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Co-op and Internship

Through the Co-op and Summer Internship programs students gain valuable “real world” engineering experiences working with a variety of industries and governmental agencies.

Basic requirements for experiences include working full-time, competitively paid, completing engineering assignments and working under the supervision of an engineer.

Obtaining work experience prior to completing your degree requirements typically increases employment opportunities and starting salaries at graduation.

Cooperative Education

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

Summer Internships

The Summer Internship is for students seeking engineering employment during the summer months. These 12-14 week, full-time assignments provide students exposure to engineering while enabling the employer to fill short-term project needs.

Already secured a co-op/internship?

Undergrads: Click here to see your next-steps for reporting
Graduate Students: Click here to see your next steps for reporting

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; interns may choose to take credit.

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.

May I co-op if I’m on academic probation?

Generally, no. However, co-ops are educational experiences that may benefit some students on probation. Contact the ECS staff to discuss eligibility for receiving special permission to participate.

How does the last 2 semester rule affect co-oping?

The last 2 semesters of a degree must be completed in-residence.  Students who plan to co-op in their 2nd-to-last semester of their undergraduate degree must receive a waiver from the assistant dean for academic affairs in advance of the assignment.  Waivers for co-op in the 2nd to last semester are obtained through ECS. Students are not allowed to co-op in their final semester. Student cannot co-op after they have graduated. Co-op terms are not considered “in-residence”. Summer is not considered a mandatory academic term. For details, see graduation regulations in the COE Intranet – Undergraduate Rules & Regulations (netid required)

What are the basic requirements to obtain credit?

Positions must meet the following: related to a students’ major, competitively paid, full-time, 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.

May I obtain credit for a co-op/internship working 15-25 hours per week?

No. As defined earlier, a co-op is a full-time work experience.  Students are expected to work approximately 40 hours per week, or as authorized overtime by their employer. Part-time internship positions are not eligible for credit through Engineering.

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 in 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.

May I work on 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.

How do I register for credit?

  1. Students must submit an electronic notification of the JOB OFFER through Handshake (Experiences)
  2. Attend a Course Orientation session
  3. Submit a copy of the employer offer letter to ECS
  4. 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

Do I pay any tuition while on co-op?

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

May I take additional classes while on co-op?

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.

Am I eligible for financial aid while on co-op?

Students are not eligible for 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.

What happens to my CoE/department scholarship while on co-op?

  • 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.

How are students loans and health insurance handled while I’m on co-op?

You must enroll in the one-credit co-op course to remain recognized as a full-time student. By doing so, your 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.

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.


Stephanie Salazar Kann (ssalazar@wisc.edu)

Grad students:
Julie Rae (julie.rae@wisc.edu)

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