22 Best STEM Courses to Study in USA as per the Department of Homeland Security

In the US, the STEM OPT allows international students an additional 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student’s program of study in an approved STEM field. In a Federal Register notice published on January 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, “The Secretary of Homeland Security is amending the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List [for OPT] by adding 22 qualifying fields of study.” In this article, we will go through the 22 new best courses to study in USA for international students in 2022 – 2023.

Best Courses to Study in USA for International Students


Bioenergy focuses on the environmental and economic impact of using plants and microbes for the production of bio-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The field of bioenergy includes instruction in biochemical engineering, bioprocessing, bioseparations, conversion, feedstock, economics, environmental sustainability, hydrology, and natural resource management.

This field involves disciplines such as research, innovation, and development of new technologies using biological science.Read more about Biomass Energy (Bioenergy) & Biofuels – Introduction, Advantages and Limitations.


Forestry generally prepares individuals to manage and develop forest areas for economic, recreational, and ecological purposes. Includes instruction in forest-related sciences, mapping, statistics, harvesting and production technology, natural resources management and economics, wildlife sciences, administration, and public relations.

Sub-Domain: Forest Resources Production and Management

This field focuses on the application of forestry principles to the production, harvesting, and processing of forest resources and that prepares individuals to perform associated technical and managerial functions. Includes instruction in forest production and utilization, industrial forestry, agroforestry, transplantation, timber harvesting, selection and identification of trees, processing technologies and systems, equipment operations and maintenance, and related management skills.

Human-Centered Technology Design

This field focuses on incorporating a human perspective into designing, researching, and creating technological interfaces. It includes instruction in design, human-computer interaction, learning, neuroscience, perception, product design, user-centered design, and usability.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing prepares individuals to design and implement enterprise software systems that rely on distributed computing and service-oriented architecture, including databases, web services, cloud computing, and mobile apps. Includes instruction in data management, distributed and cloud computing, enterprise software architecture, enterprise and cloud security, mobile systems and applications, server administration, and web development.

Both human-centered design and cloud computing are among the hottest computer science specializations.


Anthrozoology combines anthropology and zoology in order to examine the relationship between animals and humans. Includes instruction in animal behavior and communication, animal welfare, animal conservation, animal training, animal-assisted therapy techniques, biology, ethics, and education.

Climate Science

This is a no-brainer. This was supposed to be among the in-demand fields.

Climate science focuses on the scientific study of the climate system of the earth with emphasis on the physical, dynamical, and chemical interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and the terrestrial and marine biospheres. Includes instruction in biology, chemistry, climate analysis, climate change adaptation/mitigation, climate policy, ecology, energy development, environmental impacts, marine chemistry, meteorology, and oceanography.

Earth Systems Science

The field of earth sciences focuses on the interaction of the Earth’s oceanographic, atmospheric, and terrestrial systems. Includes instruction in biogeochemistry, climate dynamics, geographical information science (GIS), geophysics, hydrology, landscape ecology, meteorology, and satellite remote sensing analysis.

Learn more about earth sciences careers, courses, and jobs.

Sub-Domain: Environmental Geosciences

This program that focuses on the scientific study of the environmental implications of geological processes and human activities on Earth. Includes instruction in environmental/natural resource management, geographic information systems (GIS), geology, hydrology, regulatory agency compliance, hazard identification and mitigation, environmental law, environmental policy, and sustainability studies.

Sub-Domain: Geobiology

Geobiology focuses on the scientific study of how living things interact with geological systems. Includes instruction in evolution of Earth systems, geochemistry, geology, geomicrobiology, marine chemistry, paleobiology, paleoecology, paleontology, and petrology.

Read Why Environmental Chemistry Is The Next Best Subject To Study.

Sub-Domain: Geography and Environmental Studies

A program that focuses on interactions between people and the natural and built environments. Includes instruction in climate science, sustainability, environmental science and policy, research methods, geographic information systems (GIS), human geography, physical geography, remote sensing, and public policy.

Economics and Computer Science

The combination of economics and computer science provides an excellent advantage. This field focuses on the theoretical and practical connections between computer science and economics. Includes instruction in data analysis, database design, data mining, computer algorithms, economics, econometrics, computer programing, mathematics, and statistics.

Read Data Analytics and Economics – The Most Potent Skill Combination For Future Job Market.

Mathematical Economics

This subject focuses on the application of mathematical methods to the development of economic theory, models, and quantitative analysis. Includes instruction in data analysis, applied business economics, calculus, econometrics, linear algebra, microeconomic theory, probability, and statistical methods.

Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science

This field studies the application of mathematics to atmospheric and oceanic problems. Includes instruction in chemistry, physics, atmospheric/ocean dynamics, climatology, weather simulation, climate modeling, mathematics, oceanography, and atmospheric science.

