Undergraduate Academic Guide: Cooperative Education Program

Our Cooperative Education Program invites students to gain valuable experience in employment that relates directly to their major and career goals. At the same time, it provides employers with opportunities to evaluate students as potential full-time employees, while having them complete meaningful projects. Participation in this program is voluntary, and obtaining a cooperative education assignment is competitive.

Due to federal restrictions on student work experiences, international students are not eligible for co-ops. Please visit the CPT page for information regarding international student internships.

The co-op experience

We require a minimum of eight months of co-op experience to identify the work experience as a co-op. Students must have miniminally completed their sophomore year to qualify for application to a co-op and should connect with their Academic Advisor for information on how to apply. While on co-op assignment, students are participating in a recognized CIT educational program, retaining their full-time student status, akin to our students who study abroad in established exchange programs (such as EPFL) for one or two semesters. The Cooperative Education Program agreement may be discontinued if the employers do not provide the students with career-related work experience or if the students do not meet the accepted level of performance as defined by the employers. 

Responsibilities of students

The students are expected to begin their co-op assignment in accordance with the university's academic calendar: January through August (preferred option) or May through December (alternate option). Students participating in this co-op program must apply to the Undergraduate Office by May 1 for the January – August co-op option and December 1 for the May – December co-op option. To be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum 3.0 cumulative QPA for their first four semesters.

The application for a co-op is typically idential to an internship application process. The students will behave ethically and professionally during the recruiting process and cooperative education experience. Students should work in conjunction with their Academic Advisor and potential employer to identify if a co-op experience is the right choice for them.

Responsibilities of the employers

The employers will provide a challenging work experience, which must directly relate to the students' majors and class levels. The employers provide appropriate orientation to the organization and the students' work environment. The employers monitor the students' progress and activities and provide the students and academic department with performance evaluations after the work assignments. The employers are encouraged to review and discuss the evaluations with the students before their departure from the employer sites.

A win-win situation

The Cooperative Education Program proves to be a significant benefit to students and employers alike. Students get a chance to apply the knowledge they have learned to hands-on projects in industry. In the eight months of their co-op, students actively participate in actual company projects. Students return to school with a renewed interest in their studies along with a better idea of their course and career preferences. Additionally, the co-op provides a potential career opportunity with the participating company. The companies benefit also from the co-op program. It gives them an opportunity to observe students over a sufficient amount of time to evaluate pertinent performance. With this familiarity of student work ethic, employers can make sound judgments in recruiting decisions. Both students and employers alike report that their co-op experience was both productive and beneficial.

How to Apply:

Once you have obtained a potential offer for a co-op, please contact your Academic Advisor to discuss whether this offer is right for you. Please note that in most cases, a co-op will delay your graduation from ECE by at least one semester, so it is best to plan accordingly to see how your course schedule will be altered.

Please see the Co-Op Preparation Guide to help you with the logistics of applying for a co-op.

Once you are ready to accept an offer, complete the Co-Op Acceptance Form, have it signed by your co-op supervisor, and return it to your Academic Advisor along with a copy of your offer letter from the company.

Upon returning to Carnegie Mellon, students are required to submit a 2-3 page evaluation of the co-op experience that also summarizes how the work relates to their ECE education.

Past employers have included:

Adobe Compaq Microsoft
Allied Signal (now Honeywell) Delphi-Packard Electric Mobay
Andersen Consulting FORE Systems Motorola
Annapolis Micro Devices General Electric/Capital National Instruments
Ansoft Harris Electronic Systems Quantum
BBN Corporation IBM Schlumberger Limited
Bankers Trust Impact Unlimited/Pittsburgh St. Jude Medical, Inc.
CSCI Arlington Intel Sun Microsystems
Case Corporation Inventure Texas Instruments
Caterpillar Lucent Technologies Transarc
Central Intelligence Agency Lutron USX
Cisco Systems