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Engineering Co-Op programs are they worth it?

  1. Aug 5, 2008 #1
    Hello all,

    It looks like I'm switching my major to engineering, in my senior year no less. My engineering program is not very developed, the highest degree offered is MSE, and they only offer three disciplines within engineering. My university's engineering website is http://www.gvsu.edu/engineering" [Broken] if you want to take a look.

    There are three co-op semesters (spring, fall, winter) over the last two years of the program. My question is, are co-ops a good opportunity for someone that would want to go to a graduate program, or would a traditional course load be better for a student like me?

    My worry is that with doing the co-ops, I won't be able to take courses that would further my understanding for graduate school.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.


    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2008 #2

    Dr Transport

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    Co-op's are one of the things I look for in hiring new engineers, they go to the top of my list even more so than graduate work.
  4. Aug 6, 2008 #3
    Thanks for your input.

    I would definitely like to do one or two during the summers. However, my program has three co-ops in 20 months. This means doing one in the fall and winter semester.

    It just seems, that as someone that may want to go to grad school for a certain specialization after mechanical engineering, it would be in my best interest to take more classes in an academic setting.

    Perhaps I'm totally wrong. If I can find a co-ops working in a field I'm interested in for grad school it would definitely be worth it.

    I'm currently talking to the faculty chair, so I'll send talk to him about the opportunities.

    Thanks again.
  5. Aug 6, 2008 #4
    Co-ops are the reason I chose the school I did. I am looking forward to doing mine. They were ranked #1 in job placement as a result of the their co-op programs. . . let's see if I can find a reference for you. . .

    Edit:http://www.northeastern.edu/nupr/news/0708/Rankings_Career_Job_.html" [Broken] it is.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Aug 6, 2008 #5
    Here's my take on it. Doing a co-op gives you some hand-on experience that you cannot find by reading books, job descriptions, or learn in class. You're getting into the jist of things somewhat late being a Sr., but I'd say give it a try. Try it out, see how it works for you, plus that'll generally put you above others in terms of job resume. It shows that you've actually been in the field, and not some kid just out of school (nothing wrong with that though).
  7. Aug 6, 2008 #6


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    I don't see how going through the co-op program and taking specialized classes are mutually exclusive. Do you mean that things are set up in such a way that specific courses you're interested in coincide with your work term?

    The disadvantage to co-op is that it generally extends the program. However the advantages are that it gives you work experience in your field, you get extra cash to help keep the debt load down, and you gain relevant references.
  8. Aug 6, 2008 #7
    I think you have understated the value of co-ops in terms of experience. Work experience is as important as education when it comes to engineering IMO. It's not only the cash, but the point is you have real, hands-on work with what is REALLY going on in the industry instead of just reading about it in text books.

    Basically if you're trying to get hired, you're not telling them you only know the concepts, but you have already applied it in actual projects.
  9. Aug 6, 2008 #8
    Thanks everyone for your responses.

    I was mainly worried that I would end up in a co-op that wouldn't correlate to my academic/career goals. That fear has been allayed since finally getting my hands on the list of companies the university has worked with.

    I still think I may want to transfer to another university after a couple of years, but that would be for personal reasons.
  10. Aug 6, 2008 #9
    If you want to get a job, then do the co-op.
    If you want to go to grad school, then do not do a co-op.
  11. Aug 7, 2008 #10
    Could Co-Op also help for grad school?
    Like if you did a co-op at say a research lab?
  12. Aug 7, 2008 #11
    This is awful advice. IMO co-op or any work experience is priceless. I've never had an "official" co-op but I worked in the industry throughout most of my undergrad and it will give you an education you will not find in the classroom. Its not only important to apply the knowledge you learned in school but to truly figure out what you want to do with your career. If it wasn't for all my work experience, I would probably not be going to grad school at all. I would even suggest working for a year or so after your undergrad.

    How do you like GVSU? I had a gf that went to school there and omg does that school have some tail. I thought Oakland(my school) was good but during spring time at GV, wow. You might want to consider looking at OU for gradschool perhaps if you want some experience. Chrysler, Energy Conversion Devices/First Solar, Tesla Motors, Fanuc, Delphi, Tacom, General Dynamics, GM, ITT, Continental, ABB, Kuka, Dassault, FEV, etc...the list goes on, all have either their world headquarters or have a large amount of R&D going on in this area and its great for OU engineering students. I myself worked at Valeo and some testing labs during my undergrad.
  13. Aug 7, 2008 #12

    Dr Transport

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    What disadvantage, 20 years ago when I got my degree (holy rat, crapman, it has been 20 years already), the only guys who were getting job offers were the ones who had experience through a co-op or internship. As already mentioned, you find out if you like your field and want to go further.
  14. Aug 7, 2008 #13
    I am currently a co-op student working as a mechanical engineer. I do designs for automated equipment using 3D parametric programs. This is my first co-op term btw (just completed my first year of engineering).

    I serisously do recommend co-op. The only problem with co-op is that you can't take courses during the term because you are working full-time (that's how it works here). But if you follow your schedual accordingly and take all the classes you are assigned for each semester than you really shouldn't have to extend your program.

    But some co-op coordinators recommend you to take a year off strictly for co-op mainly if you are going into electrical engineering. You also get paid for your co-op so its pretty much like finidng a job AND getting relevent experience in your field. I mean, the experience counts more than anything but the money is nice to have too.

    TAKE CO-OP!! There's no way you can regret it.
  15. Aug 7, 2008 #14
    Thats why I never did an "official" co-op. I did full time work while full time school (16 credits). If you go that route, your life(if you have one) will be hell but you will graduate on time with money and valid experience in your pocket.
  16. Aug 7, 2008 #15
    Well, that seems awfully spot on for what you wrote. Thanks for the support.
    Frankly, it seems to me, that you would be wasting your time if you know you want to go to graduate school and take a co-op/job.
  17. Aug 7, 2008 #16
    Same here, at a big shop nonetheless, and it was a waste of my time.
    Internships during the summer work out fine and do not have the associated chip on shoulders issue.

    A few $s and low level experince might not be worth the cost.
  18. Aug 8, 2008 #17
    I'll be a freshman ChemE student this fall and I really don't want to go through the extra time and money it takes to do a co-op( my school has co ops during the fall and spring semesters, so it will take longer to graduate, as stated earlier by others). I see that my other option is taking a summer internship, which I will most likely do.
    With that said, is it hard to get an internship as early as the summer of freshman year? And how rare are internships that pay? I want the work experience more than anything, but I know my dad would be on my arse if I took a summer job that didn't pay (and I can't say that I would blame him, college isn't cheap).
  19. Aug 16, 2008 #18
    Thank you everyone for your responses. It has become clear that co-ops are definitely something I should do.

    I would have replied earlier, but I was on vacation all last week.

    And topher, GVSU is definitely great as far as the female/male ratio goes. The first week or two of fall is the best because everyone is dressing their best. Then people start wearing PJ's to class when the weather starts getting a little cooler.

    I'm also kind of hoping that I will get a job at a place that will support me slowly getting a Master's. As it stands now I would not get out into the workforce until I'm 25 with my bachelor's!

    I've been studying my arse off for the calc placement test over my vacation. To the tune of 9 hours a day. It's in a few days so I hope all that work pays off.

    Thanks again for your advice.
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