Choosing degree program w/ good chances of US visa-sponsored employment
May 11, 2019 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose a master's degree program which, upon completion, would come with good prospects of getting a job with visa or green card sponsorship in the US. I'm in the US on a J visa and have a PhD in linguistics and classics but have so far not been successful in finding long-term employment in academia, so am looking to spend a year or two getting a degree in a more practical field. Specifically considering either speech language pathology or comp sci / data science, but also would like to hear of other possibly in-demand careers that might be suitable.

Related earlier question:

My long-term goal is to stay in the US, and that's more important to me at the moment than what specific work I'd be doing, though I obviously want to find a job I would enjoy. My current plan is to apply for a one- or two-year STEM master's program (though it might be too late to start this fall) which would come with an OPT period of up to three years. I'd hopefully find OPT employment and use that time to find a job with a long-term visa (e.g. H1-B) or green card. What field should I choose that would make this plan likely and would also suit my background in linguistics?

Speech language pathology seems to be in demand, and from what I can find out about it, might be an interesting field for me since it involves language and the work is about helping people, which I'd find rewarding. But it's not a huge field and I don't know what the prospects would be of getting visa sponsorship as a speech language pathologist. Also, it doesn't look like SLP is a STEM field according to USCIS, so I'd only be eligible for the original 12-month OPT period, not the two-year extension. It seems a bit risky to go down this route.

Comp sci or data science obviously comes with many more opportunities. Specifically, natural language processing seems like an obvious choice in this field. I don't have any kind of tech or math background, though -- I don't know the first thing about coding or the like, and my education so far has been pretty much completely in the humanities -- so I don't know how realistic it would be to get into a master's program.

There must be other fields I'm not thinking of that satisfy these criteria, too. All suggestions will be welcomed!
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe look into tech companies who are working with language and language processing. You don't necessarily need to know how to code -- I have a friend who works for Microsoft doing this and she's a music major. The main skill here is linguistics. The goal is to train AIs to speak more naturally or to recognize voice commands better.
posted by ananci at 12:01 PM on May 11

You might want to explore options on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook page.

Some state labor departments have similar pages for their states.
posted by mareli at 1:49 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Google definitely also employs some linguists, as does Amazon. I would say focusing on tech companies is your best bet just because they have SO much experience pushing visa applications through the system and the deep pockets to sponsor. It is 100% normal for them to hire people with visa concerns, and if you have visa issues they'll work it out with you.
posted by potrzebie at 4:16 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]

Accessible technology would create advantages for you, especially if you can facilitate text-to-speech in a variety of languages. Look up Blackboard Ally for a taste of where accessible course content is attempting to go.
posted by childofTethys at 6:10 AM on May 12

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