New Courses Added to US STEM Designated Degree Program List

22 New Courses Added by the US to STEM OPT For International Students

22 New Courses Added by the US to STEM OPT For International Students

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The Biden administration in the US has decided to add 22 new courses for STEM graduates to the Optional Practical Training Program. Read the full update in this blog.

Rahul Srivastava
Updated on:  27 Oct 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 3.24K | 5  min read

As the world is shifting more towards technology it becomes imperative for the world leader in technology to open its door for a bigger talent pool. The Biden administration in the US has decided to add 22 new courses for STEM graduates to the Optional Practical Training Program. The OPT program enables International students studying at the universities in the US to work for 12 months before or after the completion of the degree or in some cases even up to 24 months after the completion of the course for STEM graduates. It helps you in getting a more practical insight by working at the world’s most innovative companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. It is one of the prominent reasons why Indian students want to choose the US as their preferred location for higher studies. 

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The move to incorporate 22 new courses into STEM OPT is aimed towards bridging the talent gap which the US is facing for the last couple of years. It will open the door for you to go to the US for study and work in the world’s most innovative places. On 21st January 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced the latest development on the addition of 22 new courses to the STEM OPT for international students wanting to pursue higher education in the US. It will open the working opportunities for a considerably significant number of students. 

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Students Eligible for STEM OPT

If you are in the US on an F-1 visa and studying STEM subjects then you can take advantage of the STEM OPT. It will provide you with the opportunity to work temporarily, and you can work for 12 months post completion of graduation. It can be extended for up to 36 months post completion of the course. In this brief work experience, many Indian students showcase their talent and become eligible for applying for other visas that let them work in the US for a more extended time period. 


New Courses Added to the STEM OPT

Most of the courses that are added to the STEM OPT are future tech-oriented. The courses are selected so that the US can attract a talent pool that will help develop the new age technology. Courses are chosen by assessing their viability in the upcoming years so you will see a lot of subjects that are related to contemporary problems on which the world is seeking long term sustainable solutions. 

The List of New Subjects Include -  

Human-centred technology design, bioenergy, general data analytics, financial analytics, general forestry, forest resources production and management, anthrozoology, mathematics and atmospheric and ocean science, geography and environmental studies, geobiology, cloud computing, general data sciences, economics and computer science, research methodology and quantitative methods, social science, mathematical economics, data visualization, industrial and organizational psychology, environmental geoscience, geography and environmental studies, climate science, data analytics, business analytics, geobiology, earth systems science. 

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A holistic range of subjects have been included by keeping in mind the way technology will be developed. 

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security highlighted the rationale behind the inclusion of new courses in the STEM OPT. The primary aim is to strengthen the security architecture of the country with the use of technology. The international talent pool will help the US in increasing the pace at which the new tech is being evolved. It will also help the US in maintaining an edge over its competitors in the development of new-age technology. It will also help the US economy in growing at a much faster pace than its peers. The International students also use the existing business ecosystem, and become entrepreneurs which add directly to the US economy.

Read more about: Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 Students 

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To make the policy change more lucrative for International students, the DHS has amended certain provisions to provide immigration to exceptional talent among the international students. The USCIS or the US Citizenship and Immigration Service will give a national interest waiver to certain students which will allow them to apply for an immigrant visa. The new set of rules will allow individuals with exceptional talent to self-petition for immigrant visas without the labour market test. 


Immediate Reasons for Adding New Subjects 

Since the US is facing a direct challenge from China and Chinese businesses, it becomes important for the US to take some measures to maintain its position as a tech powerhouse. In a bid to counter strategic challenges posed by emerging economies, the US has decided to welcome international students from varying backgrounds within STEM. Another reason why the US was prompted to take this decision is the falling number of international students since 2016. It has created a talent gap in the skilled workforce system which warranted this action to incorporate more courses for the STEM OPT. The last, and perhaps the most significant factor is the COVID-19 pandemic which restricted International travel, and students planning for higher studies in the US dropped their plan to do so. 

International students going to the US are the backbone of its tech ecosystem that has flourished over the years. The US can’t afford to lose its biggest resource pool so these amendments are made to include more international students who would become the Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadela, Vinod Khosla, and an endless list of brilliant minds that have contributed to America’s growth story. 

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So, if you are planning to move to the US there hasn’t been a better time than now to do so. Presently the US universities are welcoming international students more than ever, and it is pretty evident from the lenient policies adopted by the DHS. These are phased events, and this might not last forever. At present, the US is facing the talent pool gap but that doesn’t mean it will go on forever. Once the talent pool is bridged, and the US feels that they don’t need to bring in more international students, the policies would change in no time. Also, the move has faced criticism within the US for bringing in more international students as it will reduce the prospects for young American graduates so this might get reversed in coming years. The new subjects have opened the door for STEM graduates to pursue higher education as well as secure high paying jobs in the US.

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