Undergraduate Cooperative Education Programs (Co-Op Programs)

September 01, 2017

Your college education isn’t confined to the four walls of a lecture hall. That’s where Cooperative Education Programs come in.

What are Cooperative Education Programs?

Cooperative Education Programs, or more commonly known as Co-Op Programs, incorporates paid work experience in your field of interest to your academic courses on campus. Co-Op Programs aim to help students get real-world training in their field of study to help them gain experience to pursue a career after graduation.

Universities often partner with employers in government, business, nonprofits, startups and more to secure internships for their students. Depending on the university, internships are available in different U.S. locations, and some are even available abroad.

The purpose of the Co-Op Program is to give students the opportunity to apply the theory they learn in a classroom and apply it in practice. Additionally, this also helps students learn professional etiquette and better prepare them for getting a job after graduation.

Why Should I Apply for Co-Op Programs?

Co-Op Programs are built into your undergraduate degree. It gives you structure and forces you to look for an internship earlier than peers who are not enrolled in such programs. Since there are partner employers, it is also slightly easier for you to secure internships that would be otherwise super competitive.

Co-op Program internships are all paid, so students get paid during their time at college. According to a Forbes Article in 2012, Co-Op students can earn up to $6,000 at Drexel, RIT and University of Cincinnati. Many of these students are also offered full-time return offers after graduation, thereby securing a job before their senior year.

While students can also just apply for internships, co-ops are generally a lot more rewarding. Students can work full-time during school semesters, are paid internships and are often related to their specific majors.

Are there Different Types of Co-Op Programs?

Yes! There are typically three different types:

1. Alternating Semester/Full Time Programs

This type of Co-Op Program is usually 5 years. Since students have to alternate between taking classes and working, the program is structured around 5 years instead of the traditional 4 years to finish your degree.

2. Parallel Part-Time Programs

As the name suggests, you’d be working and taking classes at the same time. It’s the same as having a part-time job when you’re in college, but the internship will be directly related to your field of study.

3. One-Semester Programs

You are required to finish a one semester of full time work-based learning. It almost feel like you’re taking a semester off for a 3-month internship. This model gives you a real sense of what it’s like to be in a professional environment and apply what you’ve learned in the classroom.

List of Universities that Offer Co-Op Programs

1. Northeastern University

The Co-Op Program is built into Northeastern’s curriculum. If this type of learning is something you’re interested in, then Northeastern might be the school for you! They offer co-op opportunities in all the majors they offer and have a dedicated Co-Op Director at each college to make sure all undergraduates get matched to a Co-Op in their field of study.

Northeastern offers Co-Op jobs in different U.S. and international locations. As you consider which location to pursue your Co-Op, it’s important to consider where you want to pursue your career in the future. If you choose not to participate in the Co-Op program, there are other experiential learning requirements you must fulfill in order to graduate from Northeastern.

For more information about Northeastern’s Co-Op Program, you can check out the FAQs on their website

2. Cornell University

Cornell University’s School of Engineering offers engineering students the option of participating in Co-Op. It is not required for all engineering students and is very much dependent on how it fits in with your schedule. Students are required to work at least 28 weeks, which typically includes a semester and a summer, so only students are able to complete this and all their requirements will be able to participate in it. The Co-Op job will be a paid internship with no academic credit provided, and can be with one or two employers during the 28 weeks.

For more information and eligibility about Cornell’s Engineering Co-Op Program, you can check out Cornell’s website.

3. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology offers an optional 5-year Co-Op program to all engineering majors, as well as other majors in the colleges at Georgia Tech. Students will alternate between semesters of full-time work and academic courses. During the work semesters, Co-Ops typically earn $8,000 - $10,000 and do not have to pay tuition for ther 12 hour audit-credit co-op course! If you’re interested, find out if your major offers a Co-Op program and make sure you’ll still have 3 semesters remaining after the first work term.

For more information and eligibility about Georgia Tech’s Co-Op Program, you can check out Georgia Tech’s website. http://career.gatech.edu/co-op/application-process

4. Purdue University

Purdue University offers two different optional Co-Op programs for students in science, engineering, management, and more. Students can choose to either participate in a 5-session or 3-session co-op, both of which are required to be done with the same employer with the purpose of fostering a strong relationship with their employer and take on more responsibility during the work sessions.

On average, Purdue Co-Ops earn an average monthly salary of $2600 for the first work session and increase to $3500 by the last session. Students will still need to pay a program fee of $400 to maintain their full-time academic status.

Some majors both 5-Session and 3-Session Co-Ops, while others only offer one of the options. You can find the whole list of majors that are available for Co-Ops here. For more information about Purdue’s Co-Op Program, you can read more on their website

5. University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati has the largest Co-Op program out of all public universities in the U.S. The model the University of Cincinnati uses is an alternating one, where students switch between semesters of paid, full-time internships and semesters of full-time classes.

The Co-Op Program is required for students studying in the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, as well as the School of Information Technology. Students in the College of Business and Communication majors in the College of Arts & Sciences have the option of participating if they are interested.

For more information about Cincinnati’s Co-Op Program, you can read more about it on their website.

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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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Villanova ‘17

Accepted to Cornell, UMich, Villanova, Northeastern, Binghamton

Applied Economics and Management undergrad in CALS at Cornell
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I'm a junior at Cornell who's premed and really enjoying all the opportunities here.
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Accepted to Cornell, Oberlin, Oberlin, Yale, UChicago, USC, Case, Grinnell, UCLA, Pomona, Colby, Carleton, Brown, Dartmouth, Amherst

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Accepted to Miami OH, Cincinnati, Wake Forest

Hi guys!! I am a Freshman Art History major and Fine Arts minor at the University of Cincinnati: College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning! Lover of books, coffee, netflix, board games, and Harry Styles.

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