What is a co-op?
Traditionally, co-operative education (co-op) is a paid training experience designed for college students pursuing a particular career. Most co-op programs are rotational programs, requiring students to take a semester of classes, followed by a semester off of class while working full-time at the co-op location. Co-op rotational programs enable students to gain in-depth, hands-on knowledge to prepare them for a career after graduation. Co-op programs can be somewhat competitive, but are proven to give students the necessary competitive edge when it comes to securing a full-time job. See the "Co-op FAQ" section below for more information.
Registering your co-op
If you've been offered a co-op opportunity by a company, you will need to register for the free, 0-credit co-op course to make sure that your co-op experience is documented on your transcript. Registering your co-op is easy, and allows the university to provide additional support services and safe guards to students. Registering your co-op also ensures that your co-op experience is well documented to employers when you go to apply for your first job after graduation.
*There is no cost or assignment associated with registering your co-op.
*Chemical Engineering students, your co-op registration process is slightly different – see below for more information.
Co-op process for ChemE students
- Complete the Chemical Engineering Registration form: Chemical Engineering Registration Form
- Send a copy of the offer letter to Assistant Dean Sondra Auerbach
- BE 3500 registration agreement will be emailed to student
- Sign and submit registration agreement
- Registration override granted
- Register for BE 3500
***If a student continues in the same co-op position for the next semester, only a revised offer letter with the new end date for the co-op needs to be submitted for registration.
End of the semester for ChemE students
- Submit final report or powerpoint showcasing co-op activities to Assistant Dean Auerbach
- Satisfactory grade (S) will be posted to academic record for BE 3500
What is a co-op?
Traditionally, co-operative education (co-op) is a paid training experience designed for college students pursuing a particular career. Most co-op programs are rotational programs, requiring students to take a semester of classes, followed by a semester off of class while working full-time at the co-op location. Most co-ops also feature a summer work assignments. Co-op rotational programs enable students to gain in-depth, hands-on knowledge to prepare them for a career after graduation. Co-op programs can be somewhat competitive, but are proven to give students the necessary competitive edge when it comes to securing a full-time job.
How is a co-op different than an internship?
An internship is typically shorter in length – ranging from three to 12 months. An internship can be paid or unpaid, and may focus on a specific project or task. Internships are most frequently in the summer, but fall, winter or spring internships are available at certain companies. A co-op is a paid opportunity that usually features a rotational format, having students alternate each semester between tacking classes and working full time at their co-op site.
How can I get credit for my co-op?
Depending on your program, there may be an opportunity to get credit for your co-op experience. Talk to your academic advisor to find out what types of for-credit options are available for co-ops. When doing a co-op, you do need to make sure you are registering your co-op for the free, 0-credit Co-op Course (BE3500). This course is free to register for and should not affect your financial aid. It will allow your co-op experience to be officially tracked on your academic transcript, which will be necessary when you graduate and are applying to your first post-graduation job.
How do I find a co-op?
Finding a co-op is just like finding an internship or a full-time job. Use the “Finding an internship or job” tab on the menu to the left for more information.
How do I apply for a co-op?
Applying for a co-op is typically the same process as applying to an internship for a full-time job. You will need to make sure you have a clean, edited and tailored resume for the co-op position. You will also usually need a cover letter and professional references. Applying to a co-op should require the same amount of time and effort as applying to a full-time job. Most co-ops require one or more interviews, so make sure you are prepared for an in-depth interview process. Use our “Helpful resources” section for more help with preparing a resume and interviewing.
How many hours, months, years, etc. is a co-op?
This depends. Each company has their own definition of a “co-op” and as such the timing of a co-op can vary greatly between employers. Make sure when you are applying or searching for co-op opportunities that you are paying close attention to the details provided by the employer. This will be useful in gauging the length and timing of the co-op.
How does a co-op affect my classes and graduation time?
A traditional co-op requires students to take rotating semesters off of academic courses in order to devote their time and attention to their co-op rotation. As such, this can potentially affect your schedule of courses. Make sure you speak with your academic advisor to see how a co-op fits into your academic plan, and how specific course offerings line up with your co-op schedule.
What are the benefits of doing a co-op?
Upon graduating, nearly every company will be looking for students that have some sort of hands-on training experience related to their major. Participating in internship or co-ops are the best way to obtain this experience. While internships can be very beneficial, co-op rotational programs typically allow for more in-depth training and exposure to the field of engineering. Doing a co-op greatly improves the job prospects for students upon graduation, and in some cases, co-ops can lead to full-time jobs at the co-op site following the student’s graduation. In addition to preparing students for full-time work, co-ops allow students to find their particular career interest and learn the areas of their program that they like most. For students interested in attending graduate school after graduation, co-ops can also make students more well-rounded candidates when applying to competitive graduate schools.
Can international students do co-ops?
This depends. Co-ops are paid opportunities, so international students will need to make sure to discuss with the company if they hire international students for paid positions. Because hiring international students can be somewhat costly for companies, not all companies are able to hire non-domestic students. That being said, we have seen many of our international students securing co-ops at varying companies in a wide-range of industries. If you are international student interested in doing a co-op, make sure you fully understand the company’s policy on hiring international students, and make sure you first talk to an OISS advisor to make sure that your visa allows you to fulfill the needs of the co-op program.
What if I have a problem during my co-op?
One of the important reasons to register for the free, 0-credit co-op course (BE3500) is to put a university advocate in your corner, so to speak. If you are registered for BE3500 and encounter a problem while at your co-op that cannot reasonably be handled with the company’s human resources/internal department channels, you are able to seek guidance from the University Career Center and the Engineering Career Resource Center. Remember to always first follow the necessary steps that are present by the company for handling problems before seeking university guidance.
Are co-ops paid or unpaid?
Unlike internships that can be paid or unpaid, an official co-op opportunity is a challenging, paid opportunity.
When should I start looking for a co-op?
Largely this is up to you, your academic calendar, and the company. Some companies prefer to have co-op students starting as early as their sophomore year. Other companies prefer to begin co-op rotation with students in or entering into their junior year. You will also want to speak with your academic advisor to help develop a firm understanding of your course schedules and how a co-op could potentially alter your course schedule and sequence of courses.
Keep in mind that many co-op programs are extremely competitive, and with so many engineering schools in the area, companies can begin recruiting far in advance for their co-ops. For example, employers looking for co-op students to start in Fall/Winter may begin recruiting early in the summer prior to that fall.