Popular Non-Traditional STEM Majors for International Students
Did you know that popular majors like Psychology, Sociology, and Economics might qualify for STEM benefits?
If you plan to study in the US, you should strongly consider majoring in a STEM related field. Graduating with a STEM degree enables you to develop desirable technical skills that will help you stand out during recruitment season. For international students, STEM degrees provide you with significant immigration benefits, allowing you to stay in the US for up to 2 additional years (in addition to your first year of OPT). Click here to read more about STEM and how it specifically benefits international students studying in the US.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and is often associated with degrees such as Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Biology, and Electrical / Chemical / Mechanical Engineering. International students sometimes are unaware that their degree qualifies as STEM and don’t fully utilize the benefits that they are eligible for. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) categorizes several popular degrees as STEM, and you should be aware of non-traditional STEM majors such as Economics, or even Psychology, as you build your college list.
US Colleges Offering Popular Non-Traditional STEM Programs
We identified some popular college programs that qualify as STEM-designated degrees. Click the button below to download a compiled list of top colleges for each of these programs.
What else qualifies as STEM?
The DHS decides which degrees qualify as STEM and periodically updates its list with new additions.The latest list released in 2020 includes over 500 degrees that qualify as STEM!
For a university to designate a program as STEM, it must make a formal request to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Program designations constantly change; for example, Emory University’s (a private college based in Atlanta, GA) Economics program received an official STEM designation starting in 2019.
At the undergraduate level, some universities in the US offer STEM-designated Psychology, Sociology, Economics, and Political Science programs. In addition, some colleges offer STEM-qualified Environmental Studies and Urban Forestry programs.
At the graduate level, most MS (Master of Science) programs are designated as STEM programs. MS in Finance, Computer Science, and Information Technology (IT) are some of the most popular Masters programs amongst international students in the US. Some colleges also offer specialized MBA programs that are considered STEM as well.
How do I find out if the program I’m seeking classifies as STEM or not?
The scope of degrees that qualify as STEM is broad and it’s important to understand that even ifh a college might offer a degree that appears on the DHS list, the program may not qualify as STEM if it does not have an official STEM designation. In addition, receiving a STEM designation does not provide retroactive benefits for alumni.
Unfortunately, most universities don’t publish a full list of STEM-designated programs on their websites. Prospective students should reach out to the International Student Services (ISS) department and / or the admissions department to check if desired degrees / programs qualify as STEM. Reaching out to current students at the university you are considering applying to can also be a helpful way to better understand program options and experiences.