Co-op FAQs



Q: What is co-op?


Co-op is short for cooperative education and for over 100 years Northeastern’s co-op program has been preparing students for the global challenges of the next century. While on co-op, students gain up to 18 months of professional or research experience related to their academic interests with any of 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 in positions related to their academic or career interests. 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. The Co-op Cycle provides more information on how students alternate class and co-op over four or 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 after a student returns from co-op.

Q: Who participates in co-op?


The majority (over 80%) 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

  • Intellectual Growth (critical thinking and communication skills);
  • Academic Growth (increased knowledge of the field of interest and the development of technical skills); and
  • Personal and Professional Growth (the cultivation of ethical and social awareness, as well as career and individual development).

Q: What are cooperative education coordinators?


The CSSH co-op coordinators are professionals with insight into particular majors and career counseling experience. Co-op coordinators work with students throughout their time at Northeastern. The partnership between the student and their co-op coordinator is critical. Co-op coordinators provide the necessary tools and information, as well as job opportunities, to assist students in their search. Ultimately, however, it is the students’ responsibility to meet deadlines, look at job openings, meet with a coordinator to discuss opportunities, and remain focused in the search. The end result should be a co-op position that provides an excellent opportunity for learning and growth for the student.

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: How do students make appointments with the co-op coordinators?


The online Appointment Calendar allows students to review co-op coordinator calendars; to view dates, times, and campus locations of walk-in hours and available appointment time slots; and to schedule an appointment with co-op coordinators online.

To access this calendar:

  1. Log on to myNEU
  2. Click on the Self Service tab
  3. Click Appointment Calendar
  4. In the drop-down menu, select: College of Social Sciences & Humanities
  5. Click on the name of the coordinator desired
  6. Sign up for an available time.

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’s co-op program. Students must meet eligibility requirements such as: 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 specifics.

Disciplinary problems or unsatisfactory performance on an earlier co-op job may preclude students from interviewing for co-op positions. 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?


Before going on their first co-op, usually during freshman or sophomore year, students take the EESH 2000 Professional Development for Co-op class or its equivalent. This class provides students with the tools necessary to successfully obtain and excel in a co-op position. Course highlights include career assessments, resumé writing, interviewing techniques, job search strategies, and discussions on important topics such as ethics and professional behavior. This course provides a great deal of information to assist students as they begin their search for their first co-op position, and helps build a foundation of career development skills.

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. With the diverse major options within CSSH, co-op coordinators target industries that include archives, education, government, healthcare, human resources, international NGOs, law firms, marketing, museums, and non-profit organizations.

The co-op coordinators work with each student individually to determine the types of target jobs that match the student’s background, skills, and goals. Students’ eligibility for each job depends on the criteria of the job description and the competitiveness of the applicant pool. Previous experience, grades, skills and professional and emotional maturity all play a major factor as well. Students are required to put in a substantial amount of effort into their job search, and work closely and consistently with their co-op coordinator in a professional and collaborative manner.

Q: What happens if students change their major?


When students change their major, they are usually assigned to a new co-op coordinator who specializes in the new major. Students should notify their former co-op coordinator so that records can be transferred and students can be referred to a new coordinator. Students who have successfully taken, and passed, the co-op prep course do not have to take it again.

Q: May student-athletes participate in co-op?


Yes, student-athletes are eligible to participate in co-op. CSSH encourages those who play fall sports to complete co-op assignments during the January-June cycle and those who play spring sports to utilize the June-December cycle. Student-athletes competing in winter sports may participate in co-op in either cycle, but are strongly encouraged to obtain local placements with flexible schedules that allow them to work at their job while practicing and competing in their sport. Winter athletes need to be aware that their co-op options may be more limited because of their schedules. Students should discuss their athletic and work schedule with their co-op coordinator.

Q: Can international students get co-op jobs?


Students on visas which 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 strict regulations governing co-op and practical training, international students are encouraged to discuss their situation with their co-op coordinators early. Most employers are able to hire international students. Some employers who are government contractors (requiring US 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, and for some students it provides a welcome “vacation” from study abroad. Students who are considering this option should discuss it with their coordinators and the International Student and Scholar Institute Office early.

Q: How many co-ops do students need to do?


