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After UC: Graduate school and careers

Undocumented immigrants have a number of opportunities available after graduating from college, including graduate school and making a living through various forms of legal employment.

Graduate school

The University of California offers more than 600 graduate degree programs across 10 campuses. In California, DACA students can now obtain licenses in law, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. In addition, DACA students can now study abroad and fulfill graduate program requirements in other countries. Learn more about how to prepare for UC graduate programs and apply to the program that’s right for you.

These links will also provide you with additional information about graduate school, including available scholarships for undocumented students:

Paying for graduate or professional school

Undocumented graduate students who have AB 540 status are eligible for all UC financial aid, including private scholarships and fellowships donated to the regents and administered by UC. Fellowships are one of the best places to look for graduate school funding as they don’t have to be repaid.

Fellowships have different requirements — some fellowships may be restricted to only U.S. citizens or permanent residents, while others may require employment (which means you would need DACA status). Be sure to research your options before you apply. Here are some good places to start:

  • For a good overview of the different types of fellowships and what you need to do to apply, see the UC graduate admissions site
  • For an extensive list of graduate fellowships and scholarships (including UC-specific) that do not require proof of U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency, see E4FC's Grad Scholarships (pdf)

If you don’t have AB 540 status, you cannot receive institutional fellowships from either UC or from private donors administered through UC. Private loans and private scholarships or fellowships are the only financial aid options.

Employment and research

If you have DACA certification, you may have an opportunity to work as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) or Research Assistant (RA), Teaching Assistant (TA) or Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) through your program. This is a good way to gain professional experience while earning money for school and living expenses. Employment and research opportunities also vary by department and program.

Note: If you’re eligible for DACA, but not for AB 540, you can still be employed by UC.

Making a living after graduation

Undocumented immigrants with DACA certification are eligible to receive employment authorization for the period during which DACA is in effect. Other options include becoming self-employed as an independent contractor, starting a sole proprietorship, starting a limited liability company as a worker cooperative, and working abroad.

For information about making a living through entrepreneurship, please see UC’s and Immigrant Rising’s Income Generation Options for Undocumented Students Toolkit (pdf).