Foreign students who major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs may get a total of three years of work authorization, whereas foreign students who have other majors only get one year of work authorization after graduation. Because of the severe shortage of H-1B visa numbers and restrictions on other temporary visas, a non-STEM student with only one year of OPT (optional practical training) after graduation may not be able to get an H-1B visa number, not qualify for other temporary work visas, and have to depart the U.S. Those with STEM majors, on the other hand, may get a total of three years of OPT (an initial one year, and then a two-year extension), and so have much more time to try to get an H-1B visa number or qualify for another type of temporary status or even the green card.
However, students should not major in subjects in which they are not interested, as you are not going to succeed in an area in which you have no interest. Students should choose a major that is exciting and interesting to them. For students who are not interested in the obvious computer science, engineering, math, biology majors, there are many majors within the STEM program which may suit their interests more closely, turn out to be a good fit, and then allow them to stay and work in the US for that extra two years. So if the usual suspects in terms of STEM majors leave you feeling ho-hum, go find something else!
For animal lovers, Animal Sciences, Animal Health and Animal Nutrition are all STEM majors, as is almost any major with the word “Veterinary” in it. For those worried about global warming and saving the environment, there are many STEM majors, including the following: Natural Resources Conservation and Research; Environmental Studies; Water, Wetlands, and Marine Resources Management; Wildlife, Fish and Wildlands Science and Management; Forest Science; and many others.
For those interested in the social sciences, there are many options, including for example: Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics; Comparative Psychology; Developmental and Child Psychology; Social Psychology; Econometrics and Quantitative Economics; and Archeology, among others.
For those interested in media and communications, Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia as well as Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects are STEM majors.
For those interested in a military career, there are many STEM majors, including: Intelligence, General; Strategic Intelligence; Information/Psychological Warfare and Military Media Relations; Military Applied Sciences; Naval Science and Operational Studies; as well as many others. For students interested in security and law enforcement, Forensic Science and Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism are STEM majors.
For a complete list of STEM majors, look at the STEM Designated Degree Program List Effective May 10, 2016 on the USICE web site.