Cooperative Education
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Cooperative education give you a leg up as you enter the workforce.

Cooperative education is a model where college students alternate between classroom instruction and work experience. Typically, students will spend a semester in the classroom environment and a semester working in a major-related field. The model is designed to give students practical experience in an industry related to their field of study. One of the benefits of the co-op is easing the transition from school-to-work.

Not only do students gain practical work experience, but they can develop their professional network giving them a leg up as they enter the workforce. Typically, students are placed with companies near the campus, but there are national and international placements as well. Many students who participate in the co-op program are later employed by their co-op employer upon graduation.

However, cooperative education is not simply designed to give students an advantage when looking for a job. Cooperative education gives students the chance to apply what they learn in the classroom in the real world, with real outcomes and expectations.

There are several colleges in the United States that use the cooperative educations model among them are Georgia Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Drexel University. Each college has a slightly different approach, but the goal remains the same.

  • At Georgia Tech the co-op program spans over five years where students alternate between a semester of on-campus classroom instruction and a semester of full-time employment. The co-op program is an option for all engineering majors and many other majors in the other colleges. According to Georgia Tech, students typically earn $8,000-$10,000 each work term.
  • Northeastern University offers two co-op options: a four year, two co-op program; or a five year, three co-op program. Students at Northeastern alternate between a semester of classroom instruction and full-time work starting their second year. Experiential learning is an integral part of Northeastern University’s mission.
  • Drexel University has two co-op options: a four year, one co-op and a five year, three co-op program. Co-ops at Drexel last six months and the average salary for each co-op period is $16,000. Drexel offers the co-op program to all students and seeks to find major related placements for all students in the program. Drexel has also partnered with many local employers in Philadelphia to place students.
  • At the Rochester Institute of Technology, the co-op is required for some majors and is an option for others. The length of the co-op at RIT varies by major, but is typically two semesters which can be back-to-back. The majority of RIT co-op students will work outside of the Rochester due to limited employment opportunities.
  • Cooperative learning is an approach that gives students a chance to experience the working world and build professional skills that will carry over into their life after college. The application of knowledge learned during classroom instruction gives co-op students a practical understanding in their field of study.

    By Matthew-Owyang , ThinkTank Learning Admissions Senior Consultant and Academic Counselor