Data Science

It was only a matter of time that data science gets its own recognition.

Data science involves the analysis of large-scale data sources from the interdisciplinary perspectives of applied statistics, computer science, data storage, data representation, data modeling, mathematics, and statistics. It includes instruction in computer algorithms, computer programming, data management, data mining, information policy, information retrieval, mathematical modeling, quantitative analysis, statistics, trend spotting, and visual analytics.

Read Best Universities for MS Data Science in USA.

Data Analytics

If data is the oil, analytics is the engine. Data analytics prepares individuals to apply data science to generate insights from data and identify and predict trends. Includes instruction in computer databases, computer programming, inference, machine learning, optimization, probability and stochastic models, statistics, strategy, uncertainty quantification, and visual analytics.

Read Best Universities for MS Business/Data Analytics in USA.

Sub-Domain: Business Analytics

Business analytics prepares individuals to apply data science to solve business challenges. Includes instruction in machine learning, optimization methods, computer algorithms, probability and stochastic models, information economics, logistics, strategy, consumer behavior, marketing, and visual analytics.

Read Careers in Analytics and Business Analytics vs Data Analytics.

Sub-Domain: Data Visualization

Data visualization is another sub-domain within the field of data scinece & analytics. It helps to organize and derive meaning from data by using visual presentation tools and techniques. This field involves instruction in cognitive science, computer programming, data management, data visualization theory, graphic design, infographics, perceptual psychology, statistics, and visual design.

Financial Analytics

The financial services industry generates huge amount of data. It is also prone to a lot of fraudulent activities and henvce subjected to a lot of risk mitigation.

The field of financial analytics deals with financial big data modeling from algorithms to cloud-based data-driven financial technologies. It includes instruction in financial analytics, financial data processing, knowledge management, data visualization, effective decision communication, machine learning for finance, statistical inference and dynamic modeling on financial data, and project management.

Related Articles:

MS Data Science vs MS Business Analytics vs MBA

MS Data Science vs MS Data/Busines Analytics vs MS AI-ML

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

I/O-psychology focuses on the scientific study of individual and group behavior in institutional settings, applications to related problems of organization and industry, and that may prepare individuals to apply such principles in industrial and organizational settings.

The field includes instruction in group behavior theory, organizational theory, reward/punishment structures, human-machine and human-computer interactions, motivation dynamics, human stress studies, environmental and organizational influences on behavior, alienation and satisfaction, and job testing and assessment.

This is great field to end up in HR, Coaching or Career Counselling. Read more about trending psychology career paths.

Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods

This field of study focuses on the design of research studies, measurement of variables, data analysis, and formulation of models. Includes instruction in experimental, quasi-experimental, and case study methods; historical research; participant observation; questionnaire design; sampling theory; and statistical methods.

Some of the top majors for this field would be Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, and Statistics.

Nursing” Still Not on the List

As per experts, one missed opportunity for DHS was to recognize nursing as a qualified field. There is a tremendous shortage of nurses in the US. Additionally, there is an expanding need as a result of both Covid-19 and the aging U.S. population. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a highly science-focused degree area. So, it would be highly beneficial to the country to recognize nursing degrees as STEM OPT eligible.

Great Opportunity for International Students

“The added fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields, and are critical in attracting talent to support US economic growth and technological competitiveness”

– The White House

New Changes

The OPT training programme allows international graduates from any discipline to stay in the US for 18 months and work. Graduates and students who have studied from the list of subjects included in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme are able to stay for up to three years.

Another change is that international students on a J-1 exchange visa will also be eligible for 36 months OPT work, up from 18 months previously. This is, again, applicable only for students in STEM-related subjects.

Related Article: How to Prepare for STEM and Engineering Majors for College Admissions

Why Choosing the Right Courses in Critical?

In order to be eligible for STEM OPT extension, students need to apply for a 24-Month STEM OPT Extension up to 90 days prior to the expiration of their OPT EAD. 

That means – students must not exceed 90 days of unemployment on your current post-completion OPT. 

So, basically, you should find a job within 90 days of finishing your program. Hence, choosing the right course is indeed important.

OPT and STEM OPT Timeline

Eligibility for a Second Period of STEM OPT After Higher Degree

If you enroll in a new academic program in the U.S. in the future and earn another qualifying STEM degree at a higher educational level, you may be eligible for a second period of 24-month STEM OPT (i.e. two 24 month STEM OPT extensions may be permitted).

Example: If you receive a 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and you later earn a Master’s degree in Computer Science or another STEM eligible field, you may apply for Post-Completion OPT, and then the additional 24-month STEM OPT extension based on your Master’s degree.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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