US Launches 22 New STEM OPT fields, Aims to Enroll 20M International Students by 2029

February 01, 2022 17:19 IST
Updated: February 01, 2022 17:15 IST

USA is amongst the top study abroad destinations, not just for Indians but students across the globe. Despite the restrictive travel restrictions and hybrid classes, 70% USA universities recorded a boost in international student enrollments. The 2021 Open Door IEE report recorded that 54% of international students in the USA are pursuing STEM courses. After China, India has the second-largest overseas STEM student contingent in the United States, with over 150,000 students, or 78.3%, enrolled or working in STEM in 2020-21.

Students enrolled in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are eligible to apply for a 36-month visa extension under Optional Training Program (OPT). As per the IEE report, around 44% students are on OPT that allows them to gain temporary employment related to their field of study. Seeing the increasing demand for the over 300 STEM programs in the USA , the Biden administration has updated its policy by offering 22 new STEM fields to the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

The 22 new fields of study- Bioenergy, General Forestry, Forest Resources Production and Management, Human-Centered Technology Design, Cloud Computing, Anthrozoology, Climate Science, Earth Systems Science, Economics and Computer Science, Environmental Geosciences, Geobiology, Geography and Environmental Studies, Mathematical Economics, General Data Analytics and Quantitative Methods.


The cost of pursuing STEM courses in the United States is between 48 to 60 lakh INR for an Indian student. Some of the top USA universities and colleges (as per QS rankings 2022) offering STEM programs are tabulated below

International students studying in the USA are recruited by firms like Apple Inc.,Microsoft, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, etc. Furthermore, when compared to the median hourly wages of USD 19.30, the average median hourly income for STEM jobs is USD 38.85. The BLS data reveals that the annual mean wage for STEM occupations in 2021 was USD 98,340, which was much higher than the US average of USD 56,310 for all occupations.

The annual mean salary of USD 147,290, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, was the top paying area for STEM jobs. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California (USD 131,900) and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington (USD 123,370) were also among the highest paid metropolitan areas for STEM occupations. The average salaries and scopes for various STEM courses are mentioned below:

As per the reports by BLS, STEM occupations are expected to rise at a faster rate than non-STEM jobs between 2017 and 2029, with roles in computing, engineering, and advanced manufacturing leading the way. STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in the near future. In fact, the US economy expects to generate around 3.5 million jobs, for which employment requirements must be fulfilled by 2025.

The introduction of additional STEM programs highlights that the Biden administration understands the importance that international students bring to the United States.The additional 22 subjects of study will ensure that students pursuing STEM degrees in the United States benefit the American economy.