Carnegie Mellon University

Cooperative education

Our cooperative education (co-op) program invites students to gain valuable experience in employment that relates directly to their major and career goals. At the same time, it provides employers with opportunities to evaluate students as potential full-time employees while having them complete meaningful projects. Participation in this program is voluntary, and obtaining a cooperative education assignment is competitive.

Due to federal restrictions on student work experiences, international students are not eligible for co-ops. Please visit the CPT page for information regarding international student internships.

The co-op experience

We require a minimum of eight months of co-op experience to identify the work experience as a co-op. Students must have minimally completed their sophomore year to qualify for application to a co-op and should connect with their academic advisor for information on how to apply. While on co-op assignment, students are participating in a recognized CIT educational program and therefore retaining their full-time student status, akin to our students who study abroad in established exchange programs (such as EPFL) for one or two semesters. The Cooperative Education Program agreement may be discontinued if the employers do not provide the students with career-related work experience or if the students do not meet the accepted level of performance as defined by the employers. 

Student responsibilities

Students are expected to begin their co-op assignment in accordance with the university's academic calendar: January through August (preferred option) or May through December (alternate option). Students participating in this co-op program must apply to the Undergraduate Office by May 1 for the January–August co-op option and December 1 for the May–December co-op option. To be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum 3.0 cumulative QPA for their first four semesters.

Application for a co-op is typically identical to the internship application process. Students will behave ethically and professionally during the recruiting process and cooperative education experience. Students should work in conjunction with their academic advisor and potential employer to identify if a co-op experience is the right choice for them.

Employer responsibilities

Employers will provide a challenging work experience, which must directly relate to students' majors and class levels. Employers provide appropriate orientation to the organization and students' work environment. Employers monitor students' progress and activities and provide students and the academic department with performance evaluations after work assignments. Employers are encouraged to review and discuss evaluations with students before their departure from employer sites.

Win-win situation

Our co-op program is a significant benefit to students and employers alike. Students get a chance to apply the knowledge they have learned to hands-on projects in industry. In the eight months of their co-op, students actively participate in actual company projects. Students return to school with a renewed interest in their studies along with a better idea of their course and career preferences. Additionally, the co-op provides a potential career opportunity with the participating company. Companies benefit also from the co-op program. It gives them an opportunity to observe students over a sufficient amount of time to evaluate pertinent performance. With this familiarity of student work ethic, employers can make sound judgments in recruiting decisions. Both students and employers alike report that their co-op experience is productive and beneficial.