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Engineering Co-operative Education Experience (Co-op)

Co-op is an opportunity for you to advance your knowledge and skills in the context of industry, government, and society. Through a co-operative education experience, you will be empowered to create a career plan that will enable you to make well-informed choices for lifelong career success.


Young professionals communing

Professional Development 

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
  • earn a salary

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

2021-2022 Work Terms*

Student Eligibility- to participate in a co-operative education experience, a student must:

  • be an undergraduate
  • have completed at least two semesters by the start of the work term
  • be affiliated with an engineering major by the start of the work term
  • be in good academic standing with their engineering major and College by the start of work term
  • have undergraduate coursework remaining following the work experience

The work experience must be:

  • engineering-related work
  • paid 
  • full-time (37.5+ hours/week)
  • the duration of a fall or spring semester
  • occur during a fall or spring semester
  • with an employer that acknowledges the student's participation in the Cornell co-operative education experience. This is verified when a student has an offer. As employers' policies evolve over time, we do not maintain a "pre-approved" list of eligible employers.

How Co-op Works:

  1. If you're interested in a 2021-2022 work experience, join the Co-op list serv. 

    Send a plain text email message to: In the Subject line of the message, type the single word: join. Leave the body of the message blank. 
  2. Make sure you have completed the On-Campus Recruiting tutorial, have set up your Handshake account, have updated and had your résumé reviewed, and have completed a practice interview.

  3. We will periodically send you announcements about available co-ops and connecting with interested employers. The majority of the jobs listed in these messages will be posted in Handshake-to locate the jobs posted in Handshake, you can search on job title or employer in the Handshake system. Should we become aware of other positions which are not posted in Handshake, we will list them separately in the message.

    • When applying to jobs in Handshake, be sure to follow the application instructions carefully. For some jobs, you will be redirected to an outside URL for application....this may be instead of, OR, in addition to applying through the Handshake system.

    • You should regularly search Handshake, company websites, and career websites for positions of interest as well. 

  4. Talk with your advisor or Major Coordinator about your academic plans to understand the best timing for you to take a semester off to work based on your course progress. In many cases, taking a semester off to work will result in a delayed graduation.

    • To facilitate the discussion with your Major Coordinator, and for formal approval, you will need a Request to Participate in Co-op form; send a message to to request the form. When sending the message, it is helpful to know your school year, major, and whether you currently have a co-op offer or are exploring co-op as an option.

  5. Some majors may offer summer coursework that you may take to accommodate taking a semester off and still graduating within four years. Discuss available summer coursework with your major department. 

    • If you are considering taking Cornell summer courses in order to co-op, you should consult with Financial Aid well before starting the summer courses to review your summer financial aid options.

  6. When you receive a job offer from an employer, contact the Engineering Career Center to discuss the offer. If you decide to accept it, you will need to complete Co-op Acceptance paperwork with the Engineering Career Center to be officially enrolled in a co-operative education experience for a fall or spring semester.

  7. Then you will work a fall or spring semester (or both depending on your academic plans and employer needs). While you are working, you are enrolled "in absentia" and do not pay tuition for the semester. There is only a $15.00 fee to be enrolled in absentia.

  8. Finally, you will return to campus and complete your remaining coursework.

Due Dates for Fall 2021

The due dates to apply to participate in a Fall 2021* co-operative education experience are below. As the forms require approvals from others, you must plan ahead.

Due to a number of administrative tasks to ensure you are properly registered in absentia and not billed fall tuition charges, these dates should be followed. If you can not meet these due dates, you should alternatively consider requesting a voluntary leave with your department.

  • June 1 - submit completed Request to Participate form (requires major department approval)
  • June 16 - submit completed Acceptance forms (requires employer approval)

International students must plan well in advance to ensure adequate time to obtain US work authorization paperwork before your intended start date. Contact International Services immediately to discuss whether you have adequate time to complete the necessary paperwork for your participation.

*Due to COVID-19, we reserve the right to change these dates if the university academic calendar changes.

How is Co-op Different from an Internship?

Co-operative education experiences are typically longer than a summer internship. As on-boarding and training can take a few weeks depending on the organization, longer work terms create the opportunity for students to experience more substantive projects. Students report finding added satisfaction in the more involved projects and learning more about the industry.

Employers appreciate 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.



Students who are interested exploring co-op are encouraged to contact the Engineering Career Center for more information at

All students participating in co-op are required to complete an on-campus recruiting (OCR) tutorial. Please go to the Cornell Career Services website to locate and complete the tutorial.

Employers can find out more at our Industry Partners page.


Diana Chu

Being able to work at a heart valve startup and learn about the culture that comes with that specific line of work was amazing. It has broadened my perceived options for my career.

