Cooperative (CO-OP) Education Program

What is Co-op?

Cooperative education (co-op) brings together the worlds of education and work. Co-op students alternate sessions of full-time work with semesters of full-time study. On-the-job, they apply classroom theory to workplace production projects. As they work with professionals, they learn about the potential for their chosen careers. In the classroom, work experience makes theory meaningful.

Although programs vary in size and scope between departments, all have one goal: to provide an opportunity for students to gain relevant work experience and to understand the role of the professional in business and industry.

Cooperative education programs are administered by departmental coordinators who help students locate jobs, schedule interviews, provide course and career counseling, and may visit students on the job site. They maintain regular communication with the employer and help employers and students establish a mutually beneficial relationship. The college’s and departmental efforts are part of the larger university co-op office, called Professional Practice Programs.

Technology students often find that by integrating classroom and laboratory instruction with related work experience, their job marketability increases greatly. These students have the experience that employers look for - and often do not find - in recent graduates.

Cooperative education provides a valuable opportunity for students, industry and the university to work together for their mutual benefit while meeting their individual goals and objectives.

For more information about a specific department’s co-op program, the department contact is provided in the list below:


Co-op programs are voluntary and open to students who meet specific criteria set by the university as well as specific requirements set by the departments. Acceptance into the program does not guarantee placement at a specific company when the student graduates. Once accepted into the co-op program, students register for the appropriate cooperative education course and pay the registration fee for each work session. By doing so, they maintain full-time student status while away on work assignments. Income received while on co-op work sessions is exempt from consideration in financial aid decisions.

Co-op Jobs

Specific jobs depend upon the student's discipline and the employer who hires him/her. But, most co-op students find themselves doing what a recent graduate might do or assisting a professional. In either case, the student has the opportunity of observing, or being, a professional in action.

Getting a Co-op Job

Students interview for co-op positions just as any job seeker would interview for a full-time position. Prospective employers are university-approved and, at their discretion, interview either on campus or at their place of business.

Co-op employers base their selection on their company's needs, the needs of the students, and the degree to which they will benefit from each other. Offers are generally extended in the middle or late spring but may be tendered in the fall also. Each candidate is free to accept or reject any offer.

Once a student is hired, the departmental co-op coordinator works closely with both student and employer to set up a work program to the benefit of both.

Co-op Class/Work Schedules

Typically, students enter the co-op program at the end of the freshman year and begin the first work session either in the summer or the fall, depending upon the needs of the employer. However, this can vary with the sponsoring department.

Sessions of employment alternate with semesters of study until the student has completed four or more semesters of employment with the norm as five. The pattern may vary according to the needs of the employer and the student; however any variation must meet with the approval of the department co-op coordinator.

The student may choose an optional sixth session; however, she/he will qualify for a university-issued co-op certificate at the completion of the fourth work session. In addition, students receive university credit as follows: one credit per session for the first four work sessions, and one to two credits for the optional fifth session. How those credits are applied to the degree vary and questions about this should be directed to the departmental co-op coordinator.

Co-op students usually take an additional year to complete the bachelor degree program but students may be able to reduce this by taking evening or distance-based courses during work sessions or by attending summer school at an accredited institution.

Rules of the Game

Once you become a co-op student and unless you select the Flex Co-Op option, you will continue with your chosen employer throughout the entire program. Neither you nor your employer will be permitted to alter the program without adequate cause and written approval from your departmental co-op Coordinator.

Although neither you nor your employer are obliged to continue your working relationship after graduation, approximately two-thirds of the college’s co-op students accept permanent employment with their co-op employers upon the completion of their degree.

After qualifying for the co-op program your first year, you continue to be eligible to remain in the program by maintaining satisfactory academic and work records, and by abiding by all company rules and regulations. Failure to maintain satisfactory academic standards as set by the department and university will result in probation and possible termination from the co-op Program.

While you are away from campus on your work assignment, you will be registered for a course at Purdue, for which you will be charged a fee each term. This fee covers part of the added cost to the university of administering this special program. At the end of each work session, you will submit a written report of the work you performed and the evaluations of your work session to your departmental co-op coordinator.

Advantages for You

As a co-op student you will have the opportunity to:

  • Apply the fundamental principles and theories you have learned in the Purdue classroom to actual technology engineering programs--making your academic work more meaningful. Your assignments will not consist of "make-work" projects, but will be challenging projects necessary to the operation of your employer's business.
  • Get to know and work with professional engineers in real problem-solving situations.
  • Learn to work with and understand people at all levels of the employment environment.
  • Learn some of the many and diverse functions that technologists perform. In this way you may develop your own interests and abilities along certain channels. This experience will help you choose electives in your senior year.
  • Lessen the adjustment from academic to professional life.
  • Learn to know more about yourself. In a work environment you gain insights into your ability to work better as an individual or in a group-orientated career.