Published on: 28th January 2022

Here comes welcome news for international students looking forward to studying in the US. The Biden administration has revamped its policy in a move to attract International students by adding new STEM courses(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to the OPT program.


To increase the contributions of international students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and support the growth of the economy and innovation, the United States department of homeland security (DHS) announced that 22 new subjects have been added to the STEM OPT program for international students. Do you know what exactly OPT means? Here is an answer to it.


New 22 STEM courses added to OPT program in USA


What is the OPT Program?

Optional Practical Training(OPT) is paid training done in an industry, which is related to your specialization field of study by international students with F-1 Visa in USA. When the training is for the STEM students it is known as STEM-OPT. 

  • If students start OPT before their graduation program completes, it is called Pre-completion OPT. 
  • If OPT is done after completion of the program, it is called Post-completion OPT.  

International students in the USA can apply for 12 months of OPT, while students from STEM courses in the USA can apply for a further 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Which are the new study fields added to the STEM list?

According to a DHS release, adding 22 fields of study will benefit the USA economy from students earning degrees in the USA in competitive STEM fields. These fields are: 

1. Bioenergy: It includes instruction in bioprocessing, biochemical engineering, bioseparations, feedstock, conversion, economics, hydrology, environmental sustainability, and natural resource management. 

2. Forestry, General: It includes instruction in forest-related sciences, mapping, statistics, harvesting, production technology, natural resources management and economics, wildlife sciences, administration, and public relations. 

3. Forest Resources Production and Management: It includes instruction in forest production and utilization, industrial forestry, agroforestry, transplantation, timber harvesting, selection and identification of trees, processing technologies and systems, equipment operations and maintenance, and related management skills.

4. Human-Centered Technology Design: It includes instruction in design, human-computer interaction, learning, neuroscience, perception, product design, user-centered design, and usability.

5. Cloud Computing: It includes instruction in data management, distributed and cloud computing, enterprise software architecture, enterprise, and cloud security, mobile systems and applications, server administration, and web development.

6. Anthrozoology: It includes instruction in animal behavior and communication, animal welfare, animal conservation, animal training, animal-assisted therapy techniques, biology, ethics, and education. 

7. Climate Science:  It includes instruction in biology, chemistry, climate analysis, climate change adaptation/mitigation, climate policy, ecology, energy development, environmental impacts, marine chemistry, meteorology, and oceanography. 

8. Earth Systems Science: It includes instruction in biogeochemistry, climate dynamics, geographical information science (GIS), geophysics, hydrology, landscape ecology, meteorology, and satellite remote sensing analysis.

9. Economics and Computer Science: It includes instruction in data analysis, database design, data mining, computer algorithms, economics, econometrics, computer programing, mathematics, and statistics. 

10. Environmental Geosciences: It includes instruction in environmental/natural resource management, geographic information systems (GIS), geology, hydrology, regulatory agency compliance, hazard identification, and mitigation, environmental law, environmental policy, and sustainability studies.

11. Geobiology: It includes instruction in the evolution of Earth systems, geology, geochemistry, geomicrobiology, paleobiology, marine chemistry,  paleoecology, petrology, and paleontology.

12. Geography and Environmental Studies: It includes instruction in climate science, sustainability, environmental science and policy, research methods, geographic information systems (GIS), human geography, physical geography, remote sensing, and public policy. 

13. Mathematical Economics: It includes instruction in data analysis, applied business economics, calculus, econometrics, linear algebra, microeconomic theory, probability, and statistical methods. 

14. Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science:  It includes instruction in chemistry, physics, atmospheric/ocean dynamics, climatology, weather simulation, climate modeling, mathematics, oceanography, and atmospheric science. 

15. Data Science, General: It includes instruction in computer algorithms, computer programming, data management, data mining, information policy, information retrieval, mathematical modeling, quantitative analysis, statistics, trend spotting, and visual analytics.  

16. Data Analytics, General: It includes instruction in computer programming, computer databases, inference, machine learning, probability, optimization, stochastic models, strategy, statistics, uncertainty quantification, and visual analytics. 

17. Business Analytics: It includes instruction in machine learning, optimization methods, computer algorithms, probability, and stochastic models, information economics, logistics, strategy, consumer behavior, marketing, and visual analytics. 

18. Data Visualization: It includes instruction in cognitive science, computer programming, data management, data visualization theory, graphic design, infographics, perceptual psychology, statistics, and visual design. 

19. Financial Analytics: It includes instruction in financial analytics, financial data processing, knowledge management, data visualization, effective decision communication, machine learning for finance, statistical inference and dynamic modeling on financial data, and project management.

20. Data Analytics, Other: It iNcludes any related programs not covered by Data Analytics, General; Business Analytics; Data Visualization; and Financial Analytics, which all describe instruction in the STEM disciplines such as research, innovation, or development of new technologies using computer science and mathematics. 

21. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: It includes instruction in organizational theory, group behavior theory, reward/punishment structures, human-computer and human-machine, interactions, human stress studies,  motivation dynamics, environmental and organizational influences on behavior, alienation, satisfaction, job testing, and assessment.

22. Social Sciences, Research Methodology, and Quantitative Methods: It includes instruction in experimental, quasi-experimental, and case study methods; historical research; participant observation; questionnaire design; sampling theory; and statistical methods. 

By adding these courses, DHS is expanding the number and diversity of students who excel in STEM education and contribute to the US economy. DHS is also updating and issuing new USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) policy manual guidance. The USCIS has issued new guidance to allow STEM graduates and entrepreneurs to use the national interest waiver for an immigrant visa. Individuals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability can now self-petition for an immigrant visa without going through the labor market test.

Read also:

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About the Author:

Twinkle is an active listener and observer. She has a boundless curiosity to improvise her all-round knowledge. She is always open about her thoughts and her personality is filled with thirst for acquiring knowledge about different fields. Her favourite pastime is to pen down her thoughts and knowledge. Her strength is the simplicity of language yet being artistic.

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