Frequently Asked Questions
Student work and observation experiences go by a number of different names, including internships, co-ops, practicums, and externships. Following are some general definitions.
Internships are typically a one-time work (10-12 weeks) experience possibly related to a student’s major or career goal, often completed in the summer or part-time during the academic year. Normally, an internship does not interfere with college classes, but due to the shorter duration, less training is accomplished.
Internships can be paid or unpaid and the student may or may not receive academic credit for performing the internship.
Cooperative education (co-op) is a partnership between the University of Idaho, the employer and the student. It is an academic program designed to give qualified students an opportunity to practice the theory learned in the classroom with on-the-job, full-time, career-related, work experience. Co-ops typically are a minimum of one semester plus a summer (20-24 weeks), but could be up to a full 12 months. Alternatively, students could participate in a Co-op experience that consists of multiple periods of full-time work experience alternating with full-time courses. Due to the longer duration, students receive more job-related training.
All co-ops are paid positions and (in some departments) can involve some form of academic credit.
A practicum is generally a one-time work or service experience done by a student as part of an academic class. Typically, practicums occur over an academic term. Some practicums offer pay, but many do not. Almost all are done for academic credit.
An externship or job shadowing experience allows a student to spend between a day and several weeks observing a professional on the job. Such experiences are unpaid. Externships and job shadowing experiences are generally not done for academic credit.
* Adapted from the National Association of Colleges and Employers
There are multiple schedule options available for building co-op(s) into your academic plan. Ideally, a co-op experience will occur during an extended junior year. This allows for you to have some strong, foundational courses under your belt, but also keep important senior experiences intact. Each co-op will consist of a spring semester plus summer or a summer plus fall semester. On some occasions, a full year-long co-op may be arranged.
Sample schedules can be viewed on the Schedule Options page. Actual schedules will vary by major/department and individual student and should be determined on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with your academic advisor and co-op coordinator. Optional academic study in summer sessions could shorten graduation timeline.
Since the student is typically working full-time (40 hours per week), we do not recommend taking classes. Students working full-time and are enrolled in the U of I Co-op Program are considered a full-time student at U of I.
Employers are looking for students and they expect that the students may not have experience outside the classroom. However, to be a competitive candidate, it is still highly important to have well-developed application materials. This will help reflect the skills, projects, or other experiences that you do have and showcase your interests and motivation moving forward.
Yes, competitively! Our co-op students earn an average of $21.90/hour, resulting in six-month salaries that range from $18,000-28,000. Some co-op positions include additional benefits such as housing stipends, relocation benefits, professional development stipends and more.
No, it is not a guarantee that a student will secure a co-op position even if they successfully are accepted into the program. However, with strong communication with the Co-op Team and dedication to the co-op job application process, there is a strong possibility of successfully gaining a co-op offer(s).
Some departments allow for up to three to six credits per co-op that can count toward graduation requirements for undergraduates. Consult with an academic advisor in your major or the Faculty Co-op Advisor for your department for help.
Yes, international students are eligible to participate in the program. Participation in a co-op/internship counts toward the student’s Curricular Practical Training (CPT) hours. There are some special considerations/steps for international students, so it is important to communicate with the Co-op Coordinator and International Programs Office for guidance and approval.
Each co-op student applicant will have the opportunity to review and directly apply to co-op positions of their liking/interest. The program partners with over a dozen companies (and growing) with which direct co-op positions have been arranged for U of I co-op students. Additionally, students can pursue independent research and application to co-op positions at other companies of interest, and upon successful acceptance of an offer, the opportunity can be brought under the program’s management and collaboration.