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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for Co-Op Programs

If you are not familiar with the term in regard to college students, a Co-Op (or Cooperative program) is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. It’s a great way to make the school-to-work transition. Co-ops and robust career service centers at colleges and universities help students to gain valuable work experience while still in school, preparing them for a competitive job market upon graduation.

Labor Day in America celebrates the economic contributions and hard work of workers across the country. In honor of Labor Day and the millions of students starting back to school this month, here’s Dr. Kat’s list of colleges for co-ops and great career service centers!

Northeastern University, Boston, MA
College is meant to prepare graduates for successful careers by providing a comprehensive education, but Northeastern University takes things one-step further with one of the most successful co-op programs in the country.

The co-op program is the cornerstone of a Northeastern education– 90% of students participate. Through the program, students alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests. Because of this, most students are at Northeastern for five years, gaining up to 18 months of professional work experience while still in college.

Students do co-ops in a variety of fields, including business, communications, engineering, health sciences, and IT, to name a few. Northeastern students have held co-op positions at major organizations like Reebok, Pfizer, American Red Cross, and General Electric.

Located in the heart of Boston, Northeastern is a private university with an undergraduate student body of around 13,000. When students aren’t enjoying the sights and sounds of Boston, many are studying abroad in any one of the school’s semester long programs with schools in Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand, and Japan, to name a few. Students in Notheastern’s International Business program also have the option of earning a dual degree from a partner school abroad in Europe or South America.

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
While many colleges are noted for the resources available to students while they’re in school, the University of Florida is known for providing Gator students with career support both before and after graduation.

UF is consistently considered to have one of the best career services departments in the country. The Career Resource Center at UF is at the forefront of schools that connect current students and alumni with the tools and advice needed to land their dream internship or job.

The Career Resource Center helps students map out their career path from start to finish. UF provides a variety of resources for undergraduates including assistance with exploring majors, career development courses for academic credit, networking seminars, and assistance with finding internship opportunities. UF also offers the Gator Launch Mentoring Program for undergraduate and graduate STEM students.

As graduation approaches, the Career Resource Center assists senior Gators with resume and cover letter help, interview prep, researching potential employers, and creating a strategy to find and land your dream job.

UF is a public research university located in Gainesville, FL, and boasts a student body of close to 50,000, 16 colleges, and more than 150 research centers and institutes. The various Gator athletic teams have won an impressive 31 national team titles, including 22 since 1992.

While UF is helping students build careers and make an economic impact in the world around them, it’s also teaching them how to make a positive environmental impact. UF is home to the Water Institute, the Florida Climate Institute, the Florida Institute of Sustainable Energy, and offers over 300 sustainability related courses. Even the school’s dining services is doing its part to help the local economy and environment, with 30% of the campus’s food sourced locally.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
If you’re interested in a school that produces some of the country’s most marketable graduates immediately upon graduation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute may be the place for you. It’s a great pick for students who want to be engineers, scientists, architects, IT and web specialists.

Last year, RPI was ranked #20 for return on financial investments. Graduates earned some of the highest entry-level salaries, approximately $60,000 annually, according to PayScale. RPI grads aren’t securing great career opportunities just because of the RPI name. It is what they accomplished outside of the classroom and the resources available to them as undergraduates that make them prime candidates right out of school.

Along with being one of the country’s premier research universities, RPI offers students the Center for Career and Professional Development. Here students are able to get help with professional development, intern placement, and co-op opportunities. Major corporations, including Boeing, IBM and GE, come to RPI to recruit top talent.

RPI, located in Troy, NY, is the country’s oldest technological research university. This private university has a student body of around 7,000, and offers more than145 degree programs. Students at RPI can participate in any of the school’s over 130 student clubs and organizations run by the Rensselaer Union. The Union at RPI is special in that it is entirely student-run and funded solely by activity fees.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
If prestige and trendsetting are what you’re looking for in a co-op program, the Division of Professional Practice Co-op program at the University of Cincinnati has you covered. Introduced in 1906, UC’s co-op program is one of the first and oldest in the country.

Students participating in UC’s co-op program typically start their co-op during the second year of study. Co-ops are required for students in College of Engineering and Applied Science and College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

More than 60% of co-op jobs are outside the Cincinnati-area, allowing students to gain work experience in new city. While students do not pay tuition during their co-op, they are still considered full-time and pay a small co-op fee that’s considerably less than tuition. Most of UC’s co-ops are paid, with many students earning an average of $1,700 to $2,500 per month during their assignments.

Co-op jobs are offered in a variety of fields, including engineering, graphic design, architecture, and accounting, to name a few. Some students can even participate in international co-op programs in order to learn a second language and gain international work experience. International co-ops at UC are offered for students studying German, Japanese, Spanish, and French.

UC, located in Cincinnati, OH, is a public research university with over 31,000 undergraduate students. UC offers over 300 courses of study and just as many student clubs and organizations. Apart from the school’s successful co-op program, UC students also have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research and more than 120 learning communities, where students take classes and even live with peers in their area of concentration.

Elon University, Elon, NC
Another school with co-ops and internship requirements at the heart of its curriculum is Elon University located in Elon, NC. As part of the school’s general studies graduation requirement, students must complete an Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR) in order to be awarded a degree. Possible ELRs include studying abroad, undergraduate research, and co-ops.

About 87% of Elon students choose to fulfill their ELR through a co-op program or internship as a way to meet the graduation requirement while also gaining valuable work experience. But it’s not only work experience that Elon co-op students gain – approximately half of Elon internships/co-ops are paid.

Founded in 1889, Elon University is a small, private liberal arts college with an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,000. Elon students can join any of the school’s over 150 student clubs and organizations, and about 82% of undergraduates participate in volunteer service projects.

Elon’s location in the Piedmont region of North Carolina provides students with opportunities to explore outside of campus. Greensboro is 20 minutes from campus, and many of the state’s lakes, mountains, and other outdoor attractions are within a short drive.

There’s a lot of hard work that goes into a college education. The addition of co-op and internship experience, coupled with outstanding career services, significantly adds value to your college experience. Other schools with outstanding co-op programs and career resources include Drexel University, Scripps College, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Southern Methodist University. This list is not exhaustive, make sure to explore!

If you think a degree program with a co-op component might be right for you, IvyWise offers comprehensive research services to better explore these academic opportunities, and our expert counselors can help you select the right program and course of study prior to applying!


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