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How to Get a Job in the USA as an International Student

career planning
resume
cover letter
By Deshan Mendis
Published on November 16, 2021

Getting a job in the US is a great way to learn valuable skills, gain professional experience, and build your resume. Want to know how you can get started? Read on!

A female international student from Asia sits across from a male career counselor and discusses finding jobs in the USA

Many international students hope to work in the USA someday. When you land a job in the US, you can connect with world-renowned employers and gain first-hand experience that translates to good jobs all over the world. In the US, there are many different types of jobs for students from all disciplines, and pursuing jobs in America can be a great way to start your career.

The US is a multicultural country with a wide variety of industries with jobs to choose from. When you work while you study, you can collaborate with diverse teams and learn how to be a professional. 

With this guide, you can learn more about how to get a job in the USA, organizations you can consider, how to apply for jobs in America, and more.

Requirements for Working in the US as an International Student

When considering how to get a job in the USA, keep in mind that the type of student visa you have will determine your requirements and eligibility for working in the US. 

Students with an F-1 visa can only work for a maximum of 20 hours per week on campus while their academic term is in session. This restriction is usually lifted during semester breaks if you are not studying (for example, if you stay in the US during summer, but are not enrolled in summer classes). After completing one year of academic study, F-1 students can work off campus.

With a J-1 visa, students can only work on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Full-time work is permitted during academic breaks and any off-campus work must be authorized by the student’s sponsor and university. 

Following these requirements is important to maintain your visa status as an international student and continue your studies in the US. Once you understand the working requirements of your student visa, you can begin searching for organizations to apply for jobs.

Where Are the Best Places to Find Work for International Students?

When considering how to get a job in America, the best places to find work will depend on personal circumstances such as the program you are studying, your academic course load, where you live, how much professional experience you have, and your future plans. 

If your academic degree program is preparing you to work in a specific career, consider looking for internships in industries related to your discipline. This will allow you to build experience and skills related to the area where you want to work. 

To begin searching for the ideal places to work, it is important to understand the three main types of jobs in the US:

  • Full time—Jobs that usually require 30 hours of work per week or more, with specific qualifications relevant to the title/role and high levels of responsibility.

  • Part time—Jobs that require up to 20 hours of work per week and often have fewer tasks and responsibilities compared to full-time jobs.

  • Internships—Temporary roles that are designed to be training opportunities for applicants with very little or no work experience. Internships can be either paid or unpaid and are often required to graduate from many university and college programs.

As full-time jobs require a considerable amount of hours per week, international students usually cannot work in these types of jobs while their academic session is in progress. While full-time work during semester breaks is permitted, it can be challenging to find opportunities that provide full-time work for the limited duration of your break period. 

Part-time jobs are popular with students, as they provide opportunities for real-world work experience and can be a supporting source of income during study. As many part-time jobs have varying responsibilities and fewer hours of work, it can be easier to apply to these jobs if you do not have a lot of professional experience. 

Internships are specially designed for students to learn and grow when starting their careers. As most internships do not require previous experience and are intended to be training positions, it is much easier to land an internship compared to securing a full-time or part-time job. 

After graduating, you can also apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to work or train in the US for 12 months. Take a look at our guide if you want to know more about CPT vs OPT

How to Apply for a Job in the USA

Once you have decided the type of job you want to apply for, you can start searching for job postings. There are many places to look for jobs, from locally posted notices to your university or college’s own job boards. You can also speak with your professors to see if they can refer you to job opportunities and offer advice on how to get a job in the USA. 

Another easy source to find jobs in America are recruitment websites, where companies all around the country post openings for jobs. You can also set specific filters and conditions to narrow your search results to find opportunities closest to your requirements. 

Examples of these websites include:

  • Careerbuilder

  • Glassdoor

  • Indeed

  • LinkedIn

  • Monster

When browsing for jobs, take your time researching each opening that you want to consider and carefully read through the organization’s requirements, including the role’s responsibilities and qualifications, as well as hours of work. 

If you need support in learning how to get a job in the USA, a Shorelight advisor is always available to help. Your advisor can help you find campus jobs for international students and provide you with exclusive services, including career development support, career counseling for international students, career plan advice, visa assistance, and much more. 

Before you start applying, it can be helpful to prepare important documents that most employers will likely request. Having these documents ready before you start your search allows you to apply to job postings immediately and get ahead of other applicants.

Job Application Procedure in the USA

After you have found opportunities you want to apply for and have verified that you meet the requirements, it is time to start preparing your job application.

Applying for work in the USA can be different from what you are used to in your home country, especially if you have not applied for a job before. To apply for jobs in America, you are required to submit your resume to a hiring manager, and some also ask for a cover letter. Most recruitment notices will provide an email or mailing address to submit your application documents. 

