Q: What is co-op?
Co-op is short for cooperative education at Northeastern University. For over 100 years Northeastern’s co-op program has been preparing students for the challenges of the next century. Co-op is an optional experiential learning program that allows students to gain up to 18 months of professional or research experience related to their academic interests. We partner with more than 2,500 employers across the United States and in 80 countries around the world. Students who participate in co-op alternate semesters of academic study with six-month terms of full-time employment. Students have the option of completing up to two co-ops over a four-year plan, or up to three co-ops over five years.
Q: When do students go on co-op and what is the process?
Students can go on co-op beginning in their second term during their second year at Northeastern. Co-op terms run from January – June and from July – December. Co-op is a three-step process: Preparation, Activity, and Reflection. The “Preparation” spans the entire semester before a student wishes to go on co-op. It includes the resumé writing, referrals to co-op employers, interviewing, etc. The “Activity” is the six months when students are working in their co-op positions. The “Reflection” component varies in each discipline, but usually takes place both during their co-op and after a student returns from co-op.
Q: Who participates in co-op?
The majority (over 90%) of full-time CSSH undergraduates participates in co-op. Co-op is an integral part of a Northeastern education, but it is not required to receive a degree.
Q: Why should students participate in co-op?
Participation in cooperative education allows social science and humanities majors to examine a variety of issues they have learned in academic coursework. Students who complete a co-op experience also bring the knowledge they have gained in the workplace back to classroom discussions. Since the career interests of CSSH majors are diverse, the specific learning goals for students on co-op will vary, depending upon individual students’ career and academic aspirations. Overall, the learning goals include:
Q: Who are cooperative education coordinators?
The CSSH co-op coordinators are professionals with insight into particular majors and industries. Co-op coordinators work with students throughout the student’s time at Northeastern and develop strong, individual working relationships. Co-op coordinators provide information about co-op job opportunities and the developmental tools students will need to be successful while on co-op.
Q: How do students know which co-op coordinator is theirs, and how do they reach him or her?
Co-op coordinators are assigned to majors. The co-op coordinators’ assignments and their contact information are available on the co-op coordinator web page.
Q: What circumstances might affect co-op eligibility?
Students are eligible to go on co-op if they meet the particular requirements of both the university and their major. Eligibility requirements include: minimum GPA, progress toward degree in the major, successful completion of the mandatory co-op prep course, participation in advising sessions with a co-op coordinator, and meeting all deadlines for the proposed co-op session. Transfer students must also meet these requirements. Please see the Cooperative Education Student Handbook for more specific information. Disciplinary problems or unsatisfactory performance on an earlier co-op job may preclude students from participating. In addition, some co-op employers may require certain pre-employment and/or during-employment screenings, including physical examinations, criminal record checks, and drug testing. Failure to participate in, complete, or pass these types of qualifying screenings may impact eligibility and/or opportunity for co-op positions.
Q: What is the co-op prep course?
The co-op prep class is a requirement for students before they go out on co-op. The class is taught by co-op faculty and provides students with the tools necessary to obtain and excel in a co-op position. Students maintain a working relationship with their co-op coordinator throughout their time at Northeastern University.
Q: What kinds of co-op jobs are available?
Co-op jobs are dependent on industry demand. The CSSH co-op coordinators develop, review, and approve each job to ensure that it is an appropriate learning experience, but otherwise no restrictions are made on the kinds of jobs in which students can work.
View a sample of co-op jobs that shows the range of positions.
Q: What happens if students change their majors?
It depends. When students change their majors, they have the choice to stay with their current co-op coordinator or they can choose to be assigned to a co-op coordinator in the new major. Students who have successfully taken, and passed, the co-op prep course do not have to take it again.
Q: Can student-athletes participate in co-op?
Yes, student-athletes are eligible to participate in co-op. Students should discuss their plan to participate in co-op with their coach and their co-op coordinator prior to registering for the co-op prep class to determine which six-month co-op semester would work best with their sport schedule.
Q: Can international students participate in co-op?
Yes, Northeastern University has been granted authorization by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for students in F-1 status and by the Department of State (DOS) to issue Academic Training (AT) for students in J-1 status. International students on visas that allow practical training (such as F1 and J1 visas) are permitted to go on co-op under a co-op coordinator’s supervision. Because there are very strict regulations governing co-op and practical training, it is critical for international students to discuss their situation with their co-op coordinators early. Most employers are able to hire international students, however others are not. For instance, government contractors (requiring U.S. security clearance) are unable to hire international students or even permanent residents. International students may also consider “home country co-op,” in which they return to their country of origin to work during the six-month period. This does not deduct from the student’s available practical training. All international students who are considering this option should discuss it with their coordinators and the Office of Global Services (OGS) very early in the co-op process. More detailed information for international students can be found at the OGS website.
Q: Is co-op required?
Co-op is an optional program in CSSH, and is one of many opportunities students have fulfill their Experiential Education requirement. Most CSSH students (over 90%) participate in co-op, with two-thirds completing two or more co-ops. Student can complete up to three six-month co-op semesters.
