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As an international student studying in the United States, you’ll be presented with many opportunities to learn new skills inside and outside the classroom. 

On top of learning how to get a student visa, there’s a good chance that you’ll also need to seek ways to earn some extra money to support yourself while you study. 

But what is CPT specifically, and how does it help an international student gain educational advancement in college? In this guide, we’ll explain CPT in more detail, how it can benefit you, and how to apply. 

What Is CPT?

Curricular practical training, or CPT, refers to off-campus employment that provides training in a field that’s directly related to your area of study.1  

That said, there are a few stipulations that a position must meet to qualify as CPT. Those criteria may include:2 

  • The academic program is listed in your institution’s official course catalog 
  • The training takes place in tandem with your education
  • The training is authorized by your Designated School Officer (DSO)

CPT programs may be an internship, alternative work-study international programs, cooperative education programs, or another kind of practicum offered within your program of study. Usually, an employing organization facilitates them in agreement with your sponsoring institution. The employer must provide your institution with a signed document known as a “cooperative agreement.” 

What Are the Requirements to Enter a CPT Program?

If you’re interested in pursuing a CPT opportunity while you study, you should be aware of the various potential requirements of the academic program. This is because CPT constitutes employment, and if you’re studying under an F-1 visa, it carries a number of employment conditions.

The requirements of a CPT program may be as follows:3  

  • You must obtain the employment offer before you seek CPT authorization
  • Your DSO must authorize the position before you officially begin training
  • Authorization is valid for a single employer for a specified length of time

Additionally, students may hold more than one CPT employment at a time, provided you obtain separate authorizations for each position. 

Remember that students holding full-time CPT employment for one year or longer may not be eligible to participate in an optional practical training or OPT program in the future.

How Do I Apply for a CPT Authorization? 

To apply for curricular practical training, you must first coordinate with an advisor at your college or university.4 They’ll be able to provide you with information on the MBA program your school offers, eligible employers, and any requirements that may be specific to your institution, such as any courses you’ll need to complete as prerequisites.

Once you’ve met with an advisor, you’ll want to contact authorized employers and apply for a position. When you receive a job offer, your employer will typically be asked to provide an official offer letter as proof.

When you’ve secured a position, you’ll apply to the CPT program through your sponsoring institution. To do so, provide the official offer letter from your employer and any other documentation your school requires. 

Once you’ve been approved, most often, you’ll receive a notice from your institution that details the specifics of your CPT course or program. This document typically specifies factors like:

  • The date that the program begins
  • The date that the program ends

What Are the Benefits of a CPT Program? 

Curricular practical training programs pose many unique benefits to an international student. Primarily, they can help augment your classroom learning with real-world experience.5

In other words, they give you a chance to apply the knowledge you’ll glean in your classes to a paid position related to your studies.

The other benefits of a CPT course or program can include:

  • The chance to earn money while you study
  • The opportunity to gain work experience in your chosen field 
  • The opportunity to make connections with professionals in your field
  • The opportunity to strengthen your English language skills in a professional setting 

Prepare For Your Future at Alliant International University 

If you’re considering starting or continuing your education at a university in the United States, speak to a representative from the office of international admissions here at Alliant International University. 

At Alliant, you’ll be exposed to exciting courses of study that prepare you to seek a career in your chosen field. Plus, many of the courses at Alliant International University offer CPT programs so that you can start using the skills you learn right away.

For more information on the eligibility requirements to participate in our CPT programs at Alliant, or more information on programs offered or how to apply, visit our detail page or speak to your Designated School Official at your school or within your F-1 visa program. 


  1. "F-1 Curricular Practical Training.” Department of Homeland Security.…. Access May 17, 2023.
  2. “F-1 Curricular Practical Training.” Department of Homeland Security.…. Access May 17, 2023.
  3.   “F-1 Curricular Practical Training.” Department of Homeland Security.…. Access May 17, 2023.
  4. “Steps to Apply for CPT.” International Student.…. Accessed May 17, 2023.
  5. “Practical Training.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Accessed May 17, 2023.

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