Although co-op is optional for most CSSH majors (it is required for education minors and for students on certain scholarships), the majority of CSSH students undertake at least one co-op during their education at Northeastern. Students who plan to graduate in five years can complete as many as three co-op placements, while students who plan to graduate in four years can complete up to two co-ops. Two co-op placements is the recommended minimum in order to maximize the benefits of the program.

Q: Are co-op placements guaranteed for every student?


Even under the best circumstances, 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 all affect the ability of a student to get a job. Co-op coordinators will work with students to the best of their abilities to help students find a job. Ultimately, students are responsible for their own success, and must participate fully in the process.

Q: Where do students live while on co-op?


Planning for housing needs is important. Students who live in a residence hall and accept a local position may continue living in the residence hall. Students who receive a position outside the Boston area may transfer their housing deposit to another semester, and are responsible for finding their own housing and transportation in the other locale. Northeastern’s Co-op Connections is a great housing and relocation resource available to all students on co-op. Some companies may also provide housing and relocation assistance. Co-op coordinators will inform students of housing options regarding specific out-of-state employers.

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, Germany, Cost Rica, China, and South Africa, just to name a few. The CSSH co-op team works very closely with Northeastern’s International Co-op Office, which is dedicated to working with 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 Washington State. 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 international co-op positions?


Students seeking co-op positions in another country work with their CSSH co-op coordinators, as well as with the International Co-op Office. The coordinators and the International Co-op Office have contacts and positions in other countries, and are knowledgeable about the requirements to obtain working permission in other countries. Finding an international position generally takes longer than a domestic one and students are encouraged begin the process as early as two semesters before the start of their co-op period. Depending on location, knowledge of an additional language may be required. Co-op coordinators and the International Co-op Office can also help students with relatives or contacts in another country take advantage of that fact, guide students through developing their own international co-op position, and assist in cutting through the “red tape” of working in another country. Students who obtain an international co-op may be eligible for the 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 resumé 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. 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: May students find their own position?


Northeastern has a range of resources available to help students find a co-op position, including the co-op coordinators, myNEU COOL, and the International Co-op Office. The University does encourage students to make use of these resources to find a co-op position that matches their interests and needs, but students may also choose to make or call upon their own connections to find a co-op job. Students who wish to find their own position should discuss their plans with their co-op coordinator well in advance of the co-op period. The coordinator must approve proposals and will verify the position with the employer before students are allowed to accept employment. Students must inform the employer that they are a Northeastern University co-op student and that they will return to the University at the end of their co-op term. Co-op students cannot be employed as consultants or independent contractors.

Q: How much do co-op employers pay co-op students?


Compensation is set by the employer and depends on the industry, the level of the position, and the local economy. Co-op coordinators can provide specific compensation information. Students do not pay tuition while on co-op. Most CSSH jobs pay between $12 and $16 per hour. Co-op salaries for some positions tend to be lower or unpaid because that is the norm in those industries (museums, international development, government, etc.). Students who are offered low-paying or unpaid co-op positions should talk to their co-op coordinator. They may then seek assistance through the financial aid office or through other grants and awards

Q: Do students get a vacation?


Vacations usually occur only at the end of academic semesters. The university calendar does not allow for vacations at any time during co-op terms. Students are expected to work from the beginning of the co-op term to the end of their assignment.

Some employers may need students to work beyond the published end dates of the co-op term. Students should discuss exact start and end dates with their employer and co-op coordinator. Students may take a summer vacation at the end of their first year. Students planning on participating in three co-ops will either be in school or on co-op during most of the remaining summer months.

Q: May students take time off while on co-op?


As employees, students must arrange for personal and college-related commitments to take place outside of regular working hours. If students must take time off from work for special circumstances, they must contact their co-op coordinator before 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.

Q: May students take courses while on co-op?


With their co-op coordinator’s sign-off, students may enroll in up to two classes that take place outside of their regular working hours. However, students should check with their academic advisor in advance. If students are interested in taking a course that interferes with their co-op commitment, student must petition and receive approval from both their co-op coordinator and their employer prior to accepting the co-op position

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 in that it will help students to gain higher-level (and better-paying) co-op jobs, but in order to get credit for work experience it must be done under the supervision and approval of a co-op coordinator.