CE Cooperative Education Program Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of participating in the co-op program?

  • Students will acquire 12-18 months of actual work experience.
  • It provides a significant salary to pay expenses.
  • Students learn more about different career opportunities.
  • Helps students make career choices
  • Students gain excellent job experience for their resumes.
  • Co-op students are more marketable at graduation than students with little to no internship experience.

What are the prime objectives of Purdue's co-op program?

Purdue's program is designed to integrate professional work experiences with the classroom training of a four-year college curriculum to prepare students more thoroughly for their future careers. The result is deeper insight into what is learned in the classroom by seeing it put to use in the real world, as well as a large amount of hands-on experience in industry.

What types of employment do co-op students receive?

Co-op employment provides students with the opportunity to supplement their academic experience with meaningful work experiences related to their field of study and career goals. As they progress through their work sessions, co-op students begin to perform jobs they would expect to do after graduation.  The responsibilities generally increase with each work session, as students progress through their academic coursework.

Do co-op students pay for five years of tuition?

While the 3- and 5-session co-op programs are on a five-year track to graduation, students still only pay for four years of tuition like a traditional student, as they only pay tuition for the semesters that they are enrolled in regular classes. While out on their work session, students pay a Professional Practice Fee of $400 per session to maintain their full-time student status for insurance and financial aid purposes. This fee is easily offset by the salary paid to the students by their employer. Additionally, the fee and its associated course make the co-op session a transcript-recorded experience that they can show to prospective employers as part of their resume.

Where do co-op students work?

Co-op opportunities exist all over the nation and even around the world! While many of our students work in Indiana, 65 percent of the University’s active Professional Practice Employers operate outside Indiana, including a number of international employers, so there are plenty of opportunities outside the state.

When do co-op students work?

Typically, the students start their first co-op rotation after their freshmen or sophomore year but can start as late as their junior year if they are in the 3-session co-op program. They then alternate between work sessions and academic sessions on campus. Unlike co-op programs at most other universities, Purdue 5- and 3-session co-op students spend all of their work sessions with the same employer, unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise.

How does housing work?

Alternating semesters of being either on campus or off campus can be tricky when most housing options are year-long commitments, but fortunately there are plenty of resources available to our students to help them through the process. Because our Professional Practice Programs are official academic programs, leaving for a co-op rotation is recognized by Purdue University Residences as a legitimate reason for breaking your housing contract early with no penalty. For off campus housing, co-op students can coordinate with other co-op students to share an apartment, they can sub-lease an apartment they have to someone else while they are on their co-op rotation, or they can sub-lease an apartment from someone else for the semester(s) that they will be on campus. Sub-leases are generally negotiated with the rental property management.

How much do co-op students earn?

Average monthly salaries for co-op students vary by employer and location and typically increase for each subsequent work session. Some Indiana residents can pay the majority of their college expenses from co-op earnings, though the amount saved to pay college expenses varies with the student and the cost of living at the various co-op locations. Average co-op salaries can be found here.

If I apply to be in the co-op program, am I guaranteed a work placement?

Students apply with our qualified employers to be a co-op student, so we cannot guarantee you will be placed. Several callouts and workshops are held throughout the year to help students sharpen their resumes and effectively market themselves to employers, so we will help you prepare for your application and interview. After that, it is in the hands of each student to go through the application and interview process to obtain a co-op placement. In addition, the CE Co-op Coordinator is available to assist students in their preparation for co-op interviews.

How much is the co-op fee, why is it so high, and what value do I gain from it as a student?  Is it different for International students?

In May 2013, the co-op fee was reduced significantly from $914 to $400 per work session, and this will remain in effect until May 2021 and then follow tuition increases. The fee is the same for international and domestic students.  Since this fee reduction, the Office of Professional Practice is working on a project to further reduce the fee burden on the students and increase the number of students that the office serves.

Many of the Office of Professional Practice efforts are not readily visible to the students, but are necessary so they can concentrate on obtaining the best possible experience without having to worry about many of the details. The objective of OPP’s operation is to provide students the opportunity for a quality experience, which would be unavailable unless OPP meets its responsibilities. The only additional element required for a successful co-op experience is the students’ willingness to accept their responsibilities and pursue the opportunities and challenges of the co-op experience.

Will the company cover the co-op fee?

The co-op fee practices vary by company and location.  Some companies reimburse the student’s co-op fee while others do not.  However, it is worth noting that in May 2013, the co-op fee was reduced significantly from $914 to $400 per work session. The fee is the same for international and domestic students, regardless of in- or out-of-state residency status.  This has made the co-op fee much more affordable, especially given the salaries that our co-op companies are paying our students.

What will I be sacrificing by participating in the co-op program?

Your graduation date will be a year later, but you will gain a year or more experience working for an engineering company. It can motivate your interest in what you are learning in the classroom and you will make some valuable contacts with the people you work for.  In addition, you will be paid while on co-op and can use your earnings to help with school expenses.

There is some sacrifice by being away from campus during your co-op session. Your co-op schedule and your academic plan may often be adjusted to minimize the impact. You should consult your academic advisor about adjustments to your academic plan.

Can Juniors still participate in co-op?

Whether or not a student with junior status is eligible to participate in co-op will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The student must have the availability to get a minimum of 3 work sessions in before graduation, with their final semester being on campus.

Are employers flexible regarding location?

Employers are eager to provide the most positive and successful experience for co-op students.  Therefore, the interview process is used to find the best match for job and student interest. Some companies have flexibility with locations, while other employers are smaller and have just one location.  In these situations, however, the employers are providing a well-rounded experience that includes both field work and office work. With participating employers from all over the country, students have a wide variety of options to consider.

Is housing provided?

The housing practices vary by company and location. Some companies have housing available for their co-op students. Others offer a housing stipend to help alleviate the cost, and yet others do not provide housing assistance at all. Regardless of the housing practices, most companies are willing to help provide guidance for the students in their search for housing locations. In addition, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering has a Professional Practice Group on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13848538/ where students can share housing information and perhaps find roommates, share advice, or offer/seek sublease opportunities. The CE co-op Coordinator is also available to help connect co-op students with others working in the same company or city.

Will there be a delay in graduation?

Students alternate between semesters either on campus or on their work session over the course of five years.  Actual schedules will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the student's plan of study, academic progress, and their employer's needs and timelines.  If students are taking full-time courses during each of the semesters on campus, they should not incur any additional semesters on campus.  This includes summer semesters.  However, depending on the student’s progress, some students do choose to take an additional semester of coursework to finish.  Given that every other semester is spent at work, the time to graduation will be increased, but the amount of career-related experience gained far outweighs the slight delay in time to graduation in most cases.

Can international students take part in co-op?

There are co-op opportunities for international students.  However, due to the hiring practices, some employers are not able to hire students with visas.  The number of opportunities for international students varies from semester to semester.  The CE co-op Coordinator is available to work with international students to help find available opportunities.