Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of work authorization that allows F-1 international students to participate in paid off-campus academic internships during their degree program. The purpose of CPT is academic, not just for employment purposes, and the internship must be considered an integral part of a student’s degree program.

Eligibility Requirements

Valid F-1 Student Status
  • Must have properly maintained F-1 status each semester
  • Students must have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year in a degree-seeking program before they can apply for CPT. The only exception to this regulation applies to those students who are enrolled in degree programs that require an internship or practicum hours in their first year to fulfill degree requirements and is stated as such in the USC Catalogue. Students in the following master’s degree programs DO NOT need to fulfill the one academic year requirement in order to apply for CPT (list subject to change without prior notice):
    1. Annenberg: Global Communication
    2. Cinematic Arts: Peter Stark Program
    3. Dornsife: Applied Behavior Analysis
    4. Dornsife: Applied Psychology
    5. Keck: Physical Therapy
    6. Price: Urban and Regional Planning
    7. Price: Health Administration
    8. Price: Public Administration
    9. Suzanne Dworak-Peck: Social Work
    10. Viterbi/Keck: Wireless Health Technology
Must have internship offer
  • Students must have a specific job/internship offer
  • Job must be related to student’s major
Internship Course Registration
  • Students must register for 1 – 2 units of an internship course or a class that requires an internship at USC during the semester they wish to do CPT. Students who are enrolled in degree programs that require an internship or practicum hours to fulfill degree requirements (must be stated as such in the USC Catalogue) are exempt from registering in an internship course for CPT purposes. Students in the following master’s degree programs DO NOT need to register for an internship course in order to apply for CPT (list subject to change without prior notice):
    1. Cinematic Arts: Peter Stark Program
    2. Keck: Physical Therapy
    3. Price: Urban and Regional Planning
    4. Price: Health Administration
    5. Price: Public Administration
    6. Ostrow: Advanced Pediatric Dentistry
  • Selecting the appropriate internship course
    • Undergraduate Students:
      • Register for MDA 250, a general internship class through USC Dornsife (unless academic department has a specific internship course)

Please note:

  • USC Language Academy students are not eligible for CPT
  • If the internship is an unpaid or volunteer position, CPT is not required. Students CANNOT accept any kind of compensation for work performed in an unpaid internship. Please check with the employer to ensure labor laws are not being violated with this type of arrangement.

Hours of Employment

  • During Fall and Spring semesters
    • Students may work up to 20 hours per week (part-time)
    • Full-time CPT may be authorized for Ph.D. or master’s students who are registered in only thesis or dissertation units (such as 594/794).
  • During Summer Sessions
    • Students may work up to 40 hours per week (full-time)
    • Students may be registered for internship unit(s) only and still be able to maintain student status. The Reduced Course Load (RCL) request form is not required in this case
  • During Final Semester
    • Students can work full-time with department approval, but they must have part-time enrollment, defined as:
      • Undergraduate: 6 units or less
      • Graduate students: 4 units or less total or one final class. If one final class, the total combined units, including the CPT credit, cannot be more than 5 units (Ex. 4-unit class + 1- unit of ENGR 596)
    • Students can work on-campus as well as on CPT simultaneously, but the combined total number of hours worked cannot exceed 40 hours per week (including graduate assistantship positions) for full-time employment

Duration of Authorization

CPT authorization is given on a semester basis and students must apply separately for each semester they wish to do CPT. CPT is only authorized for the dates of the specific semester. CPT I-20 start dates will be listed either as the requested start date or the approval date, whichever is later. Restrictions on end dates may occur based on start of RA/TA positions. Program extensions will not be granted for the purpose of CPT. Current start and end dates for CPT are below (dates not guaranteed).

Fall 2017 Spring 2018 Summer 2018
If this is your final semester Aug 21 – Dec 13 Jan 8 – May 11 May 16 – Aug 7
If this is NOT your final semester Aug 21 – Jan 7 Jan 8 – May 15 May 16 – Aug 19

CPT and OPT

CPT does not interfere with students’ eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation unless they have done a total of 12 months full-time CPT during their degree program. In this case, they would lose the option to do OPT. Amounts under the 12 months full-time DO NOT cancel any portion of OPT.

CPT Application Process

  1. Student secures a job offer
  2. Student meets with academic advisor with employment offer letter and OIS CPT Request form
    • Graduate engineering students* meet with Viterbi GAPP Advisor instead–located in Olin Hall of Engineering (OHE) 106.
  3. Academic advisor signs OIS CPT Request form and gives clearance (if applicable) for internship course registration
  4. Student registers for internship course during registration period
  5. Student submits completed CPT Request form to OIS for processing
    • Submit RCL form as well if enrolled in less than full time units
  6. Return to OIS in 4 business days to pick up the CPT authorization (CPT I-20)
    • CPT authorization and employment information will be annotated on page 2 of the CPT I-20
    • Review CPT authorization to ensure accuracy
  7. Begin working on CPT
    • Student may not begin working until s/he has received the CPT I-20 from OIS and the employment start date has been reached

*Viterbi  Ph.D. and Master’s level students, please visit the GAPP Office website for specific CPT instructions.

Please note:

  • CPT application deadline is the last/add drop date of each semester, unless student is able to add the internship course with special permission—at the discretion of academic department
  • CPT authorization is employer specific and is valid for the student’s current employer only. If the student changes jobs, s/he will need to apply for a new CPT authorization
  • Students must keep all original copies of CPT I-20s as they will be required for future USCIS applications such as OPT, H1Bs and permanent residency
  • Working improperly or without authorization is a serious violation of F1 status–Contact OIS for questions regarding CPT