top of page

In co-op programs, students work for credit during the semester. But is that a good idea?

Updated: Mar 26

In short: For lots of students, yes! But, not for all. A co-op program (short for a cooperative education program) is an experiential learning opportunity offered to college students. Instead of a traditional academic semester of courses and tests, students gain real-world experience in their chosen field of study through an immersive, paid, full-time job placement for six to eight months. This kind of program is designed to help students develop professional skills and build their resumes. From gaining real-world experience to making valuable connections in the industry, a co-op program can be a great way for students to set themselves up for future success. Let's look at how co-op programs help students take their education to the next level so that you can figure out whether co-ops might be right for your teen.

Why would students want to participate in a co-op program?

Here are some of the top benefits of a co-op program in college:

1. Gain valuable, real-world experience: Co-op programs provide students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field before entering the workforce. They also offer a chance to explore different career paths and gain an understanding of the industry. This can be invaluable when it comes to making decisions about future education and career paths.

2. Earn money while you learn: Many co-op programs provide students with paid internships. This can be a great way to offset the cost of tuition and living expenses while gaining valuable experience.

3. Make valuable connections: Co-op programs provide students with an opportunity to network with industry professionals and build lasting relationships. This can be key to landing a great job after graduation.

4. Build your resume: Participating in a co-op program adds an impressive line to any resume. It shows potential employers that a student has taken the initiative to gain real-world experience and is well-prepared for the workforce.

What's a co-op program really like? A current student shares her experience.

Sanjana Dutt ('23), a senior graduating from Northeastern University this semester, shares her experience with co-ops at the university known best for them:

“At Northeastern, my co-op program allowed me to gain valuable, real-world experience in computer science, and it increased my earning potential. I got hands-on experience in a real-world setting and gained a competitive edge when applying to full-time roles.

One of the greatest challenges I faced during my co-op was learning to delegate. I was part of a team of five people, and we all had to work together to complete a project. I was taking the lead on the project, so I had to ensure that everyone was doing their part. Although I was familiar with the concept of delegation, I never had to do it before in a professional setting and I was overwhelmed by the responsibility. At first, I was hesitant to assign tasks to people who were in a higher position than me and I was over-involved in managing the project. I soon realized that I had to trust my team members and let them take the initiative. After a few weeks of trial and error, I eventually became comfortable with delegating tasks and allowing my team memb