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Work in the USA

career planning
work visa usa
advice for students
By Deshan Mendis
Published on December 22, 2021

Pursuing jobs in America offers unique career opportunities. When you apply for jobs in the USA for foreigners, you can learn valuable skills that can help you grow as a professional.

A female international student sits at a table and writes in a notebook with a bookshelf in the background.

For international students, pursuing work in the US is a key part of the study abroad experience: In 2019, international students contributed $41 billion to the US economy and supported more than 450,000 jobs! This guide helps you understand what you need to know to work in the US and build your future career, including what it is like working in the US, the best industries to work in, and the do’s and don'ts of applying for jobs, work contracts, visas, and submitting US taxes.

Working in the US 

As an international student, you have many opportunities to work in a field that interests you and gain practical experience. You can work while studying or after completing your program, depending on your course load and your schedule (e.g., availability to work). Based on what is right for you, you can choose to apply for full-time, part-time, or internship roles. 

The US workforce is diverse. Finding work in the US means you will experience:

  • Cultural exposure — Working in the US allows you to learn about the country’s professional culture and helps you develop valuable skills and knowledge. You can learn how to work in multicultural teams and understand different cultural perspectives.

  • Networking opportunities — Start building your professional network by connecting with industry professionals. These experts can offer personal advice about building your skills and can even connect you with job opportunities in the future!

  • Added value to your portfolio — The skills and experiences you will have through working in the US will help you stand out to employers as your skill set becomes more specialized and unique.

The US working environment is diverse and competitive, but it also encourages persistence and innovation with opportunities that help you pursue your personal ambitions in any industry.

Best Industries to Work in, in the US

With so many unique industries in the country, it can be challenging to choose just one. To help you decide, think about your personal strengths and interests. Ask yourself questions such as ‘Do I enjoy speaking with others?’, ‘Am I good at management?’, or similar. Understanding where your strengths and interests lie can help you narrow down an industry that suits these specific areas. 

What if you are not sure about which industries are right for your career? Do not worry! Let us take a look at a few popular industries to work in the US, including growth prospects and how many jobs are in the US that are related to these specialized areas. 

The Service Industry

The service industry involves jobs which provide a ‘service’ to consumers. This includes jobs such as retail, hospitality, education, and more. Sectors within this industry include:

  • Communication

  • Design

  • Education

  • Finance

  • Hospitality

  • Media entertainment

  • Public services

  • Sales and marketing

In 2021, the service industry contributed two-thirds of all US economic activity — making it one of the largest sectors of the economy. Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more than 10.1 million job openings in this sector coming out of the pandemic. This proves that even when the US economy experiences difficulties, the service sector remains one of the most impactful industries in the nation.

Jobs in the US service industry are always evolving, especially as the world recovers from the pandemic, and companies require innovative and creative skills to meet the needs of modern customers.    

A service sector professional can work well into their 60s. Work is enjoyable and challenging, and often comes with a fulfilling work-life balance. Take a look at some service sector occupations and salaries to get a better understanding:

Customer relationship manager

Average Salary ($USD)

$99,733

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Event planner

Average Salary ($USD)

$59,503

Expected Qualification

High school diploma/Bachelor’s degree

Hotel manager

Average Salary ($USD)

$165,585

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Personal finance advisor

Average Salary ($USD)

$80,975

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Public relations specialist

Average Salary ($USD)

$68,992

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Source: SalaryExpert

Service industry jobs in America are a good way for new graduates to gain entry-level roles, begin climbing the career ladder, and achieve their professional targets.

The Tech Industry

One of the most dynamic and globally influential industries is the tech industry. It has a 10.5% direct impact on US economic value — which translates to more than $2 trillion!

After navigating the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020, companies are beginning to once again dive into emerging technologies and/or fast-track digital transformation projects. Tech budgets are expected to increase in 2022, leading to expanded opportunities for tech professionals. 

The technology field is large and has many avenues to branch into, including AI development, programming, gaming, and more. Here is a look at the best jobs in the technology industry and their estimated growth rates.

Computer network architect

Average Salary ($USD)

$112,690

Expected Job Growth by 2029

9.7%

Computer system analyst

Average Salary ($USD)

$90,920

Expected Job Growth by 2029

7.4%

Data scientist

Average Salary ($USD)

$94,280

Expected Job Growth by 2029

30.9%

Information security analyst

Average Salary ($USD)

$99,730

Expected Job Growth by 2029

31.2%

IT manager

Average Salary ($USD)

$146,360

Expected Job Growth by 2029

10.4%

Software developer

Average Salary ($USD)

$107,510

Expected Job Growth by 2029

21.5%

Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2021 

Research and Development 

The US research and development industry grew by 8.5% in 2019, as companies increasingly invest more on extensive research. Similarly, R&D-related occupations have grown over the last few years by 5.1%, a faster pace than all occupations, and are expected to continue growing.

