All You Need To Know About American Co-op Programs!
If you are an international student looking to study in the United States, you might be wondering what a cooperative program actually is. Co-operative education is typically much more popular in Canada (by that name, anyway), but there are some co-op programs available in the United States as well.
What is co-op?
In the United States,
the cooperative program is basically like an internship or work
placement. You combine your classroom education with practical
employment experience. You usually alternate terms between studying
and working, and usually work for different companies in different
positions over the course of your degree.
The co-op job hunt process is similar to a true job-hunt in the real world, where you apply and compete for jobs with other people - rather than be "placed" in a job. Usually universities will provide a database of jobs for you to apply to, but also encourage you to find jobs on your own.
Depending on your co-op program, it will typically consist of alternating semesters of work and study.
What are the advantages of a co-op program?
From everything I've explained so far, you can probably see the advantages of a co-op program. It's really a great opportunity for any aspiring student. You get to meet lots of new people, discover new ideas and even live in different cities. Here are some benefits of co-op:
- Get paid! Finance your studies with the money you earn during co-op positions.
- Gain work experience that relates to your studies. This won't only improve your future prospects, but it may count towards required experience for MBA programs, professional designations like engineering, and more
- Discover hidden job markets and get industry exposure
- Make professional contacts and build a network
- Get to try out different positions, fields of work and companies - and therefore exploring a range of career options you might never have even thought of
- Learn skills such as resume writing, interviewing, and job performance, which will help you in finding a full-time job later on
- Co-op students are more successful in gaining employment after graduation than regular students1
More things to consider:
Experience- Speaking from personal experience, there can
be a lot of pressure to find a great job while keeping your grades
up. While there is a high success rate of finding a co-op job, some
people end up with an unpaid co-op internship or unemployed for
that work term. An unpaid internship can provide a lot of great
experience. Co-op programs can show you the real prospects of the
job market out there, which will make you better equipped for your
No summer breaks. At least, in my co-op program. Usually students get the months of April to August off for the summer, but in co-op, you study and work back and forth - no breaks in between, except maybe a week after exams. Sure, it would be nice to have a longer break once in a while, but for international students that's actually a great thing. You don't need to spend money without studying in the US, or risk visa problems by going back home for the summer.
time. The time at which you apply for jobs and go through
the interview process is the same time you're studying in school
and having midterm exams. I know a friend who had about 22 job
interviews while having several mid-term exams as well. Talk about
stressful! The trick is to know which jobs you really want and are
qualified for. You'll learn how to utilize your time effectively,
and that's an important skill.
The co-op fee. It's important to recognize that usually the school adds on an extra fee for being in the co-op program, which pays for co-op advisors, work report markers, resources and other such things. There are tons of resources that can help you during co-op, take advantages of them to get the best value out of your tuition.
Is co-op for me?
Take this quiz called Is co-op right for me?. It should help you get an idea of what co-op has to offer!
Requirements for the co-op program
different criteria for their co-op programs.
Usually, the privilege of being able to get work experience and represent your university in the workplace requires a higher average than a regular program. Here are some more notes on co-op that you should consider:
1. Since co-op is part
of your academic studies, it also counts as a credit. You are
usually required to a work report at the end of
every work term and will be graded on it. You will also be
evaluated by your employers at the end of every
term - Poor, Satisfactory, Good, and so on.
2. You may be required to take a short online course before or while you work - this is in preparation for workplace communication, handling workplace conflict and learning how to create a proper work report.
3. Keep in mind that you have to keep your grades up, have good evaluations with your employers and complete all the co-op work terms, courses and work reports that are required from you.
4. You must be eligible to work in the United States for off-campus work placements.
Co-op programs in the United States
As mentioned earlier in the lesson, the "cooperative education" program is much more popular in Canada than in the United States. In the United States, the term "internship" or "work placement" would probably be more common. Look at the school you are applying to; chances are they will have a co-op or internship program. Here's a short list of some prominent American co-op programs:
University - Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern has the largest and second-oldest coop program in the States. Their co-op program was ranked #1 in the Co-op and Internships category by U.S. News and World Report. Like Drexel, a 5-year degree allows for 18 months of internship.
Drexel University - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel has one of the largest co-op programs in the United States. A student typically takes five years to complete a degree, with a total of 18 months of internship with up to 3 different companies.
Rochester Institute of Technology - Rochester, New York
Their coop program is the 4th oldest and 5th largest of its kind in the States. Their career-oriented university allows students to work for about 3 semesters, alternated between studies. They have about 3,500 students who complete a co-op each year at over 2,000 businesses.