— Diana Chu '19, Mechanical Engineer, Cephea Valve Technologies

Frequently Asked Co-op Questions

Below are questions that are frequently asked about co-operative education experiences.

What are the eligibility requirements for Co-op?

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Student Eligibility: to participate in a co-operative education experience, a student must

  • be an undergraduate
  • have completed at least two semesters by the start of the work term
  • be affiliated with an engineering major by the start of the work term
  • be in good academic standing with their engineering major and College at start of work term
  • have undergraduate degree coursework remaining following the work experience
  • have an approved Request to Participate in Co-op: to request the approval form, please email

Co-operative Education Experience Criteria: the work experience must be:

  • engineering-related work
  • paid
  • full-time (37.5+ hours/week)
  • the duration of a fall or spring semester
  • during a fall or spring semester
  • with an employer that acknowledges the student's participation in the Cornell co-operative education experience. This is verified when a student has an offer. As employers' policies evolve over time, we do not maintain a "pre-approved" list of eligible employers.

Contact the Engineering Career Center staff before accepting a co-op position to confirm that you and the work experience are eligible.


How do I find a co-op?

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Many co-op positions are posted in Handshake. You should join our list serv and include your résumé in any available résumé books we make available for co-op in Handshake. In general, employers post co-op positions year-round. Typically, employers hiring for the spring semester will recruit through early and mid-fall. Employers hiring for the fall semester typically recruit through the spring semester. In both cases, there are often last minute opportunities as companies solidify their business needs. A small number of employers recruit a year in advance. You are encouraged to utilize additional resources as you search for co-op jobs, and we can discuss these with you at information sessions and in advising meetings.

If you would like to receive periodic co-op job list emails you may send a plain text message with the single word, 'join' in the subject line (leave the body of the message blank) to

May I apply to internships too?

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You are able to consider other options, such as research and summer internships, as you explore and apply to co-op opportunities.

May I use CPT if I am an international student?

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Typically, international students can benefit from cooperative education experiences by utilizing Curricular Practical Training (CPT) rather than Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

Look for job postings in which the Work Authorization Requirements field states, "US work authorization is required but the employer is accepting OPT/CPT candidates," or "US work authorization is required but the employer is willing to sponsor candidates."

If you are an international student who is unfamiliar with work authorization requirements in the US, the Office of Global Learning offers regular workshops on the topic.

What do I need to do while on Co-op?

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Co-op is an undergraduate career exploration tool and experience where students put into practice what they have learned in class, then return to Cornell and apply what they learned during the work experience toward their education. 

While on co-op, students are required to submit the following:

  • Acceptance Agreement Forms
  • Employer Acknowledgement (submitted at time of acceptance)
  • Co-op Companion Guide (attest to reviewing)
  • Offer Letter
  • Contact Information Form (within first two weeks of starting work)
  • Job Summary (at end of work term - before last day of work)


These optional assignments are suggested as tools to facilitate open lines of communication between students and supervisors, maximize learning, and establish a good work experience:

  • Student/Employer Expectations Agreement
  • Learning Outcomes (i.e. setting learning goals for the work term)
    • Learning Outcomes Evaluation (end of work term)
    • End-of-Term Reflection Activities:
    • Assessment of Student Performance
    • Workshops: Students are encouraged to attend any Cornell Career Services workshops (selections are listed in Handshake Events) Topics relate to the NACE Career Readiness Competencies.

    After accepting an approved co-op position with the Engineering Career Center, students are added to a Canvas course for the co-op work term(s), where the assignments can be accessed.

    How much will I be paid?

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    In 2020-2021, the average co-op salary was $4,686/month and the median was $4,200/month. More financial and salary information is available.



    Where will I live during my work term?

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    In a survey of Class of 2019 co-op students, about half of the survey respondents reported receiving some sort of compensation for housing. Some employers offer subsidized housing or housing stipends to assist students with the relocation.

    Co-op students utilize a variety of options to secure housing. Some include:

    • Rental agencies
    • Local college on-campus housing (more availability in the summer)
    • Local college Facebook sublet groups
    • Web searches for sublets or short-term leases
    • Air BnB
    • Live at home
    • Living on campus*: Living on-campus while participating in co-op may be possible. Contact Campus Life for more details.

    The live-at-home option works best for someone who does a co-op job search focused on a specific geographic region. 

    Recruiters typically can provide guidance regarding housing options in their community.

    Given the variety of employer locations, our office is unable to advise you regarding housing options. However, if a former co-op student has worked at a location, we can put you in touch with each other. We have copies of work summaries completed by former co-op students that you may review. Reaching out to Cornellians in specific locations has also been useful for students.

