BY Harshit Agarwal, ME Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2016)
I recently graduated with ME in mechanical engineering from a top school (UIUC, ranked 5th on US News). My prior degrees are from top Indian schools. I am finding it extremely difficult to find a job here. I don’t have work experience, which is a severe disadvantage. People who had work experience are either still looking, or had great difficulty finding a job.
Most jobs are not for international students. The few jobs that are, have a lot of competition, as the pool of international students graduating each year is much larger than the available jobs. Employers are wary of hiring international students, owing to the anticipated changes in policy. But whatever Trump wants to implement, it would take atleast 2–3 years for the same, as approvals at different levels are required.
Other thing is, an international student might not get the H1B owing to a lottery system, (this has nothing to do with Trump’s policies), there are more than 200,000 applications for 85,000 work visas, and the number of applications will only increase in the future. Hence for a company, there is the risk of losing out on the investment they make in the candidate to hire and train him. So they tend to hire a international student only if he is exceptional, or a really good fit. No team manager wants the majority of his team to be on F1 OPT, as the team members might not get the H1B.
You apply to like 300 jobs and you would get just 5 replies. Networking is very much needed to find a job, and one should start networking with employers as soon as possible. Also, at the masters level, companies look for specific skills, and expect you to have those skills, rather than train you. Hence, even if you have high potential to excel and academic knowledge, not knowing tools (specific softwares, work experience in particular projects) will put you at a severe disadvantage. There are a lot of small companies that hire international students but don’t go to career fairs all over the country, they only go to hiring events in their office’s close vicinity. So it is advisable that the degree be pursued in an area where there is a good market for a student’s specific interest.
If you have no work experience, are not getting any funding from the university, and coming here on a loan, then I would say that its a huge gamble. I would strongly suggest to have 2–4 years of relevant work experience before coming to US. This can be done be working at a job that you are interested in even if the pay is low, or working as a research assistant at any of the top engineering colleges.
If you are in CS or IT related fields, then the situation is totally different. You will easily get a job, even if you have a below average academic profile and little or no work experience. I see a lot of people going for a second master’s degree in Computer Science, so that they can get a job.
(I answered the question much more broadly, did not just address Trump’s policies on H1B)
(People applying for MS may feel free to reach out to me with follow up questions or to seek general advice)
(By answering this question, all I am trying to do is inform people so that they can make a wise decision. I am not implying that there is something great about about coming to US, and working and studying here, nor am I encouraging people to come to US. There are opportunities in every part of the world.)