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G Computer Sci

Practicum

The practicum course allows MSCS graduate students to gain practical experience and earn a competitive wage in industry while earning credit towards their degree. Both students and employers find this to be an extremely valuable experience.

International students on a F1 visa must apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to receive authorization to work in the United States. International students on a J1 visa may also be eligible to apply for work authorization through Academic Training.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the practicum course, MSCS graduate students (including part-time, full-time, and international students on an F1 visa) must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must be enrolled for one academic year and have completed 16 units towards the degree before applying. For full-time students that started in the Fall semester, the first term of eligibility is the summer semester.

  • Must be in good academic standing and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above.

  • Must enroll in the CS 695 Practicum Study course for 2 units. The practicum course may be taken a maximum of 2 times for a total of 4 units towards the degree.

  • Must have approval from the graduate advisor.

International students on a J1 visa should contact an ISSS advisor to inquire about their eligibility to work in the United States.

Requirements

To be eligible for the practicum course, positions must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be directly related to computer science and software development.

  • Must require no more than 20 hours per week during the academic year, and no more than 40 hours per week during the summer.

  • Must complete at least 300 hours total during the semester.

  • Must have a supervisor willing to verify employment and provide feedback at the end of the semester.

You will be asked to provide an offer letter (or employment verification letter for pre-existing positions) on company letterhead to verify your position meets the above requirements. The letter must include the position title and description, specific start and end dates, number of hours per week, and supervisor contact information (phone and email).

FAQs

Below you can find some frequently asked questions about the practicum course. If you have any questions, please contact the graduate director or an ISSS advisor.

View FAQs

Is the practicum course open to all MSCS graduate students?

The course is available for all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international students on an F1 visa in the MSCS program. International students on a J1 visa should contact an ISSS advisor to inquire about their eligibility to work in the United States.

Are part-time students eligible for the practicum option?

Yes, part-time U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the practicum option. However, the same hour requirements apply. Part-time students may not earn credit for full-time work during the academic year. Credit for full-time work may only be earned during the summer.

What types of positions qualify?

Any position focused on software development qualifies. This includes internships, pre-existing positions, and permanent positions. For example, a web development internship will likely qualify, but systems administration and technician positions do not qualify.

Will the CS department find me a position?

Students are responsible for finding their own positions. We will email open positions to the student mailing list, and post them on a jobs board outside the department office. Our proximity to startups and tech companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley make it generally easy to find an appropriate position.

What does the offer letter (or employment verification letter) need to contain?

To verify your position meets the necessary requirements, you will need to provide an offer letter for new positions or an employment verification letter for pre-existing positions. The letter must include the position title and description, specific start and end dates, number of hours per week, and supervisor contact information (phone and email). The letter should be on company letterhead and signed by the supervisor or recruiter.

How long does the enrollment and authorization process take?

Once you have received your offer letter and authorization from the graduate advisor, the enrollment process takes approximately 2 business days. International students must then receive work authorization, which takes approximately 6 business days.

What are the allowable start and end dates?

The earliest start date is the first day of classes, and the last possible end date is the last day of final exams. These dates can be found on the academic calendar.

You may select any start and end date within this range as long as (a) you will have completed the enrollment and authorization process by the start date, and (b) you are able to complete 300 hours minimum without exceeding the maximum allowed hours per week. During the school year, you usually need to start work by the second week of the semester to complete the minimum required hours.

International students may not begin working until they have received authorization through the ISSS office. Working prior to receiving this authorization is in direct violation of your F1 or J1 visa status.

How do I determine if I will complete the minimum required hours during the semester?

There are several freely available "business days calculator" tools available on the web. Enter your proposed start and end dates to get the number of business days, and then multiply by the number of hours per day you plan to work. Full-time work is usually 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day, and part-time work is usually 20 hours per week or 4 hours per day.

What are the GPA requirements?

You must be in good academic standing and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Please note this GPA calculation includes all undergraduate and graduate courses counting towards your degree.

If you fall under the 3.0 cumulative GPA requirement or are placed on academic probation, then you are not eligible for practicum. If you are an international student and have already accepted a position, you must notify your employer that you are no longer able to accept the offer.

How many units is the practicum course?

The CS 695 Practicum Study course is always 2 units, whether for part-time or full-time work. You will be charged tuition for those units.

How many times can I take the practicum course?

Students may take the practicum option for a maximum of 2 semesters or 4 units total. International students on an F1 visa that wish to work an additional semester should look into pre-completion OPT instead.

Please keep in mind that a maximum of 4 units of practicum or directed study may be applied towards the degree. For example, students may use 2 units of practicum and 2 units of directed study to replace an elective course. However, students may not apply 4 units of practicum and 4 units of directed study to their degree.

How is the practicum course graded?

A letter grade will be assigned based on supervisor feedback and a final report. We must receive feedback (short) from your supervisor before a grade will be assigned. Details on the supervisor feedback and what you must include in the final report will be posted on the course website.

How do I enroll in the practicum course?

You must first obtain an offer letter and email a PDF scan to the graduate director. If you meet the eligibility requirements and the position qualifies, you will be given permission to enroll in CS 695 Practicum Study. Once enrolled, there will instructions on how to submit your offer letter and supervisor contact information on the course website.

How do I enroll in Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

International students on an F1 visa must apply to Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to be eligible to work in the United States. The first part of this process is to enroll in CS 695 Practicum Study (see above). Contact the graduate director for an advisor letter after you have enrolled in the course, and bring it to ISSS to complete the process.

United States citizens and permanent residents do not need to enroll in CPT. International students on a J1 visa should contact an ISSS advisor to inquire about their eligibility to work in the United States.

Does enrolling in the practicum course affect my Optional Practical Training (OPT) time limits after graduation?

No. Only F1 students that received one year or more of full-time (over 20 hours per week) CPT authorization are ineligible for post-completion OPT. Since we only authorize 2 semesters of CPT, this will never be an issue.

As an international student, do I need to take this course to work in the United States after I graduate?

No, you will apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) instead. This allows international students on an F1 visa to work in the United States for 12 months after graduation. Our program is a STEM major and qualifies for a 17 month extension, allowing most international students to work in the United States for 29 months total after graduation.

Please keep in mind the application process for OPT can take 3 or 4 months. Please contact an ISSS advisor for more information.