Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top U.S. Jobs for International Graduates are in STEM

Admit Data: Making Informed Admissions Decisions
By Xiao Lu

What you decide to major in university can help define your future life and career. It may also correlate with what kind of career experience and salary you can expect after graduation. So, when deciding your major, think about your passions, interests, values, and career options. If you plan to pursue a career in the U.S. after graduation, you will need to understand the type of work eligibility you will need.

In our previous blog on Understanding Visas to Study and Work in the U.S., we talked about various work opportunities international students have while enrolled in universities. In this blog post, we share some data on what kind of jobs are more likely to be sponsored and offer higher salary.

Read more Admit Data posts that may interest you:


What jobs get the most H-1B visas?

The infographic below shows data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the Characteristics of H1-B Specialty Occupation Workers in 2012. H-1B is the visa category that allows non-immigrants to temporarily work in the U.S. We can see that three out of the five occupations that get the most sponsorship are STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). In 2012, H-1B sponsorship in computer-related occupations (60%) was more than half the total. Other top sponsorships were in employment related to engineering (10%), administration (7%), education (7%), and medicine and health (5%). Computer science, engineering, and medicine and health alone make up 75% of overall H1-B sponsorships.

So why are graduates with STEM degrees more popular among U.S. employers than those who majored in other fields? This might be due to the “STEM crisis” in the U.S. domestic labor market as American students are becoming less competitive in science and math. To fill the gap of qualified STEM workers, U.S. companies have begun hiring foreign talent under the H-1B visa. This is good news for international students majoring in STEM and interested in pursuing a job in the U.S.

Who has the highest paying jobs?

We see that non-immigrant physicians and surgeons have the highest average salary of $141,000 when compared to other occupations. Managers and officials are ranked second, averaging $112,000. In third place are technical professionals averaging $94,000, followed by those in electrical/electronic engineering occupations averaging $90,000. This comparison suggests that non-immigrants in STEM-related professions on average earn more than others.

If you plan to major in a STEM field and plan to work in the U.S. after graduation, the U.S. government has recently made this career track more favorable for international students. USCIS allows F-1 visa students who earn a STEM degree in the U.S. to apply for a 17-month extension after completing their initial 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). In total, international STEM students have 29 months to work in a relevant job in the U.S. after graduation. This also means that STEM graduates have at least two years to file their work visa sponsorship. If STEM graduates fail to get sponsorship from an employer during their first year of OPT, they have a second chance to search for an employer and apply for visa sponsorship the following year, as long as they remain on OPT. In summary, graduates with STEM degrees are strong players in H-1B sponsorships.

So what does this all mean for international students? 

  1. STEM degrees provide international students with more opportunities to get sponsored for an H-1B work visa after graduation.
  2. STEM-related jobs are more likely to have higher salaries.

Although job opportunities and salaries are two concerns for international students when deciding your field of study, there are other considerations you need to think about, such as career interest and career development. If you do have a passion in the STEM field, and you believe that you may have a better career in the U.S. than in your home country, STEM programs might be a good choice for you. So, do you have the passion and drive to pursue this as a long-term career goal? Think about what you really want, and make the decision that fits you best!


Xiao Lu is currently a Marketing Associate with the WES Student Advisor team. With a passion in both marketing and research, she is managing WES Student Advisor social media accounts in an analytical and strategic way. Xiao was once an international student from China herself and holds a Master in Marketing Intelligence from Fordham University. She now enjoys her travel and life in the U.S.

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  1. Wow. . . It sounds like a great opportunity for graduates to explore their talent in STEM. As this post is added in February, so I think most of the graduates used this opportunity.

  2. Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. you will need to understand the type of work. Take advantage of this time to become the most amazing version of yourself. Thank you for sharing great information to us.
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  3. Wow. . . It sounds like a great chance for former students to explore their talent in STEM. As this post is added in February, so I think most of the alumni used this opportunity. Also, work visa usa requirements is not so tough so students can apply for work.


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