Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Top U.S. Jobs for International Graduates Are in STEM

By Xiao Lu
World Education Services

Your field of study in university can help define your future. It may also correlate with what kind of career experience and salary you can expect after graduation. So, when deciding on your major, think about your passions, interests, values, and career options.

If you want to pursue a career in the U.S., you should understand the type of work eligibility you will face after graduation. In this post, we will share some data on what kind of jobs are more likely to be sponsored and offer higher salaries.

Which jobs sponsor the most H-1B visas?
The infographic below shows data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the Characteristics of H1-B Specialty Occupation Workers in 2014. H-1B is the visa category that allows non-immigrants to temporarily work in the U.S. The data suggests that three out of four occupations that get the most sponsorships are related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Percentage of H-1B Visa Sponsorships by Major
In 2014, H-1B sponsorship in computer-related occupations (64 percent) was more than half the total. Other top sponsorships were related to engineering (9 percent), administration (6 percent), education (6 percent), and medicine and health (5 percent). Computer science, engineering, and medicine and health alone make up 75 percent of the overall number of H1-B sponsorships.

So why are graduates with STEM degrees more popular among U.S. employers than those who majored in other fields? Simply speaking, there is a shortage of candidates in these fields in the U.S. domestic labor market. To fill the gap of qualified STEM workers, U.S. companies have begun hiring foreign talent under the H-1B visa program. This is good news for international students majoring in STEM who are interested in pursuing a career in the U.S.

Which jobs have the highest pay?
Sales promotion occupations have the highest average salary of $127,000 (U.S. dollars) when compared to other occupations. Law and Jurisprudence are ranked second, averaging $119,000. In third place are medicine and health professionals averaging $117,000, followed by managers and officials averaging $111,000. 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 24-month extension after completing their initial 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). In total, international STEM students have 36 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?
  • STEM degrees provide international students with more opportunities to get sponsored for an H-1B work visa after graduation.
  • 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 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, then STEM programs might be a good choice for you. Investing time in your study and career are huge life investments. Think about what you really want and make the decision that fits you best!
Xiao Lu is a Marketing Associate with the WES Advisor team. With a passion in both marketing and research, she manages WES Advisor social media accounts in an analytical and strategic way. Xiao was once an international student from China herself and holds a Master’s in Marketing Intelligence from Fordham University. She now enjoys her travel and life in the U.S.


  1. I like the structure as it gives one the opportunity to practice in an industrial sector. This in turn help improve on the candidate CV and gives a competitive advantage in future opportunities. Peradventure the candidate doesn't get H1-B sponsorship, he/she is well prepared to compete favourably with prospective candidates back home.

  2. AnonymousJuly 12, 2016

    Hello i have a question : I have read the article from USCIS which describe those steam extension opt list they give an specific list which every mayor has their specific number an they say that if we study a mayor relationated with one of the list they probably will give the opt extension but I mean how can I be sure the program that I choose will receive this extension?. for example I really want to study a master in public health wich CIP number is 512201 but this doesn't appear in the stem list but epidemiology wich cip number in the stem list is 512202 and even is part of public health.... what can I do to be sure that the master in puclic health apply for opt extension????
    thank you somuch

    1. Hello, CIP is the best way to check if your program is STEM eligible or not. A public health major can either be or not a STEM program depend on its curriculum or course settings. If you are still not sure about the program you are applying to, I'm sure school's admissions officer can give you the best answer. I hope you best luck on your application!

  3. We all should think of quality education as it shapes our life. Without a proper education, it’s very difficult to achieve life goal so I’d suggest people to be active when it comes to education and take a help of expert to choose right kind of education.
    Thanks for sharing such a great post which relate to education & career development.
    IDP Education - MBA in Australia

  4. Is there a list of what is included in STEM?Thank you!


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