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What is CIP Code ? Importance for 24 month OPT Extension, Find it on I20

Some of you may have heard about CIP codes for your degree, but may not have paid much attention to it or bothered to worry about its importance.  It is very important to pay attention to the CIP code before you join a program as it decides the STEM OPT extension eligibility. In this article, we review the CIP code details, how to find it on I-20 and its importance for STEM OPT.

What is CIP Code ?

CIP is an acronym for “Classification of Instructional Programs”.  CIP Codes are given by National Center for Education Statistics ( NCES).  These CIP Codes are given by NCES to track, assess and report fields of study and program completions activity.  Currently, schools use CIP-2000 codes. You can check CIP codes and details by field of study at NCES CIP Website

Where to find CIP Code on I-20 ?

CIP Codes are not explicitly listed on your initial I-20, when you are offered admission. It only comes into picture when you start to utilize your OPT period. When you apply for OPT,  the DSO ( international student adviser/ Designated school official) will issue you a new I20.  It will be of 3 pages and you can find the CIP Code on the third page top next to ‘primary major’  Check the below screen shot.

I20 Sample CIP Code for OPT Extension
CIP Code Details on I-20 form

Bitter Experience on CIP Code for 24 month OPT Extension

One of my very good friends, who received a Masters degree last year, is currently working on OPT. Originally, his degree was NOT listed under STEM Designated degree (STEM Designated Degree Program list is a complete list of fields of study that DHS considers to be science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM)) for 24 month OPT extension  .

As you know, recently, DHS added about 94 degrees to STEM Designated degree programs… looking at the newly added list of degree programs, especially the description of the degree program related to his field, he was excited that he took most of the courses that are required for the degree and he should be qualified for 24 month OPT extension.  He approached the DSO and showed the newly added degree programs, his transcript and degree program description, guess what ?  DSO said that the Masters degree he received does not fall under STEM Designated degree as the CIP Code does not match.

My friend went to the Graduate school and talked to them, they said the same news. He approached the department head and explained that he has taken most of the courses required for the program and asked why the degree is not classified under that CIP Code. The department chair agreed to the fact that he has taken most of the courses, but he said that unfortunately, graduate school has classified it under different CIP code and changes to it has to come through them. Also, he said that it is a very lengthy process as a committee has to approve the CIP code change. He mentioned that school may not really go for a CIP code change unless needed. The reality of fact is that, CIP codes are quoted by Universities when they apply for program accreditation and structuring program fees, etc.  In any case, it is not easy to change CIP Codes, unless the school thinks, it needs a change.

Check Complete list of STEM Designated Degree List for 24 Month OPT Extension

Check CIP Code for Degree before you take classes

Based on above experience, we can conclude that CIP codes are critical for deciding the STEM Designated degree classification and 24 month OPT Extension for international students. Before you join any degree program at any school, you need to check with the graduate school and your department the CIP Code tied to your degree program.

You need to cross check with the full Official list of STEM Designated degrees and make sure your degree is listed in there to qualify for the 24 month OPT extension. If you do not check CIP Code and assume certain things, you can run into issues at the end of your OPT to file extension…

Do you have any similar OPT extension experience to share ?


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  1. Hello Kumar, thank you for this post, really informative!
    Like others here, I’m in a similar situation as your friend, except that my department CIP code has changed from a non-STEM one to a STEM one. But since I have already graduated with the old CIP code (I have started my OPT 4 months ago), can I still avail the 24 months OPT extension?

    • This is a tricky situation…usually, the CIP code you graduated with is what matters…I suggest you check with DSO to clarify the same…

      • Thanks for your reply, Kumar. I did check with the DSO and they don’t have a clear answer themselves (but based on the way that they were saying it, its a ‘no’ mostly). But I don’t understand, its the same degree, same courses, nothing has changed, so why is it still not possible? I mean my juniors are going to graduate with the same exact degree…but theirs will be STEM.
        Besides the DSO, who else would you I should be contacting to get some help?

