Graduate Student Practicum Option

Computer science graduate students may elect to take a practicum option in order to gain gain practical experience in industry while working on their graduate degrees. Students enroll in the 2 unit (2 credit hour) course CS695 Practicum during each semester in which they work. The course is always 2 credits, even during the summer. While students may work throughout their graduate program, they may only apply 4 units towards their 36 unit degree requirements. This option is reserved for exceptional international and American students. International students in F and J status must apply for the appropriate off-campus employment authorization in order to do the practicum. Note: Faculty are not required to place students into internships.


  • F-1 visa students are not eligible during their first two semesters of graduate studies. The first term for practical training eligibility is the summer after their first academic year assuming they start in the Fall.
  • Must enroll in CS695 each semester they wish to work.
  • Work at most 4 semesters including summer for a total of 8 units @ 2 units per semester (students must work at least two semesters). Units are "use-or-lose" and only available during semesters: 1st summer, 3, and 4. Students may not delay their graduate degree to continue working. If a student chooses to earn only 2 credits in the practicum course, that student must take 2 units of directed study with a faculty member. Note that students may only take 4 units of directed study with a faculty member for credit towards graduation.
  • Must be enrolled as a full-time student.
  • Must have 3.0 GPA every semester while doing practicum course.
  • Must have >= 250 TOEFL.
  • Must have approval of the graduate advisor.


  • Jobs must be a programming job.  Students may not work purely as system administrators or web developers or other similar nonprogramming jobs.  Those tasks might be part of their job, but they must be primarily programming. International students in F and J status must have a job offer in order to obtain the off-campus employment authorization needed to pursue the practicum.
  • Students already working for a company may not use their existing job for practicum credit.
  • 10-20 hours of work per week, except summer where 40 is ok.
  • In a student's final semester, they may find themselves with fewer than 8 units (2 courses) left to complete. In this case, with permission of the international student and scholar services and the graduate advisor, they may work more than 20 hours in that final semester.
  • Must obtain approval of instructor for the company from which you have a job offer.
  • If grades from prior semester drop GPA below 3.0, student must inform internship company that they cannot accept the job offer.
  • At the start of each semester, students must provide a proposal, lesson one page, that describes the work they will complete. At the end of the semester, a report less than 2 pages must be submitted to the instructor. The student must also send the contact information for their immediate supervisor.
  • During the summer, students are required to submit weekly reports to the mailing list.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Is the practicum option open to all graduate computer science degree students? Yes.

Q. Can entrepreneurship emphasis students take the practicum option? Yes, but they cannot use any of the practicum course credit towards their degree requirements because both of their electives are taken by MBA courses.

Q. Will the computer science department find me a job? No. Students must find a jobs on their own, but this is very easy in the Silicon Valley particularly given the great economy. That said, faculty are usually willing to help as they are able.

Q. How much do internships usually pay for graduate students? As of Fall 2011, students are making between $20 and $40 per hour. Typically, this pays enough for living expenses, but there is no guarantee.

Q. Does enrolling in the practicum option take time away from my Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation? No. Only F-1 students who have received one year or more of full time (over 20 hours per week) Curricular Practical Training employment authorization are ineligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training.

Q. Is there a maximum number of semesters I may work as a graduate student? Yes, you may only work 4 semesters including the summer.  Normally, students may not work for more than 2 semesters for the same company.

Q. Will this make it more likely that I get a full-time job after graduation? Yes. Companies value work experience.

Also see the Grad program FAQ.

Information needed to obtain a CPT letter

Name, work start date, work stop date, expected graduation date, company name, hours/week, CS or WS. You can email this to the graduate director to request a letter.