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The basics
THE USA: Career Prospects

How to find a graduate career in the USA

International students know all about hard work and never giving up, which means they are well equipped in finding a graduate career in the USA. We have some top tips to help you.

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After studying and becoming integrated into US culture and the local community, it’s natural and logical that many international students will choose to live in the country after graduating. Finding a graduate career in the USA isn’t always easy due to the complicated visa requirements, but it is possible. We explain it all and have some helpful advice to make sure your dream of studying and working in the US is realised. 


Follow visa rules 


There are several US studnt visas and post-study visas, making it a little complicated. For this article, we will focus on the F1 visa, which allows you to study full-time at an academic institution. When you finish your studies, you will need to apply for a change in visa status within (no later than) 60 days after you graduate.  


You can do this by either applying for a CPT (Curricular Practical Training) which is a full or part-time internship. You must still be attending university to be eligible to apply for this. The other option is an Optical Practical Training (OPT) programme, which allows you to start temporary employment in a field related to the subject you are/have been studying. You can apply for this either during or after your course. An OPT allows you to live and work for up to a maximum of twelve months from the time you apply.  


If, however, your degree is in the field of STEM (Science, technology, engineering or maths) you can apply for an extension to your OPT. This is known as a STEM OPT Extension and allows you to stay for an additional two years.  


A different type of visa is the H-1B, also known as the Person in Specialty Occupation Visa. The H-1B visa allows highly specialised graduates to stay in the USA for three years and this can be extended for up to six years. To qualify for an H-1B visa, you must secure sponsorship from an employer. This is where you can come up against some difficulties.  


How to find a company to sponsor you 


It’s often complicated and expensive for a company to sponsor international students, but don’t let that put you off. Many US companies have graduate training and sponsorship programmes. Some of the companies that do so include:  


  • Cognizant Technology Solutions 

  • Amazon 

  • Google 

  • Microsoft 

  • Facebook 

  • Ernst & Young 

  • Apple 

  • IBM 

  • Accenture  


Websites such as MyVisaJobs and H1Bdata provide information on these companies and the number of people they sponsor. Certain states and cities are known to have higher job opportunities for international graduates. These include California, Chicago, New York and Texas.  


As you can imagine, there’s a great deal of competition for graduate employment places. You must be able to really sell yourself during the application and interview process. More on this later.  


Use your university careers service 


Each college has a careers service, and we strongly recommend that you use their services. Make an appointment with a careers coach or designated school official (DSO) to talk about your options and where to start. They will have experience in helping international students find employment, internships (which will help you apply for a CPT – see above) and how to apply for post-study visas.  




During your time at college, make sure you attend graduate careers fairs. You can find upcoming careers fairs all over the USA on the National Careers Fairs website. These events have many employers under one roof. It’s an opportunity to get information, network and speak to people working in those companies. Introduce yourself, ask questions, make connections, and follow up with an email after the event.  


Another good way is to make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and start making connections in the industry you’re interested in. Look for alumni from your university, possibly those who studied the same major as you. Connect with alumni and then email them to introduce yourself and ask if they are willing to spare a few minutes of their time to talk to you.  


Make sure you communicate the skills and knowledge you have that could benefit the company. Remember that you compete with other graduates, so you must sell yourself clearly and effectively. You need to make them believe they would benefit from speaking to you.   


Resume and cover letter  


To help yourself stand out from other graduates, you need to put together a graduate portfolio. This portfolio would include a resume and cover letter. Your resume should immediately attract the employer’s attention and should be unique for each job you apply for. Read up about the company and the role you are applying for, and highlight your qualifications, achievements, and experience.  


Make sure your resume is short, clear, visually appealing and has no spelling or grammar mistakes. Your cover letter needs to be bespoke (specific) to each company. It’s an opportunity to go into a little more detail about your experience and skills and how these will benefit the company and the position you apply for. Remember that as an international student, you have the extra skills and the experience that others might not have, such as: 


  • resilience 

  • flexibility 

  • ability to work under pressure 

  • ability to work with diverse groups of people 

  • cross-cultural communication skills 

  • language skills 



Top tips for finding graduate employment in the USA 


Here are some final top tips for finding graduate employment in the USA:  


  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Start applying early (ideally three months before you graduate). 

  • Send your resume and cover letter to many companies at the same time. 

  • Send a follow-up email to the company after you send them your resume and cover letter.  

  • Practise, practice, practice for all interviews. 

  • Have a positive mindset. 

  • Don’t let any rejections hold you back from trying again. 

  • Don’t take things personally if you aren’t successful.  

  • Never give up. 


The USA might not be the easiest country to get a post-study visa for and find employment, but the opportunities it offers are well worth the hard work and effort.  


Study in the USA


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