Study in USA: What is the difference between OPT and CPT?

Studying overseas is every student’s dream especially if it is a country like the USA which is among the most popular countries for pursuing higher studies. However, while pursuing the degree almost every student has a concern about paying off their student loans, the first step to which is getting a job. This is why many students prefer staying back in the host country until they are able to reach a certain level of financial stability. Apart from the concerns like finding a suitable job along the lines of the area of interest, there is the formality of work visa which is one among the major concerns in students. Working while studying might help you cover some of your experiences. In order to work post studies or while studying, the students will have to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). There is a lot of vagueness associated with the relevance of the two. Below is the comparison between OPT and CPT.

Fundamental Difference between OPT and CPT

CPT – The F1 Visa holders who go to the US for at least one academic year can apply for internships or jobs in a field relevant to their course after successful completion of 9 months of their study. The CPT is offered via an agreement between your employer and your school. CPT can be used for both part-time and full-time work and you are not eligible for OPT if you have already used 12 months of full-time work. This is not true in the case of part-time work. You can only apply for CPT while you are studying.

OPT – OPT is of two types, one is pre-completion OPT and the other is post-completion OPT. If you are still studying and want to work, then you can apply for OPT. Whereas, in the post-completion OPT you can work for 12 months in the related field after your course is over.


CPT – Before applying for CPT you should have an offer letter in hand. Also, during the 12 month period if you are unemployed for more than 90 days, then you won’t be allowed to work anymore and will lose your F1 status.

OPT – Unlike CPT, in order to apply for OPT you need not have a job in hand.


CPT – You can apply for CPT during your academic year and you have to complete the I-20 form processing and documentation mentioning the dates of approved work period under CPT.

OPT – You can apply for OPT up to 90 days before your program ends and up to 60 days after your program ends. You also get to choose the beginning date of your OPT period. You are allowed to begin working after you receive the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which has the start and end date of your OPT period.

Employment Terms

CPT – The I-20 form has the employer’s name printed on it and you can only work for that employer. In the case of multiple employers, you have to get separate approvals in each case and go through additional processing.

OPT – You can work for multiple employers under OPT and the employment must be related to the degree course that you pursue. The students need to maintain a record of all the jobs taken along with the job duration, contact information and job description.


Both OPT and CPT should be related to the major or course of study.


CPT – It is recommended to apply for CPT at least two weeks prior to the date when you wish to commence working. It takes 7-10 days for the CPT to get processed through the SEVIS database. You get course credit for CPT.

OPT – You need to apply to the USCIS for OPT and it may take up to 90 days for processing. For OPT you do not get any course credit.

Thus, if you wish to study in USA you should get acquainted with the technicalities of the formalities which are to be undergone before applying for a job.