        • Usually, some of these are not applied retroactively because they cannot verify the courses, etc from the past. Let me give you another common example, imagine you graduate from a university and that university loses accreditation, does that mean your degree is invalid for H1B masters cap because you University lost accreditation now ? The answer is NO, because when you graduated, it was an accredited degree…does that make sense… So, it applies both ways…Your DSO and graduate school is the only one that can give you that answer and have to support you…

        • Hi Khan, I’m in the same situation. I have found some sources saying that while student is still active on the F-1 Visa (including OPT), the change of CIP code should apply, but I guess it’s really up to the school. I know that in my case, the change involves the major department, the school registrar office, and the DSO, so I will have to talk to all 3. If you get any updates I would really want to know.

  2. Did your colleague manage to get the OPT extension or he ended up going for his PHd? I am asking cause I am facing a similar situation.

  3. I’ve received an admit from Texas A&M University, college station for MS in Construction Management. Since construction management course at Texas A&M falls under architecture department, that course isn’t STEM. After contacting the architecture department head at the university, he told me that they have raised an official request to get their CIP code changed to STEM from NON-STEM. But they won’t get the decision until August 2018. Since I need to make a decision right now about whether to attend the school or not. What do you think, Can the university’s request to get the CIP code changed to STEM be denied? Has it ever happened in the past? It is extremely important and urgent for me to get an answer to this query.

    • Gaurav,
      I am not sure how it works and how long it can take for schools to get CIP code changed. You can try contacting schools that offer similar degree and ask their CIP code and STEM status, if they have it, maybe this University can also get it….It can be difficult, but you may have to take a decision based on some data from other schools..

  4. I will be pursuing my Masters in Engineering and Project Management (comes under Civil Engineering Department) at Berkeley. It is a diverse branch which leads to many fields like supply chain management, construction management, data science etc. It falls under a certain stem category – Civil Engineering General to be specific. Half of the courses which I will be taking would be related to Machine Learning and Data Analytics (Berkeley has a provision for the same). When applying for OPT or OPT extension, is it necessary for my job to be in Civil Engineering? Can I work at companies where my work will be more related to Data Science rather than core Construction management, say Google, Facebook? Will there be any issues when applying for OPT/OPT extension?


  5. This similar thing happened to me as well. The rules pertaining to OPT extension seem to be very strict.
    The course code listed on my I20 is xx.xx04 and in order to be eligible for an extension the code needed to be xx.xx05 even though the programs are the same and is listed under the same name. If getting a degree in the the allied health field I recommend paying close attention to which code the school lists for your program. Adding or dropping 1 or 2 courses will qualify your program under a different CIP code and seems to make all the difference with that as well.

  6. Hello ,

    I am pursuing my MBA in the field of Information Technology , its CIP Code is 11. 0103. I asked my DSO simply without any information of STEM . Asked whether MBA in Information Technology fall under STEM or not. DSO told that , my degree matter a lot not the majors. But , I shared this information and news my friend , he has given USICS link :https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf where complete information is complete STEM designated degree program list , which was effective May 10, 2016. So , my friend is telling telling to take the list and I-20 near my DSO and ask with the proof.

  7. I graduated in Ms Finance course May 2016 and I am currently working on my OPT Status. My university got STEM status for the Ms Finance course today. am I eligible for the STEM extension?


    • Rahul,
      You should check with your graduate school, if the CIP code for the degree you got falls into that and if applies for older degrees. You should also check with your DSO, they are the best ones to clarify this.

  8. Does information systems and technology come under stem course? i would like to join in one of the for-profit university. Will i get opt after completing my masters program.

  9. Quite informative an eye-opening post.

    Does Computer Science and Software Engineering (AKA Computer Software Engineering) fall under STEM category? The STEM list contains both degrees (M.S) along with their CIP code
    but even though I would like to have your opinion on this as I am going to apply for either CS or SE.
    Thank you so much for the lesson. I will make sure that I ask the Grad school the CIP code for my intended major and will cross check with the STEM list.
    Thanks for the STEM list though.
    I appreciate all your suggestions.
    Best Regards,

    • Tarun,
      The name ” Computer Software Engineering” falls under CIP Code 14.0903 . You can check the full list in above article links. Having said that, it is always dependent on how the school has classified it and what CIP Code NCES has given them… So, you need to check with Grad school…


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