Leaving campus for an Experiential Education experience can be confusing. We have attempted to answer the most common questions we hear from students on this page.
Co-ops and Internships
What is cooperative education?
Cooperative Education is a joint venture between the University, a selected employer, and the student. The Co-op student will work for an employer and earn academic credit in the process. Work assignments are intended to be related to your major and are varied to provide a range of experience and training. Employers must provide Co-op students with paid, challenging work. The student should work closely with a supervisor to learn while on the job and to complete the required evaluations. The student will also complete written assignments, which is used, along with evaluations, in determining the final grade. All assignments will be submitted in Canvas.
What is an internship?
An internship is a work experience that is NOT for academic credit. Because an internship is not for academic credit, the student does not have to pay tuition, conduct evaluations, or complete any assignments.
Typically, students perform an internship during the summer semesters as academic credit is not needed during this time to maintain continuously enrolled status (i.e., student loans will not become due, students may remain on a guardian’s health insurance, and students will be able to register for courses in the upcoming semester). If an international student is working in the United States they need to register in the Co-op course (even if the company calls the position an internship).
It is important to understand that the income earned during an internship may affect a student’s financial aid eligibility. Please read through the financial aid section of this website and contact your financial aid officer for further assistance.
An internship may or may not be paid or related to your major area of study, and often the experience is not progressive in nature. If a student wants to participate in an internship during the fall or spring semesters, this will affect continuously enrolled status and student loans may come due, the student may not be able to remain on a guardian’s health insurance, and registering for classes in the upcoming semester may be prevented.
What are the advantages of cooperative education?
- Valuable career-related experience prior to graduation. This experience helps determine future career paths, technical and related elective choices, as well as provide insight for determining majors and minors.
- Maintain continuously enrolled student status. When registered for credits during a co-op assignment, the student is considered as remaining continuously enrolled. This means that students on co-op can remain on a guardian’s health insurance, potentially defer student loan payments, and have access to upcoming semester course registration. Using and maintaining scholarships is dependent on the scholarship specifics and students should consult with a financial aid officer on this issue.
- Professional development. Students learn the "professional skills" required to become a professional, such as networking, communication skills, setting priorities and time management, as well as professional etiquette and dress. Additionally, students will have opportunities to develop technical writing and presentation skills.
- Earn a competitive salary. Students participating in cooperative education typically earn 50-75% of their full-time entry-level counterparts. Salary is dependent on the major, work location, experience, and semester standing. Many students are able to save money to help pay for their college education. In addition, some employers offer tuition assistance, 401K participation, relocation assistance, and housing stipends.
- Job search process is made easy. Michigan Tech works with companies, locates job opportunities, and posts these opportunities for our students. Students interview for the co-op positions, and register for our program once an offer has been made from an employer. Some students locate a potential co-op employer on their own. In this case, the Co-op Office will contact the employer to determine if the work offered is suitable to qualify for co-op credits and enter into a cooperative agreement with the University.
- Full-time job opportunities. Upon graduation, many employers offer cooperative education students full-time employment. Most employers we work with use cooperative education as their primary recruitment tool for attracting and retaining new graduates. Cooperative education is a way for organizations to establish and maintain a candidate pool from which they identify talented and diverse individuals to meet future business needs.
What are the disadvantages of cooperative education?
- Extended graduation date It may take four-and-a-half years or more to complete your degree including cooperative education. This additional time is considered time well spent because most students spread their education over five years, or more, anyway. It is wise to meet with your academic advisor to discuss your future class schedules.
- Possible additional costs There may be costs associated with taxes, a new wardrobe, a car, housing and relocation in order to complete a co-op assignment. However, remember that you will be earning a salary.
- Missing life at Tech Social disruption is probably one of the biggest concerns that students express. If you are out on co-op assignment and away from campus, you may miss out on sporting events or being active in student organizations, fraternities or sororities. When you return from your assignment, you may be on a different class schedule than your peers.
- Housing details. Cancellation of residence hall contracts and subletting apartments may be another issue. Co-op makes you eligible to cancel your residence hall contract for the semester you are on assignment, although you are still responsible for the other half of your contract. You may live in Michigan Tech housing if your co-op is local. Check with your residence hall for details.
Where could I work?
Michigan Tech students are participating in co-ops all over the United States and in several foreign countries, including China, India, Germany, and Korea. Most of our co-op students find positions in the Midwest. We encourage our students to pursue the best learning opportunity, regardless of a co-op’s geographic location. We understand that location is an important factor in deciding on a co-op. Career Services is available to assist students in making the decision that is right for them.
How much could I earn?
