Researching and identifying an internship/co-op is a process and usually requires more time and preparation than anyone would wish for. Remain patient and positive; great leads may come at any time and from any location. There are many initial sources available to research and identify potential internship/co-op opportunities and host employers. The following sources provide a great place to start; these are not, by any means, all the resources available for locating an internship/co-op, though. Be creative and take advantage of any opportunities that give you the opportunity to communicate with an employer.
What is an Internship Experience?
Central Michigan University and Career Services strongly encourage all students to become involved in pre-professional experiences, such as internships. Internships are designed to be hands-on, well-structured, pre-professional work experiences with an organization related to the student’s academic program or career field of interest. Each undergraduate and graduate student has a unique situation regarding his or her desires and ambitions; fortunately, internships are offered in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate these personalized needs and expectations. The goal of an internship program is to provide a learning experience and facilitate a successful partnership that is mutually beneficial to the student, faculty advisor, and sponsoring organization.
What is a Co-Op Experience?
A co-op, or cooperative educational training program, is very similar to an internship; however, these pre-professional experiences provide students the opportunity to split their time between courses and the co-op experience during the academic year. Co-ops are the joint effort between a school and a business to provide vocational experience to students while they are attending school. Co-ops are typically part-time, paid, entry-level positions that focus on providing students with the opportunity to supplement their classroom learning with real work experiences. Co-ops typically occur during the school year and may employ both undergraduates and graduates alike. Co-ops often provide students with their first glimpses of work in their area of interest, but eventually can result in longer-term employment or even lead to full-time positions within an organization. Many companies use co-ops to recruit talented students and therefore can be a great opportunity to build a relationship with an organization early in one’s career. Co-ops are considered a three-way partnership between the employer, the student, and the university, with benefits for each party. The student gains practical experience and knowledge in a specific area; the organization gains a reliable, enthusiastic worker; and the university develops a positive partnership with the employing organization. For a listing of current co-op openings please visit Career Central
- Gain professional experience and receive academic credit
- Sample various careers before making a long-term commitment
- Enhance independence, responsibility, self-confidence, and other job skills
- Strengthen verbal and written communication
- Interact and collaborate with a developed professional network, and learn from a seasoned professional in your field of interest
- More times than not, interns will be offered a full-time position upon completion
- Translate classroom knowledge into the professional work environment
Academic Departments and Credit for Experiences
Career Services is not the only unit that receives internship/co-op notices from employers. For a more thorough search, students should also contact their "home" department to speak with an internship coordinator or find out where pre-professional positions are posted for student use. Unfortunately, Career Services is not authorized to approve or grant credit for any internship/co-op. For credit, students must work with their academic department, prior to starting an internship/co-op. Since each department has different requirements and approval processes for credit-bearing internships/co-ops, a meeting with a faculty member or departmental internship/co-op coordinator is mandatory for accepting any such experience. It is highly recommended that you pursue academic credit if you have the option; this will make the experience more credible to future employers and will help guard against the stereotypical "busywork" internship. Contact the applicable department for information on earning credit for an internship/co-op experience and to meet with the department's internship/co-op coordinator.
Credit vs. Not-for-Credit Experiences
Regardless of whether an internship/co-op is required or not, it is highly recommended that students receive University recognition for these experiences. By seeking credit, opportunities for a well-structured outline of responsibilities and goals are maximized, and a more "credible" experience to potential future employers is demonstrated. In order to receive credit, students must have signed approval from the internship/co-op advisor in the applicable academic department; they will assist with eligibility, number of credit hours, and grading requirements. Career Services is not authorized to approve or grant credit for any internship; however, we can assist with determining and contacting the appropriate faculty member.
Compensation for Experiences
Employers have several options when deciding how to compensate a student intern/co-op for their contributions to the organization. If the employer decides to pay, they have the following options: hourly wage, salary pay, internship stipend, scholarship rewards, credit-hour reimbursement, and/or housing allowance. Students must remember and keep in mind that the true value of an internship/co-op is not measured through monetary aspects; the knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts obtained during an internship/co-op are priceless and worth far more than the dollar.