3 Things International Students Should Consider When Choosing a Major
Going to study in another country is not easy, and is not cheap. Getting a job after graduating especially for international students is even more difficult since there are lots of limitations. I was an international student in undergrad and grad school, and even though after my bachelor I could not find a job, now I work for a Fortune 100 company, and a big part of getting the job was studying the right major for my master. The following 3 points helped me take the best decision:
1. Current USCIS regulations
The 2 most important regulations you should be familiar with are OPT and H1B. Basically if you study business, accounting, graphic design, music or majors that are not Science, Technology, Education, or Math (STEM) you will only have 1 year to work in the US after graduation with the OPT program. However, if you study a STEM major you could do an OPT extension and work for 3 years in the US!
During my undergrad I did not put much attention to that and just realized on my last semester that if I had studied a STEM degree I could have extended my OPT. I had to go back to my country for a few months because the company I was working with could not sponsor my H1B. I learned the lesson and looked for a Master degree with a STEM program. Then when attending grad school, I researched and applied only to companies that had sponsored H1B visas in the past.
There are several sites like MyVisajobs where you can find which companies sponsor H1B visas, but in general most of the big tech or business companies do it. Make sure you stay up to date with the regulations as they can change anytime especially with the Trump administration.
2. Future job-market
Right now there are several jobs that did not exist 10 years ago. Jobs like social media manager, data scientist, or digital marketing manager are now abundant thanks to the advances in technology. At the same time some jobs have been eliminated from the market.
Technology will keep changing the type of jobs needed every year so make sure that you frequently read blogs like Techcrunch, FastCompany or Linkedin Talent Blog to know what are the trends in the different industries. I only realized about the importance of technology when I finished my bachelor degree, and that is why I decided to do a Master in Information Systems.
I knew that lots of companies were looking to hire people that could work with business and technology at the same time. If I could do my bachelor again, I would have chosen a tech degree for sure, Computer Science would have helped me even more in my professional career. Always put attention at what big companies are creating because those products will generate jobs. A great example are the self-driving cars by Google/Uber or virtual reality by Facebook. Now these companies need engineers that are specialized in those fields so they can keep growing.
Some majors like Medicine or Aviation are going to be much more expensive than other majors and although you have money or scholarships is going to be very hard to pay for those majors. I really do not recommend getting big loans as you will spend several years just working to pay for those. So choose a major that can help you find scholarships or financial aid easily.
Some universities have scholarships specifically for majors like business or education. Also governments, non-profits and other organizations offer scholarships for certain majors. I attended graduate school for free saving more than 40,000 dollars! Because I got a scholarship from an organization in Colombia that was sponsoring students in Tech related majors. I will talk more about getting scholarships in another article. But start doing your research and I am sure you will find financial aid.
When we are kids we dream of being astronauts, firefighters, professors, etc… However, as we grow up the world around us influence us and we end up with a different career. Besides considering the points above, you also need to consider your passions, what you really like and what you truly want to become. They all need to be aligned so you can be great and succeed at the career path you choose.
So write down what you love to do, check if there are STEM majors related, research the cost of the degree and the future market for it. Contact me through Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn if you are still not sure what major to choose or need more advice. Or Contact us if you have any other questions or experience you will like to share. Then go study, work hard and make a difference in the world!