Our co-op student salaries have ranged from $10/hour to over $35/hour, depending on the student’s major, level of schooling, and employer. The employer determines the co-op wage, and many employers offer assistance with housing costs, co-op tuition reimbursement, and relocation expenses.
What could I do on co-op?
Co-op students perform many of the same tasks as an entry-level professional, but at a level that is appropriate to their advancement in school. Here what some of our students have done on co-op:
- A mechanical engineering student redesigned a manufacturing plant layout for a major automotive supplier, saving the employer over $300,000.
- Chemical engineering students conducted feasibility studies and worked on proprietary research for a major personal-products manufacturer.
- Technology students traveled around the country and the world as troubleshooting representatives for a major heavy-equipment company.
- A chemistry student assisted the Grand Rapids Police Department's Forensics Unit.
- Our electrical engineering students have worked on intense planned "outages" for a nuclear power facility in Vermont.
- Our scientific and technical communication students have created technical manuals, promotional videos, brochures, and web pages.
- Marketing students have evaluated businesses, created surveys, conducted market research, and created business plans to expand and improve local and national businesses.
- Our students in management information systems have created customized databases to assist companies in streamlining their inventory, record keeping, and orders.
- A biomedical engineering student recently completed a co-op assignment in Colorado, where she designed and fabricated learning devices for physically handicapped skiers at a ski camp.
When will I receive a grade for my co-op course, and what criteria is used to determine my grade?
Due to the large number of reports that must be graded each semester, a course grade is not typically available to submit by the end of finals week. As a result, students are initially assigned a "P" for "Progress."
Once the reports are graded, a grade will be submitted and the "P" grade will be replaced by a letter grade, which will be posted to your official transcript.
In most majors, co-op credits can be used for free electives or technical electives pending the academic department's approval. Talk with your academic advisor for specifics regarding your situation.
I have accepted an offer. What are the next steps?
What tuition do I pay while on a co-op?
The calculation for co-op credit is dependent on your student standing. Students will be charged per credit, the exact amount is determined by your status. Please contact Student Billing for more information.
Student Billing Phone: 906-487-2393
Will the Co-op Office contact me while at my work experience?
While we would like to visit our students at their work locations, unfortunately that is not possible.
The Co-op Course is on Canvas. Co-op students will be required to log in to Canvas and follow the instructions provided on the Canvas course web page. Co-op students will submit all of the graded documents into the Canvas system. Discussions will also take place within the Canvas system. Registration will NOT occur through the Canvas system.
It is also important to let Career Services know of any changes in your work or housing contact information, as we will update our records to reflect this.
What if I am having problems with my co-op assignment?
Once in a great while we do have students who have problems, such as lack of work, assignments not matching their major field of study, conflicts with other employees, etc. Your co-op experience should be career-related. If for any reason you do not believe this to be the case, please call our office immediately to discuss your concerns.
It is important that you try to work the problem out on your own first; however, if the problem persists, please do not hesitate to call (906-487-2313) or e-mail the Co-op Office. We will provide guidance and recommend courses of action.
Do not let the problem continue until the end of your assignment, and just decide that you do not want to return to the company. Make every effort to resolve the problem from the beginning. It is not fair to the company to lose a good student because they were not made aware of a problem with their program.
The Co-op Office will only intervene when the student requests it. Our office will never contact a company based on a conversation with a student unless the student agrees to this course of action, and is willing to put their request in writing.
Is it better to do multiple co-ops with just one company or with different companies?
- For the most part, it's your call!
- Some employers require multiple rotation co-ops and advertise this requirement in their job posting. Students find it to be very beneficial to co-op more than once with the same employer because it allows them to gain responsibility and more experience while alternating between work and school. Other students find it is beneficial to complete co-ops with different employers, so they have the opportunity to experience different industries, corporate cultures, and projects.
What effect will that have on my Financial Aid?
Everyone's financial situation is unique. Financial Aid is a function of many different factors, so it is recommended that you consult with one of the advisors in the Financial Aid Office.
What are the co-op status requirements?
Students on a full-time co-op work full-time hours during the semester (considered 40 hours per week) and register for 1 -2 credits. A parallel co-op, requires a student to work part-time hours (considered 20 hours per week), register for 1 co-op credit, and take another, for credit, course at Tech. It is important to understand that the term full-time co-op is different than being considered a full-time student.
How are multiple-semester co-ops handled?
Some students participate in the co-op for the duration of one semester, but some students participate in multiple, consecutive semesters. In order to ensure that students who are on a multiple semester co-op are not performing redundant academic work, there are four cooperative education courses available. These must be taken in sequence and each semester course builds on the previous co-op experience.