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General Co-op Information

Are you open-minded, adaptable, and curious?

Are you seeking a professional learning adventure?

Then Co-op may be for you!

Co-op is an educational experience that enables you to:

  • combine academic knowledge with industry experience
  • clarify your academic interests
  • test your career interests and goals
  • experience adjusting to a new locale and work environment

You apply classroom knowledge to work situations, converting theory to practice, while learning information and gaining skills to enhance future coursework.

How is Co-op Different from an Internship?

Usually internships are limited to 12 weeks or fewer, whereas Co-op involves paid work experience over a semester plus a summer. Because Co-op students complete 28 weeks or more, the work tends to be more substantive. Students tend to find added satisfaction in the more involved projects and learn more about the industry.

Employers appreciate Co-op's longer work terms because students are able to work on projects more independently after training. On a résumé, the longer work terms reflect a higher level of responsibility and greater industry experience.

Compare:

Co-op vs. Internship
Area of InterestCo-opInternship
Eligibility2.7 GPA, Engineering Major, Junior StandingDetermined by employer
Length of Work Period

28 weeks

(Fall or Spring plus Summer)

Summer 10-12 weeks
Cornell InvolvementMonitored through Cornell: site visits, evaluation forms, contact with supervisors, assistance with problemsNo direct involvement once internship begins
QualityMonitored through Cornell: work assignments are monitored for quality; students are assigned actual Engineering workVaries
For International StudentsCurricular Practical Training (CPT)Usually Optional Practical Training (OPT)
image of Sophia Norwood

The whole experience felt more personal and guided compared to the traditional internship search. I loved that employers came to campus and I got to have several in-person interviews, which allowed for a more personal connection. I think the Co-op program also feels like a friendly little community.

— Sophia Norwood, Mechanical Engineering '21, GE Aviation
image of Lucy Huang

I decided to do a Co-op because I want to gain work experience in the chemical engineering industry. Because the Co-op program is in direct contact with the College of Engineering, I am able to ensure that my work is related to what I have learned in the classroom and be able to work on longer projects that may have an impact on the company I work for. Furthermore, by working a longer work term I am able to gauge if industry is the direction I want to take my career. If I do decide to continue in industry, I have gained invaluable knowledge of the workings of a particular company, if not, I have time to determine if I would want to concentrate in a different area of chemical engineering. Overall, I really wanted to go head first into a work experience with Cornell as a support system.

— Lucy Huang '21, Chemical Engineering, Infineum

Alumna finds her Co-op experience invaluable

Andria Ronne '14

Some people know what they want to do for a living from a young age. When they are adults and you ask them, their answer starts with some variant of the phrase, “For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to…”

Andria Ronne ’14 is NOT one of these people. “When I was a kid I really liked to tinker with things,” she says. “I loved math and science, but I also enjoyed doing ballet, drawing and writing. When it came time to choose a major, I went with engineering because there were a lot of engineers in the family.”  Even after graduating with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), Ronne’s interests have remained broad.  Currently, Ronne is working as an associate marketing manager for medical device manufacturer Conformis in Billerica, Massachusetts.

Conformis converts CAT scans of a patient’s knee into a 3D digital model. The company then fabricates patient-specific surgical tools and prostheses. “I’ve found a great fit in product management,” says Ronne. At the nexus between sales, marketing and product development, product management gives Ronne the opportunity to use her engineering skills to translate customer needs into product features and creatively message new products.

An important step in Ronne’s career path was the Co-op experience she had at Cornell.

“One of the reasons I chose Cornell was the fact that the Engineering school had a co-op program,” says Ronne during a recent call from her office at Conformis. “The program is special in that participants are usually able to graduate on time. When I visited Cornell, I got a really good feeling.”

As a sophomore, Ronne submitted her resume for the co-op resume booklet and was contacted by a representative of the medical device company Zimmer Biomet. It was a great match for her interest in biomechanics. “I was Zimmer’s first Cornell student,” says Ronne. “Altogether, I spent seven months in Warsaw, Indiana, working in two different departments of Zimmer so that I could get a broader taste of just what they do.”

That “broader taste” gave Ronne some vital information: “My co-op experience was very valuable,” she says, “because it showed me that I didn’t want to be a practicing engineer.” That does not mean that Ronne returned to Ithaca from Warsaw and changed her major. “I didn’t do that,” says Ronne, “I loved engineering and wanted to continue to study it. But I did change my career aspirations. Having a scientific approach and an analytic mindset are incredibly valuable, and that is what engineering teaches.”

When asked if she would recommend the co-op program for current Cornell Engineers, Ronne did not hesitate. “Yes, absolutely. For me it was invaluable. It is a very low-risk chance to try something new,” says Ronne. “I certainly recommend it for people who are interested in exploring options and who just might want some practical experience as a way to help them decide.”

 

Photo of Somrita Banerjee

Being a co-op means you get greater immersion in one industry, more engagement with real engineers, and a better perspective on where you'd like your career to take you. For me, it taught me how to work in a professional environment and what skills and talents I can bring to a workplace.

— Somrita Banerjee '17