Ways to Get Experience

The University of Cincinnati has one of the largest experience-based learning programs in the world, with more than 37,000 students participating in some form of experience-based learning each year.

Options range from formal cooperative education (co-op) programs, to more flexible co-op and internship opportunities, to undergraduate research, service learning, student teaching, clinicals, performance, project work, and even opportunities to work abroad.

Whatever form it takes, experience-based learning:

  • Involves real work with real consequences
  • Requires that you actively reflect on what you are learning
  • Is related to your field of study and integrated with your academic program
  • Can take place in the field or in a course

Experience-based learning enables you to:

  • Discover your strengths, interests and passions
  • Discover what kind of work you want (and don’t want) to do
  • Make informed choices about major and career
  • Begin to build a professional network

Ways to Get Experience as a UC Student

Cooperative education, or co-op, is a formal educational model in which the student alternates semesters working full-time in the field and taking classes full-time on campus. Cooperative education was developed by Hermann Schneider at the University of Cincinnati in 1906 and has been practiced continually here ever since.

  • Students typically must complete three to five co-op semesters to graduate
  • Students take a sequence of courses to learn how to succeed in a job search and on the job
  • Students meet regularly with their faculty co-op advisor to actively reflect on their learning
  • Students can substitute an alternative experience, such as coding, entrepreneurship, study abroad, research, and more, for one co-op rotation

Formal co-op is:

  • Mandatory for students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Mandatory for students in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP)
  • Mandatory for Information Technology majors in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
  • Optional for Communication majors in the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Optional for Medical Laboratory Science majors in the College of Allied Health Sciences
  • Students in the Lindner College of Business follow a model more like flexible co-op (see next section)

Flexible co-ops, sometimes called internships, are work experiences that are related to a student's academic program and career goals. Ideally, the work is also compensated, though sometimes it is not.

Features of flexible co-op that distinguish it from formal co-op:

  • Can be part-time or full-time
  • A student can complete one experience or more than one
  • Open to students in any major outside the formal co-op majors
    • Some majors in the College of Arts and Sciences provide multiple co-op plan pathways to graduation
    • The Lindner College of Business calls these Lindner Professional Experiences. Visit the Lindner Professional Experiences FAQs to learn more.

Students who do a flexible co-op can take a companion online course to learn professional development concepts and receive academic credit for their experience. Download our guide: How to Receive Academic Credit for an Internship

In on-campus co-op, students work on campus part-time while completing an online course in professional development.

How is "on-campus co-op" different from a "student worker" position? In an on-campus co-op, you:

  • Have more responsibility (for example, ownership of a project)
  • Do active learning and self-reflection through an online companion course
  • Learn to identify and articulate your transferable (cross-cutting) skills

In addition, an on-campus co-op aligns with the expanded definition of co-op - work that is meaningful, transcripted, requires academic preparation, and involves goal-setting and active reflection by the student.

A small but growing number of people now work for multiple clients on multiple projects on a short-term contract basis. Sometimes called "gig work," project work or “micro co-ops” are often done remotely, rather than at the client's site. Preparing you for this aspect of the future of work is an emerging area for UC.

Parker Dewey is the preferred platform for employers that offer project work and UC student freelancers to find each other.

Service-Learning is an approach to education that pushes you outside the classroom to produce work of real value to a community organization as part of a course or through a service-learning co-op.

Research shows that when students do service-learning, they learn better because the stakes are higher. When their work has real consequences for real people, students tend to absorb the lessons more thoroughly and retain them more effectively.

How to find service-learning experiences:

UC Forward pulls students from diverse majors onto trans-disciplinary teams with faculty and outside experts to come up with solutions to real-world problems. In doing so, UC Forward develops tomorrow's workforce in unique and relevant ways.

Students learn techniques of innovation while the external partner gains fresh, workable solutions to a complex problem or challenge.

Unlike most courses, which typically consist of students in the same major, UC Forward courses deliberately attract students from different disciplines to work on a problem together, much like teams in the real world. UC Forward enthusiastically welcomes students from all majors, minors, and academic disciplines.

Students can get this experience in several ways:

  • Take an Inquiry to Innovation course
  • Take the Corporate Challenge Collaborative (PD 5100) course - new in Fall 2020
  • Earn one of three UC Forward Certificates
  • Look in the course catalog for courses with the "T" (Transformational) attribute; these courses all incorporate a UC Forward-style learning experience

Today’s employers are looking for candidates who possess global and intercultural fluency. Going abroad either to work or to study can build your resume and distinguish you from other candidates in a job search.

Work Abroad

International experiential learning allows students to apply classroom knowledge in a real-world setting while gaining a better understanding of a given field in a global context.

International experience-based learning encompasses academic internships, cooperative education, research, and service-learning.

Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an excellent way to develop cultural fluency. It gives you the chance to experience and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions while exploring the world. Your global experiences will help you develop and demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people.

Whether your trip is one week, one semester or an academic year, there are international programs that fit different budgets, academic disciplines, personal interests, and schedules. Every year, more than 1,700 UC students study abroad, and students from each college visit more than 50 countries.

Research is a systematic study of a narrow topic that results in an intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline. it takes place in every discipline, not just STEM fields, and as a UC student, you have great opportunities to contribute to faculty research or do original research yourself.

