Co-ops and Internships
Since 1985, our staff have helped thousands of engineering students find domestic and international co-op and internship experiences during their time at Penn State. While both co-ops and internships provide students with practical work experience in (or related to) their majors or intended majors, we make some distinctions between them. NOTE: Some employers refer to all types of student short-term work experiences as either "internships" or "co-ops". The distinctions described below refer to how our office defines these terms.
An internship is a short-term work experience at a company or organization, typically lasting one semester (roughly 12–15 weeks in the fall or spring or 10–12 weeks in the summer). Some students choose to do several internships during their time at Penn State, gaining work experience with different employers.
A co-op is a rotational experience that usually involves working with the same company or organization for three semesters (with each rotation lasting roughly 12–15 weeks in the fall or spring or 10–12 weeks in the summer). Occasionally, students will complete two co-op rotations with one employer and a third rotation with another employer.
Both internship and co-op experiences can be completed for academic credit, if desired.
When to Work
All undergraduate and graduate engineering students who have completed at least one academic year at Penn State are eligible to do an internship. This means that first-year undergraduate or graduate students may be able to arrange for an internship as early as the summer after their first year.
Co-ops are available to all sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have chosen an engineering major and completed entrance-to-major requirements.
Both undergraduate and graduate international students should talk to an adviser in the University Office of Global Programs (410 Boucke Building) regarding any special eligibility requirements that may be relevant and/or visit the office website on international student employment.
When to Work
Internships or co-op rotations may take place in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Summer is the most popular time for internships. Many students complete co-ops over the course of two summers and one spring or fall semester, but many different variations are possible. Your work semester(s) will be dictated by the job availability and the needs of the employer.
International students may have restrictions on when they are able to work. All undergraduate and graduate international students are advised to check on work requirements/restrictions with an adviser in the University Office of Global Programs and/or visit the office website on international student employment.
Co-op and internship students' daily work schedules will be arranged in accordance with employers' needs and wishes. Most students begin work between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. and finish between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. You will work out your hours with your employer after you have accepted a position.
Co-op and internship hourly salaries, while usually quite generous, do differ by employer and by major or field. See our average salary information for details based on what past students have earned.
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