Internships & Co-Ops
An internship and/or co-op work experience in your chosen field of study can be the most rewarding experience of your university career. The experience offers a wealth of benefits with likely only one important downside.
What is a Co-Op or Internship?
The definitions and expectations of these terms vary by company and by university, so, from the LSU College of Engineering’s view, an internship tends to be a job of about three months duration worked during the summer months (mid-May—early-to-mid-August). A co-op is a job of four months duration that is worked during either the Fall (late August—early December) or Spring (early January—early May) semester.
Oftentimes, an internship or co-op work assignment with a company can be extended to include the next work term if the student is interested and agreeable in doing so and the company is wanting to continue your work relationship. Some companies require students to commit up front to working multiple co-op and/or summer internship terms for them, which can be good in that it somewhat guarantees you multiple work opportunities. However, it also locks you in to working for only that company, so you miss out on the ability to see other company work environments and cultures.
What Would You Be Doing in an Internship or Co-Op?
Both a co-op and an internship give a student a unique perspective into what an engineer’s work is all about. You will usually work on real-world, necessary-to-solve engineering problems that the company needs to complete. You will work alongside other engineers, as well as other technical professionals. Many assignments allow students to work in the field (outside of the office), allowing them to see and touch equipment that is in your field of study. If you are working in a manufacturing setting, you will likely be expected to learn how the process operates, which enables you to troubleshoot problems and identify your own improvement opportunities.
What Are the Benefits of Working a Co-Op and/or Internship?
Working in industry can provide multiple benefits, including:
- Good pay, which is typically a respectable percentage of a starting full-time engineer’s salary.
- Excellent work experience, which will ultimately help you in deciding which company and/or industry you want to work in upon graduation.
- Oftentimes, working one co-op and/or internship can lead to future co-op/internship job offers with the same company and/or others.
- Having a strong connection with a company can help you more easily land a full-time job upon graduation.
- Your personal marketability is improved. The work experience makes you more attractive to other companies, as most would prefer to hire students that already have work experience.
What Are the Detractors to Working a Co-Op and/or Internship?
The one major detractor for working a co-op (but not a summer internship) is that the time spent working these jobs will likely push your graduation date back the same duration. This is a concern for some students that may have a goal to graduate in four years, for instance. Also, if you are financially strained to complete your degree, it could seem as though extending your graduation date a semester or two would be a bad thing. In actuality, that may not be case, given the excellent pay you will receive working an internship or co-op. Also, having this work experience will provide you a greater chance of landing a better full-time job upon graduation. For most, the extension of your graduation date tends to be far outweighed by the comfort in knowing that you have a much greater chance of landing a full-time job upon graduation.
What About My Scholarships? Will I Lose Them if I Leave School to Do a Co-Op and/or Internship?
No, you will not. You will need to put your scholarships on hold while you are away for the spring or fall semester (you do not have to do anything if you plan to work a summer internship), but there is a defined process to do this, and it works well.
How Do I Go About Getting a Co-Op and/or Internship in Industry?
Refer to the LSU Olinde Career Center website for info on how to get a job in your industry. The typical process is to first develop a resume, make contact with employers, have interviews with company representatives, and if all goes well, you will receive an offer of employment. The Olinde Career Center can provide you advice and assistance along the way to make you more successful in this endeavor.