The Office of Undergraduate Research at UC develops resources and systems that connect undergraduate students to research experiences, prepares them for success, and celebrates their achievements.

Ways to Explore Research at UC
If you are a... Check out... Description
Student at any level
Explore Research Gateway to undergraduate research experience at UC
Undergraduate student who are curious about research as a possible career Ready for Research Connections Students discuss introductory videos and get connected with a more experienced student to learn about working in research
Undergraduate student with some research experience Undergraduate Research Society Network of student researchers across all disciplines who support one another
Undergraduate student with some research experience Undergraduate Scholarly Showcase Event where hundreds of students from across the university present their scholarly work in posters and podium presentations
Undergraduate student with some research experience Summer Workshops Interactive, discipline-inclusive workshops to help student researchers learn better organization, communication and codes of conduct
Graduate student Grad-Undergrad Research Connections Network of graduate students across all disciplines who meet with curious undergraduates to talk about their work and experience in research

Students who are interested in the health professions have several options for getting career-related experience and coaching.

Health professions include medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, podiatry, optometry, public health, physical therapy and others.

Pre-Professional Advising Center

The Pre-Professional Advising Center (PPAC) works with pre-health undergraduate students and alumni who aspire to attend a health professional school after completing their undergraduate degree.

The PPAC offers a wealth of information for pre-health students including an overview of experiential learning opportunities.

Pre-Health Courses

UC offers pre-health professional development courses to help you explore healthcare careers and prepare competitive applications to graduate school.

Clinicals

Clinicals are an established practice in healthcare education. Students shadow working professionals on the job to observe, ask questions, and gain hands-on experience.

At UC, students' clinical experiences and assessments are managed by their home college.

Student teaching, sometimes called practicum, is an established practice in undergraduate education programs, where students who are preparing to become teachers practice their emerging skills in a K-12 classroom under the guidance of a mentor teacher.

At UC, student teaching experiences and assessment are managed by the student’s home college:

If you are strong in a subject, you can get paid to tutor other students in it. Tutors support more than 300 undergraduate courses in math, science, languages, business, writing and more.

Peer tutors are employed by the Learning Commons. To learn more, contact the Learning Commons or search for open on-campus positions in Handshake.

Being a teaching assistant (TA) lets you see what it’s like to teach in higher education. If you have done well in a course, consider asking to serve as a TA for that course in future semesters.

Assistantships allow you to get hands-on teaching experience and build important skills like effective oral and written communication, leadership, and collaboration. In some cases, undergraduate teaching assistants perform tasks typically performed by graduate students, such as preparing to teach a class, live instruction, or grading and proctoring exams.

Since teaching assistants are typically supervised by a full-time faculty member, being an assistant will expose you to that professor’s teaching philosophy and style. Being a TA gives you an opportunity to form a relationship with a professor in an area of interest and thereby expand your professional network.

To become a TA, contact the course instructor or look for opportunities periodically posted to UC’s Jobs page.

Students preparing for careers in music, dance, theatre, or production rehearse and perform for live audiences.

At UC, this form of experiential learning is managed by the home college, primarily the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). To learn more, find specific academic programs and majors of interest within CCM and discover what experiential learning through performance could look like for you.

No matter where you work, you can gain valuable skills and experience that employers look for. Although a part-time job may not be directly related to your long-term career goals, you can still develop transferable skills such as communication, professionalism, leadership and more through the experience.

How to Find Part-Time Jobs

UC’s Part-Time Job Fair features local Cincinnati companies and organizations (including the University of Cincinnati) who are eager to hire students for part-time jobs and internships.

You can look for part-time jobs in Handshake, a powerful job search tool that the University of Cincinnati provides free to all UC students and alumni.

You can also check out online job aggregators, which pull together job listings from many sources into one searchable location. Searching aggregators lets you quickly scan for part-time jobs in your geographic area that match your interests. (A word of caution: When using a job aggregator, be wary of online scams and fraudulent job postings.) Popular job aggregators include:

On-Campus Co-ops and Micro Co-ops

When thinking of part-time jobs, remember on-campus co-ops and micro co-ops. These jobs are often part-time and/or can be done remotely, meaning they can fit easily into a busy schedule.

Get involved, gain resume-building experience, and build a network of peers by joining a student organization. At UC, more than 400 student organizations support a variety of political, cultural, academic, and social interests. Search CampusLINK to find student organizations that appeal to you. 

More than just helping out in the community, volunteering can be a great way to get experience, build your professional network, explore your interests, and learn what kinds of job functions or work environments you enjoy.

UC Center for Community Engagement

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) connects the Bearcat community to the Cincinnati community through community service. Whether you want a semester-long engagement, a one-time volunteer shift, or anything in between, this is a great resource.

Search for Opportunities on Your Own

These searchable databases can turn up volunteer opportunities that might be just right for you:

Unsure what volunteering could look like for you? No problem! You can always meet with a career coach to discuss which volunteer options will best support your career goals.

Co-op 2.0 and the Bearcat Promise

Co-op 2.0, or Co-op for All, builds on UC’s historic expertise in cooperative education and expands the reach of experiential learning beyond our signature co-op programs to all corners of the university. Our vision is that all baccalaureate students will be able to graduate with work experience that is career-oriented, transcripted, and compensated.

In addition, the Bearcat Promise is the intention that every baccalaureate student will graduate with a diploma AND a plan for their career and professional development.