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Guide to Part-Time Jobs for International Students in the US

07 Jul, 2023
Guide to Part-Time Jobs for International Students in the US

Whilst a US university education is a fantastic investment, tuition fees and living costs at some of the top US colleges can amount to more than $50,000 per year.

To try and offset some of the costs, many international students work part-time during their studies. Whilst the main incentive may be financial, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are other benefits to working too - not only does it provide useful work experience and related skills for students' resumes, but it can also help expand social networks.

Working part-time as an international student is allowed on the majority of visas, but there are strict rules around what is permitted by the US government.

In this article, we explore some of the common jobs available for international students, how to maximise your chances of getting one, and the government regulations around working.

Table of Contents

Work Permit Regulations for Students on a Visa

Part-Time Jobs for International Students in the US

How to Maximize Your Chances of Getting A Part-Time Student Job


Work Permit Regulations for Students on a Visa

Currently, US immigration laws allow international students to be employed in the country during and after a course of study, however there are restrictions to be aware of.

if you are hoping to work alongside your studies in the United States, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that accompany the immigration laws, and be mindful that regulations change constantly.

F-1 Visa

The F1 visa is for academic students enrolled in US universities (graduate students and undergraduate students), colleges, high schools, language training programs, and other academic institutions.

  • Students with F1 visas are generally allowed to work on the campus of their university for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session and full-time during school break periods (up to 40 hours per week).
  • If you decide that you want to work part-time during your study years, the first thing you need to do is talk with your designated school official (DSO). This is the person at your college or university who is authorized to update and maintain your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
  • As long as you have a valid US student visa and are in good academic standing, it should be a straightforward process, and your DSO may be able to help you search out potential employment opportunities.

There are two main types of jobs a student can take: on-campus and off-campus. Here, we look at the requirements and restrictions for each type.

On-campus employment with a US student visa

  • On-campus employment is defined as work that takes place on campus, or at an off-campus location that is affiliated with the school. That could mean working in a university bookstore, cafeteria or library, for example.
  • In order to apply, talk to your DSO. If you are approved, your DSO will provide you with a letter of approval, which you will need in order to get a Social Security Number (SSN).

Off-campus employment with a US student visa

After completing the first academic year of their studies, F-1 visa students are allowed to apply for three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

The Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a part of the academic curriculum of the international students. Students need a SEVIS authorization for CPT from the Designated School Official (DSO).

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program that allows international students in the US to work temporarily in a job related to their field of study. OPT can be subcategorized as pre-completion OPT and post-completion OPT.

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

Students with a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics can request for a 24-month extension of their post completion OPT.

F-1 students may also be eligible to work off-campus on a case-by-case basis as a result of special situations such as severe economic hardship or special student relief.

J-1 visa

The J-1 visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa or J student visa, is for anyone outside of the US who wishes to take part in study- and work-related exchange programs in America.

J-1 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 exchange student’s sponsor and university.

M-1 visa

The "M" visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies. M-1 visa holders for technical and vocational programs are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.

Whilst they cannot work whilst in full time education, one their their vocational studies have finished, M-1 students can work full time in a practical training role that is related to their vocation.

Jobs for International Students in the US

There are a whole host of part-time jobs available for international students in the US, particularly within the university campus environment. Sometimes, students can even do a couple of different jobs at once. Kings student Sofiia Tomashpolska, from Ukraine, shared her experience of having three different roles, saying:


"I’ve had three on campus jobs so far. One during the year - working at the box office of the Barlow Planetarium, and two during the summer break - biology lab assistant and assistant in the clothing department of the bookstore of the university.

I enjoy having a reason to stay productive either over the weekend or during the break, and also the experience that these jobs give me. Having a part-time job is definitely beneficial for international students to help build connections and expand their network."

Whilst sometimes not being an American citizen or permanent resident can make the job search as an international student trickier, there are employers who are not only willing to hire foreign nationals, but who are actually specifically looking for them. For example, Kings Wisconsin student Aika Akagi, from Japan, was able to get a part-time job as a Japanese tutor on campus, and said:

Aika"I contacted a Japanese professor and he told me the process of how to apply for tutors. As a Japanese tutor, I enjoyed not only reviewing lesson content with students but also practicing daily conversation with them. I was really happy when I could carefully explain something that the student didn't understand.”

Here are some of the jobs frequently undertaken by international students during their time at US university.

Library assistant

Working as a library assistant involves shelving books and helping visitors find books. It can also mean providing administrative support to the librarians, and helping organize library-based events.

Research assistant

Working as a research assistant can be one of the more lucrative forms of part-time employment on campus. What the job entails will depend on the department.

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

Applicants generally need to demonstrate excellent organizational skills to find work as a research study assistant. On top of this, good interpersonal skills and enthusiasm for the research subject are also required.