Some organizations may require you to apply through their own website or recruitment application, which typically requires you to make an account where you can attach the necessary documents for your application.

Resume and Cover Letters

A resume is a one-page document with an overview of your academic and professional qualifications and experiences. It is similar to a curriculum vitae (CV) but since it is shorter, it requires you to be more precise with the information you include. Your resume should highlight your strengths and give your employer an understanding of your qualifications. 

A cover letter is a written statement required by some employers and usually highlights how your experience and knowledge is a good match for the job you are applying for. Each cover letter should be different and specific to the job you hope to get, as it is a chance for you to connect your personal achievements and knowledge with the requirements of the role. Your cover letter should help you stand out from other applicants and highlight how you are a good fit for the job.

If the employer has reviewed your documents and identified you as a potential candidate for hiring, you will be called in for a job interview.

Job Interview

You will be interviewed by a hiring manager and any relevant team leads who may want to sit in on the interview. The purpose of the interview is to allow the employer to learn more about you in person, in addition to the information on your application. An interview helps your potential employer determine your personality and behavior in professional settings, and gives them a better sense of whether you are suitable for the role.

During your interview, you will be asked multiple questions about the qualifications and experience listed in your resume and cover letter, and the hiring manager may ask you for examples of your previous achievements or activities. For certain jobs with many responsibilities or advanced requirements, you may be called in for multiple interviews as the employer narrows down their lists of candidates. 

After you have completed your interview, remember to thank the hiring manager for the opportunity! This is a great way to show respect and courtesy, and can help you appeal more to the hiring manager as a potential hire. If you have passed your interview, congratulations! The hiring manager will notify you and will instruct you on your next steps to accept the job.

Accepting a Job

Once you accept a job offer, you are on your way to becoming an employee of an organization and will soon work in the USA! Upon responding to the hiring manager confirming that you accept their offer, they will send you an employment contract to sign. This is a very important document that you should carefully read through and understand completely before signing. 

Work Contracts

A work contract is a legally binding document between you and your employer which makes you an employee at their organization. Your work contract states the tasks and responsibilities of your job, hours of work, who you report to, workplace rules, and your proposed salary. The contract also highlights your employer’s responsibilities, including their policy on leave, and employee benefits.

As contracts are an agreement between both parties, they are an important part of how to get a job in America and must be signed by both you and your employer. (Some internships may not have a written contract, but you are still subject to company policies and procedures.) After both parties have signed the contract, you will be given a digital or physical copy which you should keep in a safe place.

Salary in the USA

A salary is the payment (also known as compensation) you receive for working and is listed in your contract after negotiation with your employer. Your pay is also determined by your experience and qualifications, along with the types of tasks and responsibilities your job involves. Other aspects of your new role, such as travel costs or the necessity for late-night and holiday work, can also affect your salary.

While some countries determine pay with a fixed lump sum per time period, most organizations in the US calculate salary based on the number of hours worked. Though there is a federal (nationwide) hourly minimum wage of USD $7.25, each US state has its own minimum wage for employees. Most full-time jobs pay employees twice a month (or at minimum once a month), while part-time jobs and internships can have weekly paydays. 

When considering how to get a job in the USA, remember that there are other benefits in addition to your salary. Some organizations may pay less than their competitors, but will offer special training opportunities, career pathways, or a higher amount of vacation days. 

Vacation Days and Sick Time

Vacation days — also known as leave — are the days you can request to take off work for any reason (for example, travel, having to study for an exam, or attending a workshop). Your vacation days are usually separated into paid vacation days and unpaid vacation days.

For paid vacation days, you will be able to take the day off while still being paid your normal salary for your usual hours of work. With unpaid vacation days, you can take the day off but will not receive your pay for the hours you miss. Depending on your employer, you may also have additional types of leave, such as study leave.

Sick time (or sick leave) are the days you can request to take off work to recover from an illness or injury. When you apply for sick time, some organizations may require you to present a doctor’s note. In some cases, organizations may not have designated sick leave, and may require you to take vacation days instead. 

Each state has different laws regulating the number of minimum vacation days and sick leave employees are entitled to, and your time off will depend on the type of job and your role. Similarly, every organization has its own policies and allocation for vacation days and sick time. This is an important factor to research when choosing your job, as it impacts your work-life-study balance. 

Jobs in America provide you with the opportunity to learn from top organizations while building your career portfolio, and Shorelight can help you get started. With your advisor, you can find the ideal job that suits your study plan and career goals while allowing you to pursue a degree that helps you stand out to employers anywhere in the world.

Reach out to a Shorelight advisor today >