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Internships or Co-ops

The difference between internships and co-ops

What Is An Internship?

An internship is a practical work experience related to a student's major that allows a student to apply classroom knowledge and academic principles.  It is a single, planned educational experience, and its duration may be one semester, a summer, or any length of time agreed upon between the student, the employer, and the university.  Internships may be paid or unpaid, and the student may receive academic credit with approval from the academic department.

What Is A Co-op (Cooperative Education)?

Cooperative Education (Co-op) is a structured and supervised academic work program typically lasting two or more semesters that alternate with academic semesters.  Co-op positions are always paid and often earn academic credit.  Like internships, they may be completed during any semester or summer.  Since Co-op positions typically require a student to work full-time hours making it difficult or impossible to balance a full-time academic course load, LSU Career Services offers a program so students can maintain full-time student status while working.  This prevents a student from forfeiting TOPS or other scholarship funds, or losing automobile or medical insurance benefits.  See 10 Things To Consider.

Why Get An Internship/Co-op?

Internships and Co-ops give students a chance to apply classroom knowledge and academic principles in a real-world situation while earning a salary and gaining future employment references.  Besides helping students build their resumes, work experience serves as a valuable tool to confirm, refine and define career choices.  Research shows that employers: 1) are more likely to hire graduating students with proven major-related work experience; and 2) typically offer those hires a higher salary than someone without internship or co-op experience.  Upon graduation, students completing Internships and Co-ops are definitely more marketable in the eyes of employers.

10 Things to Consider

Ultimate Career Goal - does this position help me move toward my career goal(s)?

Salary - is the position paid or unpaid? Is the salary reasonable or in an appropriate salary range?

Academic Course Credit - can I receive course credit for this internship?  What is required to receive academic credit? Can I receive course credit even if I am getting paid?

Relocating - will I have to move to another city or state if I accept this position?  Will the company assist with relocation expenses?

Housing - does the company provide housing accommodations for interns or help defray the cost for housing?  What is the cost of housing in the area?  Are there other interns willing to share housing?

Transportation - do I need to have a vehicle or is public transportation available?

Cost of Living - is the cost of living higher, lower or similar to my current living expenses?

Maintaining LSU full-time student status - how do I keep my TOPS or other scholarships if I intern during a fall or spring semester? 

Length of time for internship - is the length of time reasonable?  Does it conflict with the semester or summer schedule?

Working conditions - what type of organization or work environment am I seeking?  Can I envision myself in this type of environment?  Do other employees seem satisfied and productive?  Are the physical conditions reasonable and safe?