Campus ambassador/tour guide

Campus ambassadors are charged with promoting the university and showing prospective students why they should apply. They may also be asked to give guided tours of the university campus on open days, sharing their own knowledge and other interesting facts about the university.

Sales assistant

Most university campuses have supermarkets or stores, such as those selling university branded clothing, and many students are employed as sales assistants within them.


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Baristas make hot and cold drinks, serve customers and work as a cashier. While the work is often fast-paced, on-campus cafes can be a great place to work as you are guaranteed to meet a host of new people.

Tutor or peer mentor

Tutoring or peer mentoring is a great job for international students working in the USA. The role involves helping fellow students with their course content, reading or assignments. This job is particularly well-matched to international students, who can often provide a different perspective or way of learning.

Teaching assistant

Teaching assistants are expected to supervise classroom activities and work closely with any students who are struggling. Those with existing experience may be able to work as a higher-level teaching assistant, leading classes on their own and marking students’ work.

Food runner or catering assistant

Many universities have restaurants and other dining facilities on-site and often they recruit students for positions as a front of house assistant or runner.

How to Maximize Your Chances of Getting A Part-Time Student Job

Once you have decided the type of job you want to apply for, and your eligibility to apply, you can start searching for job postings. There are many places to look for jobs, from college job boards and social media platforms, to online employment portals which offer the option of job alerts.

You can also speak with your international office, or career center to see if they can refer you to job opportunities, and for practical advice on how to get a job in the USA. Some of that advice will most likely include the following:

Boost your English skills

For international students, finding a part-time job can be a great way to further improve language ability as well as earn money. To get the job in the first instance though, it's important to have a very good level of English.

Clearly, any international student enrolled on a US degree program will already have advanced English language ability, but certain jobs may require an even wider range of language skills.

Any student wishing to further improve their English prior to starting university in the US always has the option of taking a dedicated language program beforehand.

There are many providers in the US, including Kings, which offers a host of courses in New York, Boston and Los Angeles - from general English, to English Plus Business and Leadership and other specialized English programs. Find out more about Kings English programs.

Build your resume

Often, even entry-level jobs for students can be competitive, especially if they offer particularly flexible hours. For the best chance of success, make sure your resume is as up-to-date and clear as possible, and tailor it as much as possible to every job you apply for. The same applies to your cover letter, which is generally also required as part of the application process.

Of course, if you are an international student, make sure it's all in English too.

Get yourself ready for interviews

Most jobs are likely to have an interview process, so matter what level they are. As an international student it can be doubly as helpful to practice and prepare for interviews.

Always check the specific job description for a list of essential and desirable skills, qualifications and behaviors. Tailor your application so that you show that you meet as much of the criteria as possible and be ready to answer further questions on these in an interview.

You are likely to need to give examples of when you’ve used the required skills in your applications and at interviews. Competency questions are very common, such as ‘Tell me about a time when you worked in a team', for example. It's possible to use examples from either any work experience you've done, extracurricular activities or studies.

It can also be useful to think about which skills have been strengthened by your experience as an international student and may help secure you a job offer: flexibility and adaptability, problem solving and initiative, for example. Your language skills and experience of different cultures can also help you to stand out.

Be open, be available

It's important in any job search to make use of all the available resources, no matter what their form. Take every opportunity to network, or ask about potential job options, as the wider you cast your net the more likely you are to find something. And of course, if you are offered an interview, make sure you can attend and that you can be there on time and for as long as required.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Can I get a job as an international student in the US?

Yes. International students on an F-1 visa are not permitted to work off-campus during the first academic year, but can undertake on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions.
After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
F-1 students may also be eligible to work off-campus on a case-by-case basis as a result of special situations such as severe economic hardship or special student relief.

M-1 students may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies.

For both F-1 and M-1 students any off-campus training employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCI.

Q2. What type of jobs can international students get in the US?

There are various part-time job opportunities available for international students in the USA, depending on the type of visa they hold and how far into their university studies they are. They include:

  • On-campus jobs, such as library assistant or teaching assistant
  • Off-campus jobs, such as retail sales associate or food service worker
  • Internships or co-op programs in their field of study

Q3. What is the minimum wage for international students in the US?

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, but each state sets its own wage laws. So while the minimum wage is as high as $15 per hour in some states, it can be as low as $7.25 in others.

Q4. What jobs are best for international students in the US?

Universities and colleges in the US offer many opportunities for part-time, entry-level international student jobs, where they can gain valuable work experience whilst earning money to help fund their studies. These include roles such as campus ambassador, research study assistant and peer mentor.

Next steps

We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the options for working part-time in the US as an international student.

If you would like to receive more detailed information about Kings and our programs, please get in touch with us at

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