Jobs in research and development focus on exploring numerous scientific discoveries, new technologies, and inventive applications of cutting-edge knowledge that are essential for a wide variety of businesses across many industries.

Included in the table below are the most popular research and development job roles that may help you make a decision on your potential career.

Agricultural and food science technicians

Average Salary ($USD)

$41,970

Expected Job Growth by 2029

4%

Computer information and research scientists

Average Salary ($USD)

$126,830

Expected Job Growth by 2029

15%

Forensic science technician

Average Salary ($USD)

$60,590

Expected Job Growth by 2029

14%

Medical scientist

Average Salary ($USD)

$91,510

Expected Job Growth by 2029

6%

Operations research analyst

Average Salary ($USD)

$86,200

Expected Job Growth by 2029

25%

Sociologist

Average Salary ($USD)

$86,110

Expected Job Growth by 2029

4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Medical Industry

The medical industry is one of the largest and most important industries in the US. National health care expenditures reached $3.8 trillion in 2019 and are expected to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the health care industry to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028. This means that as a professional in this field, you may have an easier time finding a job.

Medical industry professionals have many of the top jobs in America, with purposeful work that can expand into many areas. Here are some medical industry jobs to consider.

Anesthesiologist

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Dentist

Average Salary ($USD)

$155,600

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Nurse practitioner

Average Salary ($USD)

$109,820

Expected Qualification

Master’s degree

Orthodontist

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Physician

Average Salary ($USD)

$206,500

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Physician Assistant

Average Salary ($USD)

$112,260

Expected Qualification

Master’s degree

Speech language pathologist

Average Salary ($USD)

$79,120

Expected Qualification

Master’s degree

Veterinarian

Average Salary ($USD)

$95,460

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2021

Now that you have an understanding of the prospects offered across several industries, it is time to start narrowing down your potential career choices. 

To begin, Shorelight universities offer many options to study in a field of your liking. Expert advisors can guide you through courses that best suit your career objective and potential career pathways for you.

When choosing to work in the US, consider your unique qualifications and evaluate job satisfaction and long-term career growth as well. Consider careers that will always be a critical segment of the economy and in high demand. Compare these aspects with your interests and career goals to see what may be right for you. Look at:

  • Technical skills and qualified areas — Are your current qualifications and soft skills sufficient for your chosen role?

  • Overall career goals — Will your job be relevant and add value to your career action plan?

  • Work timeline — Do you have the hours available to fulfill your work responsibilities?

  • Other complimentary industries — Are you looking to specialize entirely in this field or consider other roles?

Having a good knowledge about your industry allows you to anticipate long-term career goals for growth, lifelong learning, and satisfactory pay.

Best Paid Jobs in the US 

Studying and living in the US can be expensive depending on the state, so it is important that your job can help you meet your daily expenses, wherever you hope to work in the US.

There are many factors that determine your pay:

  • Skills required on the job

  • Challenging nature of work

  • Risks associated in the field

  • Region where you work

Taking all these factors into consideration, here are some of the best paid jobs in America:

Anesthesiologist

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

IT manager

Average Salary ($USD)

$146,360

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Marketing manager

Average Salary ($USD)

$136,850

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Obstetrician and gynecologist

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Orthodontist

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Petroleum engineer

Average Salary ($USD)

$137,720

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Pilot

Average Salary ($USD)

$121,430

Expected Qualification

Bachelor’s degree

Surgeon

Average Salary ($USD)

$208,000

Expected Qualification

Doctorate

Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2021

However, keep in mind that salary is not the only motivator to work in the US. It is also important to enjoy what you do! Always consider jobs or industries that you feel passionate about or roles that align closely with your personal and professional goals for the future. 

If you need support in finding the right types of jobs to apply for, a Shorelight advisor can help. They can assist in creating your personalized career development program and guide you through the process of beginning your career – or taking it to the next level.

Applying for a Job in the US

The first step when applying for a job in the US is to look in the right places. There are many resources available; you can initially start by looking into locally posted notices to your university or college’s own job boards, or speak to a professor who can refer you to a role related to your major

Recruitment websites such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, Indeed, and Monster are good places for job-hunting, too! You can easily search for jobs by applying filters set for exactly the job type you are looking for, what is required to apply for the role, and when you can start working.

For international students, landing an internship or a job can be one of the biggest benefits of studying in the USA, as it allows you to develop key skills and knowledge that employers seek out. The application and interview processes may seem a little overwhelming, so here are a few tips to keep in mind when you begin:

Do’s

Have clarity when applying

There are plenty of jobs in the USA for foreigners, but identify your best fit options. This will help focus your efforts.

