Securing a job in the US is not easy for international students. There are often several hurdles and work authorization restrictions to navigate, making the job search even more challenging.
But what if you knew exactly where to find US employers who’d love to hire you as an international student?
We've pored through data published by the US Department of Homeland Security to identify the top US industries that recruit F-1 international students, based on the three employment types: Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM OPT.
We’ve thoroughly analyzed this data to show you the best companies to approach as international students in the US.
The Tech Industry
It should come as no surprise that the Tech Industry would be one of the top runners. As it is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, more so in the United States.
This growth has seen a rise in startups, making tech hubs like Silicon Valley more attractive locations for recent or soon-to-be graduates.
But it’s not just the startups that are on a hiring spree. Well-established companies in this industry hire a significant number of international students as well. Overall, the tech industry accounted for approximately 7% of the enterprises in our study.
We found that the US employers that hired the most international students ranged from software- to hardware-based companies.
Cisco Systems, Cerner Corporation, and Oracle hired the most international students for OPT and STEM OPT positions.
Similarly, employers that recruited the most international students for CPT positions were Samsung Research, Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems, and Dell.
This data showed that the tech industry often prioritizes hiring international students with a STEM background, especially in computer science or related fields. In addition, many tech companies tend to hire as aggressively for CPT positions as they do for OPT and STEM OPT positions.
If you are an international student looking to work in a tech company, try securing an internship using CPT. That'll open more doors to a full-time position for your OPT or STEM OPT.
The Financial Services Industry
The financial services industry accounted for 7.78% of the United States GDP in 2022. This industry is home to over 500,000 companies in the US, employing millions of people.
And you can be among those 6+ million employees as a US international student. This industry accounted for about 13% of the US employers in our study.
Big accounting firms were at the top of the employer list for international students. Companies hiring the most international students for OPT and STEM OPT positions were Deloitte, Price Waterhouse Cooper, and Ernst and Young.
Other heavy-hitters that recruited many international students included JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
The same companies recruited the most international students for CPT positions.
The trends in the data suggest that companies in the financial services industry have a high retention of international students who work with them during CPT internships.
Furthermore, these companies hire more international students in STEM OPT than those in OPT.
This could be surprising considering the non-STEM nature of this industry. However, the modern age of banking and finance is highly reliant on big data. Thus, these companies have a high demand for international students with a background in STEM fields.
Higher Education and Nonprofit Research Organizations
The industries on this list would not thrive without excellent academic or research output. The US higher education sector comprises over 4,000 accredited institutions, including private universities and colleges, public institutions, and community colleges. Thus, it’s no surprise that this industry employs nearly 3 million people.
Nonprofit organizations are equally impressive options for international students, with Zippia reporting a staggering 1.5 million nonprofit organizations countrywide. These organizations employ nearly 16 million people, and you could be amongst those people contributing to 5.7% of the United States GDP.
The higher education and nonprofit research industries accounted for about 25% of the US employers in this study. These institutions included large public and private research universities, with MIT, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins University recruiting the most international students for OPT and STEM OPT positions.
The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the Los Alamos National Lab, and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education hired the most international students for CPT positions.
About 50% of the US universities in this study tend to hire more students on OPT than those on STEM OPT. So, if you have a degree in the Humanities, you should approach higher education and nonprofit research organizations.
The Consultant/IT/Staffing industry
This industry is one of the most diverse on this list. Many US employers in this industry provide various services, including staffing services for IT, accounting, and finance roles. Within this industry, you will also find several smaller companies providing IT-related and staffing solutions.
According to the American Staffing Association, the staffing industry employed about 13.6 million people during the pandemic. The consultant/IT/staffing industry accounted for about 20% of US employers surveyed in this study.
Veridic Solutions, Randstad, and Robert Half recruited the most international students for OPT and STEM OPT. Similarly, companies that hired the most international students for CPT were Randstad, Populus Group, and Cognizant.
Many of the US employers in this industry come from large staffing companies. When they hire you as an international student, they send you out to work for clients on a temporary contract.
Within this industry were several companies that were allegedly involved with OPT fraud. Several companies were involved in an unethical practice where they charged international students in exchange for OPT employment. We had to exclude these companies when analyzing the data.
As an international student who might be interested in working in this industry, you must be wary of OPT fraud. Working for a company that was involved in OPT fraud will lead to the termination of your OPT status. As a result, you will have to leave the United States. So, you must ensure that your potential employer was never involved in OPT fraud.
This short list of companies accounted for about 27% of the employers in this study. The companies hiring international students for CPT, OPT, and STEM OPT were Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Apple, and IBM.
These companies are incomparable to the other tech companies on this list. Hence, they belong in a league of their own.
These seven companies aggressively hire a lot of international students with STEM degrees. About 86% of the international students working in these companies after graduation used the STEM OPT.
When looking at the top industries that hired international students on post-completion OPT and STEM OPT alone, the number one spot went to the higher education and nonprofit research organization industry. The consulting/IT/staffing industry came in second, and third place went to Big Tech.
Big Tech was the top industry for CPT recruitment alone. The consulting/IT/staffing industry came in second, and third place went to the financial services industry.
These are the top industries that recruit international students in the US. However, that doesn’t mean you should only apply for job openings within these industries. There are tons of international students who have had rewarding careers working in other sectors.
I hope this information serves as a guide to the industries where you have the highest chance of getting an employment position as an international student. Armed with this information, you can now easily navigate your way through the challenging US job market hurdles that many international students face.