Q: Are co-op placements guaranteed for every student?
No, but it is rare for a student not to land a co-op job. Students are responsible for their own success, and must participate fully in the process—that is the biggest factor in successfully landing a co-op job. Variables such as the job market in a particular industry, the degree of competition for a particular job, a student’s past work experiences, and the needs of the employer may impact the outcome of a job search. Co-op coordinators work diligently with students and support students fully in a co-op job search.
Q: Where do students live while on co-op?
Students who live in a residence hall and accept a position local to Boston may continue living in the residence hall. Northeastern has leased housing in other cities including New York City; Brooklyn; Washington D.C.; Chicago; San Francisco; and Mountain View, California. Some companies may also provide housing and relocation assistance. Please visit the Co-op Connections website for more details.
Q: Where are most co-op jobs located?
Co-op jobs are available nearly everywhere: within the Greater Boston area, across the country, and in over 80 countries around the world. Students have worked on co-op in countries such as the UK, France, Brazil, Rwanda, Cambodia, China, and Australia, just to name a few. The CSSH co-op team works very closely with Northeastern’s Global Experience Office, which is dedicated to providing additional support to students who wish to co-op outside of the United States, and also continues to expand their base of domestic jobs in regions such as New York, Washington D.C., California, and Seattle. Northeastern encourages students to work closely with their co-op coordinator to use other resources outside of the CSSH co-op database to enlarge their job searches if they want to expand their options into different industries or geographic areas.
Q: How do students find global co-op positions?
Students seeking co-op positions in another country work with their CSSH co-op coordinators to explore global opportunities. Finding a global position generally takes longer than a domestic co-op job and students are encouraged begin the process early. Additionally, CSSH guides and supports students searching for a global co-op through a two-session workshop where they have the opportunity to hear from other students and are introduced to resources, including Presidential Global Scholars Program.
Q: What can students do to build their resumés prior to their first co-op position?
The CSSH co-op coordinators encourage students without a lot of experience to start building their résumé as soon as they can. This could be through volunteering, a part-time job or internship, extra-curricular activities, research with a professor, or an international experience. International students are encouraged to consider working on campus part time, which allows them to work in the U.S. prior to applying for a co-op position. The search process is competitive and students improve their chances of obtaining a co-op position by building their experience and skill base. Many students find an internship or go on a faculty-led Dialogue of Civilizations for the summer after their first year at Northeastern to gain experience outside the classroom and to assist with skill development.
Q: Can students find their own position?
The university encourages students to make use of the co-op opportunities already in place to find a co-op position that matches their interests and needs. Students may also choose to call upon their own connections to find a co-op job. Students who wish to find their own position should discuss their ideas with their co-op coordinator. The coordinator will work with a student to approve a position with the employer before the student is allowed to accept employment.
Q: Do co-op employers pay co-op students?
Most employers pay students. Compensation is set by the employer and depends on the industry, the level of the position, and the local economy. Additionally, students do not pay tuition while on co-op. Most CSSH co-ops jobs pay between $13 and $18 per hour. A few programs (non profit, federal government, entertainment, for example) are unpaid or offer stipends. Students who are offered low-paying or unpaid co-op positions should talk to their co-op coordinator, as they may be eligible for a small CSSH grant.
Q: Do co-op students take vacations or earn vacation time?
The university calendar does not allow for vacations during co-op terms. Students are expected to work from the beginning of the co-op term to the end of their assignment. Students should discuss exact start and end dates with their employer and co-op coordinator. Some employers do award time off, in the form of vacation, sick, and personal days, but it is not required of an employer.
Q: Can students take time off while on co-op?
We recommend that students arrange for personal and college-related commitments to take place outside of co-op work hours. If students need to take an occasional day off, they should work this out with their employer. If students must take unexpected, extended time off from work for special circumstances, they are encouraged to contact their co-op coordinator when requesting permission from their employer. If students have military training obligations or student-athlete team obligations that require time off from work, they should notify their co-op coordinator and their prospective employer prior to the start of the co-op assignment, during the interview stage.
Q: Can students takes courses while on co-op?
Most students choose not take a class while on co-op, but it is allowed if it does not interfere with a co-op’s work schedule. It is a good idea to consult with your coordinator about this prior to registering for courses.
Q: What is a co-op Pattern of Attendance (POA)?
In general, co-op students are grouped into one of two alternating sections, known as Pattern A (Fall Co-op) and Pattern B (Spring Co-op). Students can choose which POA they would like to be in after discussions with a co-op coordinator. Any further POA changes should made through their co-op coordinator.
Q: Can students receive retroactive co-op credit if they have done full-time professional work before beginning the co-op program?
No. Part of the value of co-op is that it coincides with the CSSH academic curriculum, allowing students to draw on recent work experience in order to better understand their coursework (or vice versa). Past experience is good, but in order to get credit for co-op work experience it must be done within the framework of enrollment in the co-op program.