    *If you have an on-campus housing contract, the housing office will release you from your on-campus housing contract when you notify them of accepting a co-op. For a fall co-op, the housing office recommends that you notify them by July 1; for a spring co-op, notify them by Dec. 1.

    If you and a friend have different semesters away from campus due to co-op or study abroad, it's a great strategy to share an off-campus apartment for the opposite terms.


    Will I pay tuition while on co-op?

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    While you are working, you are enrolled "in absentia" and do not pay tuition and student fees for the semester. There is only a $15.00 administrative fee to be enrolled in absentia

    Are remote work experiences permitted?

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    Due to COVID-19, we will approve remote work experiences. 

    Can I take classes while on co-op?

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    Since students on co-op are registered in absentia during their fall or spring co-op, it is not possible to simultaneously be enrolled in any Cornell classes- even online or asynchronous courses. Some co-op students in the past have received pre-approval for transfer credit for 1-2 classes taken part time from another university while on co-op. Contact Engineering Advising for more information about transfer credit. Since you will be a full-time employee while participating in co-op, it is important to focus on your work experience and ensure that the transfer courses do not distract or take time away from your work. It is also critical to not enroll in more than 11 transfer credits during the fall or spring semester term as being registered in 12+ credits would make you a full-time student at another institution and have potential registration and financial aid implications. International students should consult with Cornell International Services if they are considering transfer credit for 1-2 courses.

    What about health insurance?

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    Just like any other semester, when you are a registered student you are automatically enrolled in the Cornell Student Health Plan (SHP). If you have private insurance, you may be eligible to waive the SHP. See the Student Health Plan website for more information.

    May I use Cornell Health while on Co-op?

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    Due to COVID, many employers are offering students the opportunity to work remotely, and some students are choosing to live in Ithaca. If you are residing in Ithaca during your co-op, you may use Cornell Health, however, we recommend that any student without SHP as their insurance plan call the billing office at 607-255-7492 and review your insurance coverage and options before receiving care, so you don't end up with financial surprises.

    Can I do a part-time co-op?

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    When you are registered in absentia through the Co-op office, it is as a fully registered student who is working a full-time position. You can not do a part-time co-op and be registered in absentia. Part-time positions are not eligible to participate in co-operative education experiences through our office. If you have a part-time position, you might explore either a leave of absence or talking with an academic advisor about how to manage your course load and part-time work.


    Where will I live in Ithaca after my work term?

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    On-Campus Housing: During your co-op work term, call the Housing Office in RPCC (607-255-5368) to apply for on-campus housing for when you return. You will then be placed on a waiting list for on-campus housing that becomes available.

    Sublet: Some students lease an apartment for the entire academic year (usually June-June), and sublet the apartment for the time that they will be away. Other students choose to sublet someone else’s apartment for the semester they will be on-campus. 

    Use due diligence in evaluating options virtually. Be very careful about simply sending money to strangers online. Don’t forget to return to the site periodically to see if anyone has responded to your message, as some sites give people the option to either respond to the message within the forum, or to e-mail you directly.

    What does it mean to be registered in-absentia for co-op?

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    You are registered in absentia for the semester when you are co-oping. This means you are a fully registered student.

    As a fully registered student, you are expected to:

    • Check your Cornell email regularly
    • Respond to emails and requests from university offices
    • Comply with university travel and COVID-related policies
    • Communicate any changes to the terms of your co-op in writing to the Engineering Career Center
    • Complete the required Canvas assignments for your co-op experience

    Canvas Assignments
    There are required and optional co-op assignments in Canvas.

    • The required assignments are expected to be completed as described in Canvas. Failure to complete your required assignments by the end of the co-op term will result in an enrollment hold for future term(s).
    • The optional assignments are provided as tools to help you maximize your learning and develop good communication with your supervisor.

    Remember, being a fully registered student is a privilege. Any changes to the terms of your co-op, including start and end dates, may have academic, registration, financial, and if applicable visa, implications. If possible, seek pre-approval in writing from the Engineering Career Center before changing the terms of your co-op.


    How is a voluntary personal leave of absence different than being registered in-absentia?

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    It is not unusual for students who are either co-op ineligible or who have a work experience that is ineligible for co-op to take a voluntary personal leave of absence to participate in a work experience. Students who are on a voluntary leave of absence are not fully registered students. This may have academic, registration, financial aid, visa, and other implications. The Engineering Career Center is unable to advise on these matters. We recommend consulting the Engineering Handbook for more information on voluntary leaves as well as with your major department, Financial Aid, and Global Learning, if applicable. Co-op eligible students from CALS and A&S should check with their respective colleges regarding voluntary personal leave of absence policies.