International students on F-1 visas may complete the Master of Science degree program in either two or three semesters. In accordance with student visa regulations, international students must maintain full-time registration (a minimum of 12 points of credit) during each of their first two semesters. While the program can be completed in two semesters, many international students choose to complete the program in three semesters by taking 12 points in each of their first two semesters and 6 points in their third semester. This allows students to gain valuable work experience through internships in the U.S. during the summer or during their third semester.

Curricular Practical Training

After completing one academic year (two consecutive semesters) of study, students on F-1 visas are eligible to pursue off-campus internships as part of the curriculum of the Engineering School through Curricular Practical Training. CPT provides an opportunity for students to apply classroom knowledge to work in their chosen field. Because CPT is part of the curriculum, students must receive department approval and register for CIEN E4999 Fieldwork for one credit before applying for work authorization. Students may register for CIEN E4999 up to two times for a total of two credits. CIEN E4999 may only be taken for one credit at a time and students must receive a letter grade. For questions about the department approval process, please contact Scott Kelly, Graduate Admissions and Student Affairs Officer.

Students on F-1 visas who attended another institution in the U.S. for their undergraduate degree and transfer their I-20 from their previous institution to Columbia may be eligible for CPT starting in their first semester at Columbia.

Optional Practical Training

Students on F-1 visas may apply for Optional Practical Training in order to pursue employment in an industry related to their field of study following the completion of their degree requirements. OPT is permitted for an initial period of up to 12 months and may be extended for an additional period of up to 24 months for students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.