Research

Have a clear understanding of the qualifications and skills required in your chosen role. Is your skillset a good match? If not, how can you improve your qualifications? (For example, some executive business roles require you to get an MBA from the US to land the job.)

Prepare a resume

This is probably the most important tool when it comes to applying for jobs in America. A resume displays your abilities to your prospective employer by highlighting your experience, education, and skills. 

On average, employers look at your resume for only six to eight seconds! So, a key resume tip is to always present data in an organized and interesting format to draw the reader's attention.

Provide a cover letter

While sometimes optional, a cover letter is your chance to capture the attention of the hiring manager and tell your story with added color and detail. 

Having a clear format is vital! Most computer word processing programs — from Microsoft Word to Google Docs — have templates to make this easy. (Check out our additional cover letter tips to put your best application forward.)

Be yourself at the interview

An interview lets your hiring manager and potential colleagues get to know you — your personality, attitude, and work ethic. So prepare well, be calm, and be confident.

Don'ts

Don't follow up too often

Following up shows that you are proactive and interested in your job. However, give the company time to get back to you and make decisions. Remember, they typically have several candidates to review and consider.

Avoid resume and cover letter errors

Make sure there are no spelling, punctuation, grammar, or formatting errors in your application materials, as they represent your attention to detail. 

Don’t apply anywhere and everywhere

Follow the company-provided guidelines when submitting your application. Ensure you use the preferred submission method (e.g., email, LinkedIn, etc.).

Avoid making the same mistakes

Applying for jobs in America may not be a streamlined process. The best way to learn is through your mistakes. Feedback can help you identify areas of improvement, make adjustments as needed, and try again! Remember, you're not alone. Shorelight advisors are here to help with career development guidance and counseling.

Work Contracts 

You have been accepted for the job you applied for – congratulations! Once you are informed of your job offer, there are a few steps to follow. Your employer will share an employment contract with you. This is an important document that covers the working relationship between you and your employer. It provides clarity and protects each party for a stable business relationship.

Before you sign, review its contents carefully. The contract will cover information about your job such as:

  • Tasks and responsibilities

  • Duration of employment

  • Hours of work

  • Confidentiality

  • Workplace regulations and policies

  • Proposed salary

Once you have carefully understood and accepted the clauses, you and your employer will sign it. You will be given a copy of the contract for your records. Note that if you get an offer after applying for an internship, you may not have an employment contract.

Visas 

In order to work in the US, international students need to obtain the right visa. This defines how many hours you can spend working and when you can start. There are three visas you can apply for:

1. F-1 student visa

Most international students opt for a F-1 visa. It is required for international students to study at an accredited US educational institution. To obtain a F-1 visa, you need an acceptance letter from your university or college.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) allows international students with a F-1 visa to work either in training or internship programs directly related to their major. CPT makes you eligible to work for 20 hours or more per week. Note that if you work full time for 12 months with CPT, you will not be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT makes F-1 visa international students eligible to work only after graduation.

2. J-1 student visa

A J-1 student visa is required if you want to work or study based on exchange visitor programs, designated by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

J-1 students cannot apply for OPT, but they are able to apply for Academic Training (AT) in a field related to their program for up to 18 months after graduating. 

3. M-1 student visa

The M-1 student visa is required for international students who want to travel to the US for non-academic purposes or vocational studies.

A M-1 student who wishes to work may only work in practical training positions after they have completed their studies. However, M-1 students may work on or off campus in certain positions, as long as they are authorized positions. 

Identifying and applying for the right visa may be a challenging task to do on your own. Speak to a Shorelight counselor; they are here to support and provide visa assistance services to those who may find it a little challenging.

US Taxes 

International students working in the US are required to file tax returns. The first step is for all international students to complete Form 8843, which lets the IRS know how long you have been in the US. 

Your tax obligations will be based on your visa type (F-1, J-1, or M-1). International students who wish to work in the US with a F-1 visa are not required to pay employment taxes. However, they are required to pay federal and state taxes. On the other hand, J-1 visa holders are required to pay income taxes, similar to US citizens!

M-1 visa holders are not required to file taxes as they are not allowed to work, unless they are being paid for their practical training.

All this may sound difficult at first, but by speaking with Shorelight career advisors you can easily work your way through all the regulations.

Studying in the US is not limited to classrooms and books. You can make new friends and professional contacts, learn about different cultures, explore various industries, connect with top employers, and more. With Shorelight you can confidently begin your adventure in the US and get ready for a rewarding career. 

Learn more about how Shorelight can support you in achieving your goals >