Cooperative Education (Professional Work Experience + Degree) Finding an internship in the USA

Cooperative Education (Professional Work Experience + Degree) Finding an internship in the USA


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Definitions

Work Study
An educational plan in which students alternate between paid employment and formal study

Internship
An opportunity to integrate career related experience into an undergraduate education by participating in planned, supervised work


The first step toward your career could be cooperative education (co-op). If you participate in a “co-op” program, you enter the work force one step ahead of a your classmates. You graduate with a university degree, as well as professional work experience in your field of study.

Academic and Professional

As part of a long tradition in the United States, over 900 American universities and colleges offer co-op education programs. Cooperative education is a partnership between a university's academic programs and professional employers, who provide off-campus work experience.

Your school should assist you in finding work with an organization. Your employer should monitor and evaluate your performance, pay you and supervise you.

Required for Graduation

At some U.S. universities, each student must complete a co-op education program in order to graduate. These programs are as diverse as the universities themselves.

Students are not limited to work near the university. International students who plan careers in their home countries often complete their co-op semesters overseas.

Like a Real Job

In the international job market, co-op graduates are in high demand. Employers know that a co-op education integrates classroom theory, hands-on lab and studio work and real professional experience.Most co-op graduates use their employers as professional references. Many receive full-time job offers from them.

The U.S. government allows international students with F-1 visas to work up to a total of 12 months in curricular practical training (co-op qualifies in this category) before earning a bachelor's degree.

Co-op education supplements tuition and develops marketable skills. Those of us who administer co-op programs see this system as much more than that - it's a great way to start your professional life.

Cooperative Education gives students the unique opportunity to practice classroom theory in a professional setting.

  • Helps students explore career interests
  • Paid position helps subsidize tuition
  • Improves job opportunities after graduation
  • Teaches students valuable job-search skills such as resumé writing and interviewing techniques
  • Promotes lifelong learning by integrating work and study, and enhances workplace skills such as teamwork and critical analysis
  • Encourages students who might not otherwise enter university or complete a degree program, by providing earnings and work experience
  • Improves students' self-confidence and respect for work
  • Enhances professional development

Fast Track to Jobs

Fairleigh Dickinson University ...

Fairleigh Dickinson University, just outside of New York City, also integrates co-op programs into their curriculum. Students work in positions directly related to their major and gain exposure to career possibilities. This pre-professional experience helps students to gain a competitive edge in the job market as they earn academic credit toward their degree. International students and their U.S. classmates can have paid work experiences for two semesters.

FDU electrical engineering student, Fred Clark, has participated in internships at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Ma’ayan Laboratory. Like many other students, Clark’s experience gave him valuable career insight:

“I’m not sure what I want to do professionally, so my internships have helped me explore different options. It’s good for me to diversify my experiences and my internship with Ma’ayan—a biomedical lab at Mount Sinai Medical Center, founded by an FDU graduate—has shown me innovative ways to apply my major.”

 

Pace University..

Students at New York's Pace University work part-time during the school year or full-time during the summer or for a semester. Internship placements have included Sony Corporation, J.P. Morgan Chase and Ernst & Young.

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By Robbin Beauchamp
Director of Cooperative Education and Career Services at Wentworth Institute of Technology located in Boston, Massachusetts.

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