Cooperative education or Co-op is a college program that balances classroom education with hands on learning. Co-ops are traditionally full time paid positions that are counted as part of a college curriculum. The position is held for a long duration of time, usually 3-6 months depending on the program. Students typically don't take classes during their co-op period. This is so students can focus on their work experience. Co-ops are part of the curriculum of many college engineering programs.
Co-op or Internship
Not all colleges offer co-ops. Co-ops are not to be confused with internships. Internships are work experiences that are much shorter in duration and are not always paid. They are more flexible than co-ops as they require fewer hours and can be completed over the summer or while a student is in classes.
How Co-ops Work
Colleges with co-op programs usually require the student to complete at least two practical learning experiences. A co-op program can lengthen the time a student is in school. This is because there are semesters where they will be working full time and not attending classes. As a result, many university co-op programs are designed to be completed over 5 years.
There are many colleges with engineering curriculums that incorporate co-ops. Northeastern University, Drexel University and University of Pittsburgh are just a few of the colleges that offer co-op programs in engineering. Overall, co-ops are a great way to explore a field and gain practical experience by working.