The College of Engineering Cooperative Education (Co-op) and Summer Internship program provides engineering students with the option to gain valuable “real world” engineering experiences working with a variety of industries and governmental agencies.
Basic requirements for these experiences include working full-time, being competitively paid, completing engineering assignments and working under the supervision of an engineer on-site.
Obtaining work experience through a co-op or summer internship prior to completing your degree requirements typically increases employment opportunities and starting salaries at graduation.
Cooperative education is an academic option as part of your engineering education. Co-op students work full-time in an engineering position for 26-28 weeks. This is typically January – August or May – December, but alternating assignments are also an option.
While on co-op students . . .
- Complete engineering assignments
- Receive academic credit toward graduation
- Are still full-time students
- Paid! (Compensation is competitive averaging $20-22/hr)
- Some scholarships are “pushed” to next semester with full enrollment. CoE scholarships are not.
- Maintain health insurance
How is a co-op different from an internship?
- There is increased responsibility due to the longer duration of the work term.
- Work on larger and complex projects
About Summer Internships:
The Summer Internship is for students seeking engineering employment only during summer months. These 12-14 week, full-time assignments provide students exposure to engineering while enabling the employer to fill short-term project needs.
Students securing a summer internship may have the option for academic credit in addition to the position being paid.
Frequently Asked Questions – Undergrads
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What is the difference between a co-op and an internship?
Engineering Career Services defines a co-op as a full-time (40 hrs/week), paid, engineering-focused work experience under the supervision of an engineer requiring a minimum commitment of 15 weeks during a semester. Most co-op opportunities consist of a semester and the adjacent summer.
An internship is defined as a summer-only experience.
Students accepting a co-op must receive academic credit during a spring or fall term. Summer interns may choose to take credit. International students on F-1 visa are required to take credit for summer internship as well as co-op.
Who is eligible to co-op?
Any undergraduate student who has successfully progressed into a department in the College of Engineering with at least two semesters remaining after the co-op is eligible. Students in non-COE majors should consult with ECS regarding possible participation options.
I'm an international student, can I co-op?
Yes. Under current INS regulations, any student in the U.S. with an F-1 visa may work up to 364 days under Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization. Any international students working beyond 364 days will lose Optional Practical Training benefits. CPT requires that international students receive credit for both co-op and internship assignments. INS regulations are complex; verify eligibility with ISS prior to beginning your search.
What are the basic requirements to obtain credit for a co-op or internship?
Positions must meet the following: related to a students’ major, competitively paid, full-time (approx. 40 hours/week), performing engineering work, and under the supervision of an engineer. Duration of the experience, and modality of work (ie. virtual/in-person/hybrid) can also play a role in whether an opportunity is deemed eligible for credit. Fully remote positions are rarely approved.
Part-time positions are not eligible for co-op or internship credit.
How many weeks am I required to work?
Co-op assignments during fall or spring semester must be for a minimum of 15 weeks. Summer co‑op terms and intern assignments must be for a minimum of 12 weeks. The weeks worked must correspond with the academic term.
May I work for..
A family owned business?
Students are not eligible for academic credit if they are working in a family owned and/or managed organization. Additionally, students may not report to or be supervised directly or indirectly by a family member. Please contact ECS with any questions.
A College/University campus?
Positions in research labs are not eligible. Credit may be awarded for support services like physical plant and maintenance that are related to a student’s course of study.
Registering for credit, tuition & additional classes
- Students must submit an electronic notification of the JOB OFFER through Handshake (Experiences)
- Attend a Course Orientation session
- Submit a copy of the employer offer letter to ECS
- Approval of the co-op/internship must be given by ECS prior to course authorization for enrollment being granted by ECS
Additional steps apply to international students.
Here is information on how Internship or Co-op Credit applies to each major
All undergraduate students participating in a co-op or credit-bearing internship are required to enroll and pay for the one-credit co-op course. Students pay for only one credit of tuition, plus fees and prorated differentials. Companies may provide tuition reimbursement to cover the cost associated with the one-credit course; make sure to ask the employer ahead of accepting an offer. For specific tuition costs visit: https://bursar.wisc.edu/tuition-and-fees/tuition-rates
Additional Classes with Co-op/Internship Credit:
Students are not allowed to take other classes while on co-op or credit-bearing internship since it is a full-time, professional work experience. An exception is made for on-line courses that do not physically meet. Contact ECS if you have additional questions.
What about financial aid and scholarships?
Financial Aid: Students are not eligible for new student loans or grants while on co-op. Some scholarships may be deferred until your return to campus. Please contact your scholarship official for more details on how awards will be affected.
Students appropriately enrolled in the one-credit co-op course will remain recognized as a full-time student. By doing so, student loans will remain deferred and you will also be able to maintain parental or university health insurance. Every student accepting a co-op must register for the one-credit co-op course and complete educational assignments.
- Aligned with the Office of Student Financial Aid eligibility requirements for aid, students will receive half of the full academic year amount of their CoE/Department scholarship(s). Students will receive this amount during the term they are NOT on co-op. We encourage students to apply for scholarships for the following academic year during the CoE Continuing Student Scholarships Application period.
- Students who are recipients of outside scholarships will need to check with the outside scholarship administrator for eligibility during their co-op.
- We encourage students to connect with the Office of Student Financial Aid regarding any other aid or awards. However, generally, students must be enrolled in at least 6 credits to be eligible for aid administered by OSFA.
Can I be released from my university housing contract to participate in a co-op?
Yes. University Housing will allow you to be released from your contract if you choose to leave campus for a co-op. No payment will be required, however, you will forfeit your initial deposit. Contact the Division of University Housing for more information at 608-262-2522.