CPT vs OPT - Key Difference You Should Know in 2024

Meridean Overseas
Meridean Overseas

Updated On 16 December 2023 & Read Time 8 minutes



Are you planning to participate in a Practical training program in USA? If yes, then you need to have sufficient knowledge of the terms CPT and OPT.


CPT and OPT are both practical training programs offered to international students to gain practical knowledge on an F-1 visa basis.


If you want to know more about the CPT and OPT, then read this blog. Here, we have provided you with the major difference between OPT and CPT, along with information on the similarities, features, and eligibility criteria of both training programs.


What is CPT?

Before delving into the difference between OPT and CPT, let’s know what is CPT.


CPT, or Curricular Practical Training, is a program that allows international students on F-1 visas to gain practical, hands-on experience directly related to their field of study. This can include internships, cooperative education programs, or any other work-study programs integral to the established curriculum.


Top Features of CPT

Below, you can check the top features of Curricular Practical Training.

  • Only during an academic program (before the expiration date on an I-20) may one use CPT.

  • The university's overseas office has granted CPT authorisation for a certain company and for a specified amount of time.

  • A qualifying student may participate in CPT part-time (less than 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) as often as they choose.

  • Students considering the CPT to OPT conversion should be aware that they will not be eligible for OPT (a further kind of work authorisation covered later) at the same degree level if they have utilised 12 months or more of full-time CPT. OPT eligibility is unaffected by part-time CPT. 


What is OPT?

Once you know about the CPT, let’s understand what is OPT.


OPT or Optional Practical Training is an employment authorisation program for F-1 visa holders. OPT offers an opportunity for temporary employment directly related to their major area of study. OPT can be used both before and after the completion of the academic program, providing flexibility for students to engage in practical training.


Top Features of OPT

Below, you can check the top features of Optional Practical Training.

  • It's essential to remember that students are not qualified to apply for CPT once their OPT time has ended.

  • Part-time (less than 20 hours per week) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) OPT is available for pre-completion (OPT used prior to the expiration date on an I-20).

  • Post-completion OPT (OPT used before the expiration date on an I-20) is limited to full-time employment. After completing the program, F-1 students can apply to USCIS for post-completion OPT. Students can often apply for it up to three months in advance of the course completion date and up to one month after finishing all of their degree requirements. Additionally, USCIS will reduce your pre-completion OPT time from your post-completion OPT authorised period if you have already taken part in pre-completion OPT.

  • If you are prepared to submit an OPT application, you may get further information about the procedure and required documents by getting in touch with your university's international office.


Type of CPT and OPT

CPT has 2 variants – Required CPT and Optional CPT. Both have different purposes and importance while studying in the USA.

  • Required CPT - This is necessary if your institution or college mandates that all graduates get real-world experience to be admitted.

  • Optional CPT - This should be relevant to your study area but is not required for your degree. 


There are 4 types of OPT, which are as follows - 

  • Pre- Completion OPT

  • Post-Completion OPT

  • 24-Month OPT Extension

  • Cap-Gap OPT Extension


Each variant has specific eligibility criteria and durations, impacting when and how students can engage in practical training related to their studies.


Also, Read: Upcoming Intakes to Study in USA


Difference between OPT and CPT

Below, you can check the major difference between OPT and CPT.




OPT and CPT Full Form

Curricular Practical Training

Optional Practical Training

Eligibility Criteria

Typically available to students who have completed one academic year.

Generally available to students who have completed their academic program.

Timing of Participation

Can be undertaken before the academic program.

Available before or after the completion of the academic program.

Integration with Curriculum

Integral part of the academic curriculum directly related to the course of study.

Less integrated into the curriculum, allowing for more flexibility.

Work Authorization Duration

Duration is limited, which is up to 12 months.

Offers post-completion OPT with a standard duration of 12 months, extendable in certain cases up to 24 months.

Employment Types

Limited to internships, cooperative education programs, or work-study programs related to the course.

A broad range of employment options related to the major field of study.

Application Process

Requires authorisation from the Designated School Official (DSO) based on academic requirements.

Requires approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after completing the academic program.

Multiple Cycles

Multiple cycles of CPT (pre-completion and post-completion) may be possible.

Generally, one continuous period of 12 months is granted for standard post-completion OPT.


Extensions are possible, but the total duration is limited.

An extension of 24 months is possible for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.

Travel Considerations

Generally allows for re-entry into the U.S. during authorised periods.

Travel outside the U.S. during post-completion OPT requires careful consideration and planning.

Post-Graduation Opportunities

CPT does not impact post-graduation opportunities directly.

Successful completion of post-completion OPT can lead to other U.S. work opportunities. 

CPT vs OPT - Eligibility Criteria

Understanding the minimum eligibility criteria for CPT and OPT is necessary to ensure that students can seamlessly integrate practical training into their educational journey. Below, you can check the complete eligibility for CPT and OPT.


Eligibility Criteria for CPT

  • You must have an active F-1 Status.

  • You must be enrolled full-time in one academic year before the work is performed.

  • You must be registered for a degree program at a recognised US university with SEVP certification.

  • You must possess a particular employment offer that fulfils the requirements of the educational institution for the required course, degree, or co-op program.


Eligibility Criteria for OPT

  • You must have an active F-1 Status.

  • Enlist full-time for a complete academic year before completing the task.

  • You must enrol in a degree program in a U.S. higher education institution that has been accredited and SEVP certified.

  • A job offer is not necessary to qualify for OPT. However, it is recommended: And that you work on projects that are closely relevant to your field of study.

  • You must not have utilised CPT for 12 months or longer.

  • You must not have utilised any OPT at a higher degree level or the 12 months of OPT at the same degree level.



A detailed discussion of CPT and OPT in 2024 offered you adequate knowledge of the nuances, differences, and key features of these crucial employment authorisation programs. Whether students want to integrate work into the academic curriculum through CPT or explore flexible, practical training options with OPT, they can make informed decisions to enhance their educational and professional journeys.


We hope the blog based on the difference between OPT and CPT is useful and informative to you. However, if you are seeking more information regarding the same, contact our expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC).  You can also take free online counselling through our website. Our expert counsellors will provide you with the best support and guidance you need for admission and visa. In addition, they will help you shortlist the universities according to your profile. For more information or any queries, contact application02@meridean.org or 1800-1230-00011. 



Q1. Can I participate in both CPT and OPT?

Ans. Yes, it's possible to participate in both CPT and OPT, but the eligibility criteria and timing must be carefully considered.


Q2. Is there a limit to the duration of CPT and OPT combined?

Ans. Yes, there are limits to the combined duration of CPT and OPT. 


Q3. Can I extend my OPT if I change my academic program?

Ans. It depends on various factors. Changing academic programs may impact OPT eligibility, and students should seek guidance from the designated school official (DSO). 


Q4. Are there any restrictions on the type of employment allowed under OPT?

Ans. OPT allows various types of employment, including internships, regular employment, and volunteer work, as long as they are directly related to the student's major area of study.

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