The ultimate guide to cooperative education (co-op)

At the University of Cincinnati, we believe in experience-based learning and putting education into action beyond the classroom. 

As the global founder of cooperative education, UC houses the world’s third-largest co-op program. Each year students earn a collective $65 million annually while working for more than 1,300 employers. 

Take a look at the benefits co-op has on a student’s future career, learn how the co-op program works and read real stories from current and recent UC students whose careers have been changed through the co-op program. 

Graduate with a degree in one hand and a full resume in the other

While building on the foundation to make paid and supervised work-related experience integral to the education of every student, UC prepares students for the world of work with professional development courses, coaching and career services.

This means graduating with a degree in one hand and a job in the other — building a plan for your future.

What is co-op (and why does it matter)?

Cooperative Education — also known as co-op — is an educational model where students alternate traditional academic semesters with semesters spent working paid jobs in their field of study.

While earning an average of $10,500 per semester, you can reduce your student debt while enjoying a professional career environment. The greatest benefit is gaining first-hand experience while uncovering the right fit for your professional career. There are hundreds of co-op opportunities in Cincinnati, across the country, or around the world.

The history of co-op

UC invented cooperative education in 1906, beginning with Herman Schenider, professor of civil engineering. Schneider believed, “if you want to educate a student to become an engineer, then you should provide that student with the opportunity to practice being an engineer.” 

The first co-op class involved 27 engineering students and 13 local companies. Students originally alternated weekly between attending classes and working as a co-op. After proving its success, co-op began expanding to other fields beyond engineering.

Today UC is ranked in the top 5 of the U.S. News & World Report's list of leading institutions for co-op and internships who are at the crossroads of building professional relationships that lead to solid careers, often before graduating. 

Fun fact: 75% of UC students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science receive at least one full-time 
job offer from their co-op employers.

5 examples of successful co-op stories

Students can spend their co-op rotations at businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies around the globe. Through more than 6,000 co-op placements each year in over 1,300 companies in 44 states and 22 countries, UC co-ops often lead to employment even before graduation. 

Here are just a few recent co-op success stories:

  • Co-op was a main factor in construction management student Philip Stoll's choosing to attend UC. “I knew that UC would set me up well for my future as a project manager by giving me real-world experience while I was simultaneously earning my degree,” he says. Upon graduation, Stoll will begin his career as a project manager at one of his co-op companies, Maxwell Construction.

  • Noah Bass, class of 2020, landed his dream job as a software engineer at Apple thanks to his co-op experience. “Getting that call that I was being given the opportunity to be a co-op at Apple was just incredible,” Bass said. “And then having the chance to go back to Apple on the same team as a software engineer is really a dream position for me."
  • Through the cooperative education program, DAAP grad Grace Hertlein gained hands-on experience every other semester. Her fifth and final co-op was with Cincinnati-based consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble doing innovation design. She is now a full-time designer at P&G. 

  • Each year, UC honors top students participating in experience-based learning programs. For the spring of 2021, ten students from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) were recognized for their outstanding achievements in co-op. Their stories illustrate why the University of Cincinnati is a top five institution for co-ops and internships.


A Cincinnati education is worth it

College is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make. And UC offers one of the most valuable ROI’s in higher ed. How? Through an unparalleled commitment to experience-based learning and career preparation.