A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) is an umbrella term used for various degrees in the US – both graduate and undergraduate. For example, a BS or MS degree would be considered a degree in a STEM ﬁeld.
Misconceptions to steer clear of: STEM is not as rigidly deﬁned as it might be in India; various Business degrees e.g. an MIS degree, or an MS in Business Analysis, is considered a STEM degree.
Why this is important: Any STEM degree gives an F1 visa holder an OPT period of 3 years – this is usually more than enough time to ﬁnd a job, and apply for an H1B visa twice or thrice, to increase the chances of being awarded the H1B.
How you can qualify for a STEM degree even if you’re not interested in studying something that would be considered STEM in India: Due to the inter-disciplinary nature of US Universities, you can apply to an MA in Economics in one University, and to an MS in Economics in another; the case is similar with some Psychology courses. All other things being equal (e.g. University ranking, approximate course content) you should choose the MS degree, since it gives you a three year period to get your H1B.
If you are sure you want to study something that cannot ﬁt within the STEM umbrella of courses in the US, there are still a few things you can do to better your job prospects:
To increase your chances of getting a good job in time for your H1B application(s), get into a top 100 or top 150 University: If you do not have the 3 year OPT that a STEM degree guarantees you, your aim is to be as competitive as possible in the job market. A large determinant of this is your University ranking; higher ranked universities have better placement facilities, larger alumni networks, and increase your chances of landing that perfect job.
Ensure that you work hard on your GRE or GMAT: A University in the top 100 for a particular discipline will deﬁnitely require a GRE or a GMAT score, so do factor that into your prep plans, and only shortlist universities which require these scores.
Of course, if you’re applying via the SAT / ACT for undergrad studies in the US, you’re ﬁne! In the four years that will elapse before you join the job market, it’ll be election year again, and policies will change.
We hope that this detailed breakdown of exactly how the Trump Presidency will affect your chances of short term and long term education and career success in the USA has been useful, and has cleared up any misconceptions you might have had. As we have shown, there is no need to be worried about the effect of any policy on either admissions or jobs; in fact, most potential policies will probably lead to a small increase in your chances of success.