Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Off-Campus Employment

F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

An F-1 student studying at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary may qualify for Optional Practical Training, commonly called OPT, which allows the student to engage in temporary employment to gain practical experience in their field of study. Here at UT most students apply for OPT during or just after the final semester of their academic program.

Applying for OPT: Academic Advisor Role

While the student works primarily with CGE directly to apply for OPT authorization, CGE must confirm important information about the student’s academic program from the academic advisor. The most important information provided by the academic advisor is the expected date or academic term of program completion. To verify this information, an email will be automatically sent to the academic advisor when the student requests an OPT I-20 from the Center for Global Engagement. This email will contain a link to the Academic Advisor OPT E-form. The student’s OPT application cannot be processed until the academic advisor fills out this E-form.

I-20 Program End Date

When a student applies for OPT, their I-20 program end date may be shortened. The I-20 end date must normally be changed to the student’s graduation date, or in some cases another date such as thesis defense date, but this date must always occur before the student’s start of employment under OPT.

GA/GRA/GTA Employment End Dates

The student’s on-campus employment, such as a graduate assistant or associate/graduate research assistant or associate/graduate teaching assistant or associate position, must end on or before the student’s I-20 program end date. Therefore, if the student’s I-20 program end date is changed, the student’s employment end date on campus must also change. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the employing department of this change. CGE informs and reminds the students multiple times in multiple ways (OPT seminar in Canvas, emails, on paper, and in person if possible). CGE encourages departments to track I-20 program and employment end dates and to communicate regularly with their GAs. It is especially important to be aware of these dates as students near completion of their academic programs or if an academic advisor is asked to fill out the Academic Advisor OPT E-form.


F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is designed to accommodate an academic function in a degree program that calls for an internship or practicum that must be completed outside the institution.

CPT Background

CPT was developed in response to the growth of internships and practicums as required academic components of degree programs. CPT regulations state that a student may participate in a CPT program that is an integral part of an established curriculum and directly related to the student’s major area of study.

CPT is not:

  • An easy, convenient way to get approved to work off campus
  • OPT without the hassle
  • Unlimited

CPT Four Qualifying Categories

  1. Degree Requirement: The practical experience is required of all students in the degree program and the major field of study. If a particular major or curricular track requires CPT, the student may qualify.
  2. Regular Course Requirement: The work experience is part of the regular requirement for a course in which a student will be receiving credit. The internship or off-campus component of the course requirement must be stated in the UT catalog. Independent study courses DO NOT normally qualify.
  3. Engineering Professional Practice Co-op Assignment: The work experience is part of a placement made through the Engineering Professional Practice Office into one of their established internship programs. Undergraduate students are eligible for CPT through this program. Graduate Students are NOT Eligible for CPT based on COOP participation in the internship program OR based on registration in COOP 010. Note: there is no curricular tie between registration in COOP 010 and a Master’s or PhD program in Engineering.
  4. Thesis/Dissertation Requirement: The work experience is required for completion of the thesis/dissertation, not just related to it. The student’s committee will not allow them to pass without the work experience. Note: If the experience qualifies through another CPT category (class or degree requirement), the student must apply for CPT based on the other category.

In a process similar to that for OPT, an academic advisor must provide important information to CGE before a student’s CPT request can be approved. Academic advisors can expect to receive an automated email when the student submits a CPT request.

Multiple CPT Periods

  • A second CPT period may be approved, as long as it is integral to the student’s program. However, the student’s advisor must submit the “Multiple Requests Addendum form”
  • A third CPT requires exceptional circumstances. It must be more than a helpful experience. It should be critical to completion of the academic program with no reasonable alternatives. When considering a third CPT, a student should ask this question: “Will I still be able to graduate if I am not approved for this CPT?
  • More than 2 CPTs have impacted the application process for H-1B or employer-sponsored permanent residency.

J-1 Academic Training

A J-1 program sponsor may give a J-1 student permission to accept employment related to their field of study. This employment, called Academic Training, can take place anywhere in the US and can be either before and/or after the student finishes their studies. However, the total time spent doing Academic Training may not be longer than 18 months and may not last longer than the time the student spent taking classes.  The student must have a job offer before getting permission for Academic Training. The training is then authorized for that specific job. If a student wishes to change to a different job, they must again apply to their sponsor for permission.

J-1 Academic Training Authorization Procedures

Required Documents:

  1. Academic Training Request Form
  2. Advisor’s Recommendation Form
  3. Employer Letter
  4. Financial Documentation
  5. Copy of Current DS-2019

Please note: Students expecting to do Academic Training at the end of their program must complete all application paperwork before their DS-2019 expires. For more information about Academic Training, please contact us at international@utk.edu.