I am an international student, applying to Ph.D. programs for Fall 23 in the US. My background is in STEM and I am changing my career path to Psychology or Public Health. Many of these programs are Non-STEM, which I don't understand how could Psych or Pub-Health Biostatistics be non-STEM.

  1. What could be advantage/disadvantages of switching from STEM to non-STEM?
  2. Is there any way to change the non-STEM program to a STEM program? i.e., taking STEM-related courses and getting the STEM degree instead?

after an international student finishes his/her program:

  1. STEM international students get 2 years of OPT time, it's called "STEM OPT", while non-STEM international students get only 1 year of approval to be in the US.
  • 1
    My understanding is that STEM is a somewhat general term (i.e. not precisely defined), and thus the boundary between STEM and non-STEM is fuzzy, hence the issue with "Psych or Pub-Health Biostatistics" is likely a non-issue -- although you think it's STEM and someone else thinks it's non-STEM, this is not really a contradiction. As for your main concern, this likely depends on the country. In the U.S. the essential issue is whether your application to a non-STEM (or ANY) program shows that you have the potential, and you are adequately prepared, to succeed in the program you're applying to. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 9:06
  • Wild guess: Would clinical be non-STEM and research STEM? I have no basis.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 16:10
  • Will you have a masters when you start, or only a bachelors?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 17:33
  • I moved the text you posted as an answer into your question; it seems like you really want to edit here rather than posting an answer, but I'm not quite capturing the meaning. It sounds like there is some particular "STEM program" you are talking about that has different rules than other programs, and this is the importance of STEM/non-STEM; it would be helpful if you clearly explained these differences, because this is not a standard thing that most users here will be familiar with automatically.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 4:24
  • uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/… seems like what you're referencing - maybe other people are more familiar with this.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 4:27


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