1. When Should I Do an Internship/Co-op?

Most internships/co-ops are done before you graduate. Many internships (particularly federal ones) require that students be enrolled in a degree-seeking program at their college or university. The junior/senior years are the most desirable for gaining practical, hands-on experience. At this level of your education you have most likely completed some upper-division courses and have more skills to offer the employer. Some employers, however, are willing to start as early as your sophomore year. These early internships will be more exploratory in nature but will offer you the added advantage of doing multiple internships before you graduate. Some nationally recognized programs have opportunities specifically for graduates. As a Master’s level candidate, you will often enjoy a competitive advantage in the internship/co-op job market, as you will have some advanced skills in your major.

2. Should I Do an Internship/Co-op?

Many factors should be considered when it comes to deciding where you should do an internship or co-op. Learning how to research employers will help you locate companies that you may be interested in interning for. Register with your Career Services department and research employers in your field of interest. If you are going to do an internship for academic credit, you should check with your academic advisor to determine whether or not there are any restrictions or guidelines concerning employers. If you are doing an internship for experience only, you may need to assess your personal attributes in order to best determine what kind of learning situation will work for you. Remember, you can always contact a career consultant (link to all four Career Centers) to further discuss your options.

3. Are Internships/Co-Ops Paid?

Each internship situation is unique and many times the choice to pay or not pay is determined by industry, company size and other factors. Some organizations will offer to pay a salary as well as airfare and/or housing while others will provide a “one-time” stipend at the end of the experience. Some industries do no usually pay their interns. This is an important factor to consider when applying to internship opportunities and another reason to conduct research on the opportunities before you apply. Cooperative Education (Co-op experiences) are usually paid.

4. Will I Get Academic Credit for My Experience?

The answer to this question varies depending on your major. Only your academic advisor/department can answer questions about whether you can obtain credit for your program by participating in an internship or a co-op. Requirements vary according to discipline so make sure to gather that information before you accept an opportunity. ACADEMIC PROGRAMS AT FIU will link you to each major/department at FIU where you can find out about credit options and requirements

5. What is the difference between a co-op and an internship?

Co-op positions are usually paid and highly structured in nature. Internships, on the other hand, may be more exploratory. They are often short-term or one-time opportunities and may be unpaid. Today these differences are becoming fuzzier as campuses and employers across the country are developing and refining their own unique brands of experiential education/internship programs. Now the terms "internship" and “co-op” are used almost interchangeably to refer to a real-world work or service experience where students gain practical and/or professional work experience. Other terms used to describe such general learning experiences include: Externship and Shadowing Programs These programs provide experiences that allow you to spend between a day and several weeks observing a professional on the job. You gain an overview of various career fields and get a taste of the specifics in the day of a particular professional. Field Experience/Service Learning/Volunteer Work These are generally unpaid work or service experiences in the human services or nonprofit sector that run parallel to your regular class schedule. Some programs offer academic credit for such experiences. Contact your academic advisor to find out more.

6. How Long Does an Internship/Co-op Last?

Typically the length of an internship or co-op is one semester (co-ops are usually progressive and may require a longer commitment) and can depend on the employer. It is important to understand your academic department’s requirements when coming to an agreement with an employer regarding internship/co-op hours.

7. Possible scenarios (Remember these are only “possible scenarios” your academic department will decide on the numbers of hours required to obtain credit”).

The Part-Time Plan

Work up to 20 hours per week in your work assignment while you pursue your studies. This plan is great especially if you have to work part-time anyway for financial reasons. This way you obtain practical experience in your major, plus you earn better money than in a typical part-time student job. Part-time positions are filled on a continuous basis.

The Full-Time Plan (Could be considered cooperative education)

Work 40 hours per week and to protect your student status, you either officially step away from your studies for one semester to focus on work projects returning to school the next semester, or enroll in evening or online classes while you work.

The Summer Plan

Work full-time during the summer. This work plan is best if you prefer to have different short-term experiences that expose you to your chosen field. Very competitive internship programs may have early deadlines for highly competitive summer internships, make sure to start early!

8. Should I participate in more than one internship?

You may certainly consider completing more than one internship during your time in school, particularly if you have a double major or are considering two possible career paths. Early planning will be necessary as employers might have specific criteria in mind when they post their internship opportunities.