How Co-op Differs From Internships
Cooperative education’s purists gasp (or sigh resignedly) whenever anyone innocently wonders aloud about the difference between co-op and internships. So, just for the record: No, co-op and internships are not quite the same thing.
Date: 8/10/2005 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Colleen Kelley
An internship – as valuable as it may be – is often a one-shot deal. It may last no more than a single summer. It may be paid or unpaid. It may or may not relate directly to a student’s major.
, as it was invented at the University of Cincinnati in 1906, is a deliberately sequential, ongoing experience provided to students. A co-op adviser works with a student throughout that student’s academic career, finding that student a progression of five to seven professionally paid positions that incorporate steadily increasing levels of learning, responsibility and pay. The cash is important because it has a way of making sure both employers and students make the most of the experience.
When it’s all added up at graduation, most UC co-op students are graduating with about a year-and-a-half of experience that was carefully planned to take him or her from inexperience to a high level of professional competence. Then, more than 60 percent of co-op students nationally accept permanent jobs from their co-op employers, and 95 percent find jobs immediately upon graduation. (Figures from the National Commission for Cooperative Education.)
Need an example? Let’s look at UC’s interior design and architecture programs, respectively ranked #1 and #2 in the country. A student in these programs will begin co-opping at the end of his sophomore year. During that initial co-op, he’ll probably be entrusted with a lot of computer-aided design (CAD) duties. He’ll then steadily progress while alternating co-op work quarters with academic quarters until the senior year. By that time, he’s likely to be working as a project manager responsible for all aspects of his employer’s work load.
- Co-op is integrated into the academic curriculum while most internships are add-ons to the curriculum.
- Co-ops begin early in the student's academic career, typically on the sophomore level. Internships are often a capstone experience that comes at the end of a student's courses.
- Thus, co-op affects students' attitudes in their courses because the experience gained is brought back into the classroom at a formative stage.
- The paid positions required of co-op ensure that students are do a day's work for a day's pay. Many unpaid internships place students in an observer role.
- Co-op constitutes a significant portion of a student's undergraduate experience. At UC, those who co-op do so for 40-percent of their undergraduate time. Internships generally constitute a relatively insignificant portion -- timewise -- of the undergraduate experience.
Return to main page of "Co-op Special Report."