Can an international student do a summer internship?

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20120717_InternMax from Oklahoma City University asked:

I am an international student in my second semester of my graduate study. I want to do a summer internship, but a friend told me that I can’t  because of my status as an international student.  He also told me there are many other things that I need to do before I can apply for an internship.   Can you tell me what I need to do so that I can apply for a internship?

Hi Max –

Getting an internship as an international student in the U.S. certainly can be challenging.  Precisely how challenging depends largely on your visa status, your field of study and your degree requirements and options.

You visa status will determine what you can and cannot do legally.  Your field of study will determine how challenging it will be for you to find an internship in your desired professional field.  You degree requirements and options will determine whether or not an internship for academic credit is an option or, perhaps, a requirement for your degree.

You must look at these three elements together.  So, here is my advice:

First, consult the International Student Office at your University

Oklahoma City University’s International Student Office has a web page dedicated to Employment Information.  It is your responsibility to understand  what you can and cannot do under the terms of your visa.  Every individual situation is unique, so you cannot expect potential employers to have those answers for you.  When an employer asks “As an international student, are you eligible to to an internships?”, you must be ready to answer the question.  Your International Student Office can help.

Next, work with your campus Career Services Office

Did you know that OCU Career Services has resources specifically for international students? Based upon your field of study and your stated career objectives, your career services office can help you understand your internship options, recognize the challenges you will face pursuing an internship in your chose field, and take advantage of the internship search resources available.  Seek the advice of your campus career center.

Finally, talk to your academic advisor about internship options in your degree plan

Does your degree plan require an internship?  If not, does it offer the option to do an internship for academic credit? Your academic advisor will be able to help you identify if and how an internship might fit into your curriculum and/or meet some of your degree requirements.

Good luck!

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