How are internships and co-ops different?

Internships and co-ops can be one of the most rewarding opportunities for students during thier post-secondary career. These experiences allow students to gain hands-on training in their chosen field.  Job experience may also provide an advantage in the job market after graduation. Many employers consider relevant job experience to be a deciding factor when considering candidates. Although both terms can be used interchangeably, they suggest different experiences in terms of timeframe, hours and income. Here is a handy guide outlining the difference between co-ops and internships.

What is an internship?

Internships are generally completed during a single semester or over the summer. They are considered to be short work experience opportunities. Many students complete several internships during their studies. Internships can be part-time or full-time opportunities. Students may be paid or unpaid for their work. Internship programs give students the opportunity to work with multiple companies and experience a variety of professional roles.

What is a co-op?

Co-op positions are full-time work experience programs completed in one semester. They are typically paid opportunities. Students enrolled in co-op programs may require five years to complete a four-year degree. There are two different types of co-op program schedules: alternating and parallel. An alternating co-op schedule requires students to work one semester and attend class the following semester. In a parallel schedule, students complete work experience and attend class during the same semester. Students are typically required to work 15-20 hours per week. They generally remain with the same company while completing their degree. Companies often consider co-op students for their next round of full-time hires. Co-op students are attractive to employers because they require less training during the onboarding process.

How to decide

Completing an internship or co-op experience is a great way to stand-out among other candidates competing for similar roles after graduation. Before deciding on an opportunity, be sure to check with your college to determine the institution’s definition of internships and co-ops. You will also need to decide if the opportunity aligns with your educational and future career goals. 

Employers can also benefit from hiring an intern or co-op student! To learn more read our blog post “Why You Should Hire a Co-op Student!”

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