What is a co-op program and how is it beneficial to students?

You may have heard the term “co-op?” A student, a university, and an employer, form a three-way co-op education relationship. Usually you get paid and the opportunity to work with professionals in your chosen field of study. If you do not sure what a co-op education is keep reading to find out!

Co-op, also known as co-operative education, combines your school studies with an organized work placement. These programs help you gain valuable experience in a career you are interested in while earning your degree. If you choose to participate in a co-op program, you must be willing to take on the extra workload because this is not a traditional study-only degree and in most cases, there will be on the job assessment of your performance.

How does it work?

Co-op programs are usually in your field of study to give you first-hand, real-world experience. They are designed to give you exposure to what the job opportunities are and what’s it’s really like on the job. You can get advice and support from your uni’s co-op office or career center. They can also provide support with resume writing and interview preps.

Being a co-op student does not guarantee you a position. Just like the workforce, you will have to compete with other students and impress employers. You may have to go through several rounds of interviewing before you are offered a position.

After landing a co-op position, you will work as an entry-level employee where managers and supervisors support you along the way. The main goal of your co-op is to introduce you to the type of tasks that you may be exposed to in graduate entry positions. For instance, as a psychology student, your co-op position could be in a hospital research lab where you would help participants in a study, collect data, analyze data and draft papers.

As an international student, a co-op program is a great way to demonstrate your value to prospective employers. Each institution has a list of approved companies and organizations they partner with to provide students with placements. However, your placements do not have to be limited to your uni’s list of employers. You can find a co-op position independently, as long as it is approved by the co-op course coordinator at your uni.

Benefits of a co-op program

A co-op program can add significant value to your degree. If you are thinking about it, here are some benefits to think about:

  • You’ll learn a lot about your area of expertise.
  • You generally receive compensation for the work you perform.
  • You can network with businesses and establish important relationships.
  • You may examine various alternatives in your desired profession and see whether you like it or not.
  • You may learn a lot of things in this environment.
  • You’ll learn great interview and resume-building skills

Challenges of a co-op program

A co-op program is not for everyone because it does require a lot of effort and time. If you want to concentrate on your studies and not take on any extra work, you should stick to your decision. Here are some aspects of a co-op program that you should think about:

  • It may extend the duration of your degree
  • You will have to be more organized to plan your degree because some courses are only offered at certain times
  • It could increase your workload
  • Your expenses may increase
  • You may have to relocate to another city or area for work
  • Your chances of being employed are not guaranteed by the co-op program
  • You are not guaranteed a job

From Canada to India to the U.S. and beyond, employers are investing in cooperative education programs to train and ultimately hire students across all fields. This program relies on feedback from employers and students to keep up with technological skills needed in the workplace and to assess a student’s capabilities.

Educators and employers have realized that with its blend of higher learning and real-world practice, co-op education is a great way to prepare students for a changing world and complex problems. As a student, you will learn that co-op programs are great way to gain invaluable experience in the work place and potentially exposure to your future employer. If you are willing to put in the work, a co-op program can open doors for you!

To explore more useful educational programs, start a co-design conversation with Gradstar.

Date Published: Aug-16-2022

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About the author

Anupama Kumar is a content writer based in Bangalore, India. She writes blogs, stories, articles and social media content and has a passion for helping people and connecting with them through her writing. A professional writer by day and a creative one by night, her own stories, musings, quotes and poems inspired by her travels are also published on various platforms.