beautiful views and location.”
The University of Colorado Denver fulfilled all four standards. The institution also offers 55 STEM-OPT eligible degree programs.
As a student, Ali took full advantage of the multitude of opportunities provided by CU Denver, including Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Through CPT options, eligible students in F-1 visa status can access alternative work/study, internship, practicum, or cooperative education offered by sponsoring employers, in agreement with the university.
With the CPT program, Ali took on three part-time jobs on campus at different times: as a Teaching Assistant for the Department of Electrical Engineering; as a Transportation Coordinator for the Auraria Higher Education Center, and as a Student Assistant for the Office of International Affairs. He interned as a Dev Ops/Data Scientist at CenturyLink, a telecommunications company that became the largest ultra-flow-loss fiber network in North America in the summer of 2019.
Ali observed that many of the larger public universities in other U.S. cities don’t have access to such an active job market, and international students may have to travel out of state for summer work. “With CPT through the University of Colorado Denver, you can continue to work throughout the year.”
He also noted that in his academic program, he was able to earn credits from both the CU Denver Business School and the College of Engineering, Design, and Computing, adding those course credits to his degree. “That allows me to also do a job that is also more managerial.”
Throughout his educational and employment journeys, he was helped by the welcoming team in International Student and Scholar Services.
“Faraz looked for opportunities while he was at CU Denver; he asked very good questions,” observed Anna Inazu, ISSS International Services Specialist. “Additionally, in his role in the Office of International Affairs, he was always quite willing to help other international students.”
When looking further down the road, Ali’s vision for the future is to be a Data Architect for one of the top global companies, or to possibly start his own AI company. He highly recommends CU Denver to other international students who are considering an education in the U.S., “if you want to learn the skills that actually matter.”
“All of the skills that I learned at CU Denver apply directly to my current job,” said Ali. “Denver is quickly becoming a hub for IT in the U.S., and there are many OPT, STEM-OPT, and other types of job opportunities.”
Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) OPT provide significant short-term workforce advantages for international students as well as for business owners.
International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS), University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, plays a vital role in advising international students on employment-related rules and regulations, authorizing employment for students in F and J status, and providing resources to help students take advantage of the excellent employment opportunities that the Denver metropolitan area and beyond provide.
ISSS has created an informative video, Hiring International Graduates: Immigration Options, to provide employers with steps and to answer questions about hiring international graduates, including information regarding U.S. employment-based immigration. In this video, a panel of experienced immigration attorneys from Ogletree Deakins, Caplan and Earnest, and Stern and Curray, moderated by Michelle Larson-Krieg, Director of International Student and Scholar Services, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, walk potential employers through the following immigration concepts:
- Why Hire International Graduates?
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- STEM-OPT Extensions
- H1-B Basics
- Changes in the H1-B Process
- Setting the Stage for Successful Employment-Based Permanent Residency