Which Path is Best for an EE Grad Student: Co-op or Internship?

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In summary, the conversation discusses a graduate student's dilemma about choosing between different paths to complete their degree. The options include a co-op at a large engineering company, a TA position with a tuition waiver, or solely focusing on coursework and thesis. The student also considers the implications of accepting an internship offer and how it may affect their chances of getting a co-op. Ultimately, it is recommended to gain prior experience through a co-op or internship, as it may be advantageous when applying for jobs. The student decides to take the TA position while also interviewing for the summer internship.
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Maxwell
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I'm a graduate student electrical engineering student looking to complete my MS by the end of this year. I have a question regarding experience, and perceptions in industry by certain choices I have to make.

I am faced with a few paths right now, and I can't tell which direction will be best for me; or, possibly, if they all look good no matter which path I take.

Path 1: Take a co-op at a huge engineering company working ~20 hours a week while taking a couple of courses and working on my thesis. This co-op would last the entire spring semester and afterward for as long as I like until I graduate.

Path 2: Take a TA position (which includes a tuition waiver, plus a weekly stipend) and take a summer internship at the same big engineering company.

Path 3: Just focus 100% on my coursework and thesis in the spring. The downside to this is that I'll have to pay full tuition and I'll have no salary. Also, I can not take the internship at said company because if I choose this path I will complete all my coursework and possibly my thesis in the spring. The company requires that I go back to school in Fall '08 if I am an intern in summer '08. However, I might be able to just work on my thesis for the Fall '08 semester and perhaps TA again. That would allow me to take the internship. The upside? I'll be completely finished with my coursework and I will only have to focus on my thesis.

Now for the stipulations and other choices.

The big engineering company would require that I tell them if I am taking the internship about seven days after I am extended the offer. Now, this will take away my ability to accept other internships from other companies that I might be slightly more interested in. However, these other companies have not contacted me yet (I just applied recently) and I don't have a guarantee that they will contact me.

Also, I don't know if I have the co-op yet. However, fi I had to guess, I would say that I'd be able to get it. However, the TA position is 100% offered now and I need to accept or deny it soon.

So my question: Do you think, in the eyes of an HR person in industry, a EE graduate student who has worked at a co-op for the spring and summer has any advantage over an EE graduate who has accepted a tuition waiver and salary and has worked an internship over the summer?

Once I accept the TA, I can't take a co-op. However, the co-op has not been offered yet, though I believe it will be. If I take an internship for the summer, does that hurt my chances at getting a co-op because they know that I will be leaving them in May for sure since I have an internship?

Sorry for the length of this post, but I just can't figure out what to do here. Can anybody give me some more opinions to mull over?

Thanks.
 
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  • #2
I think the internship and the co-op are going to be largely equivalent, in terms of what advantages they offer when applying to jobs. The co-op might be slightly better, if only because you would be working in your desired industry while still taking classes.

Concentrating 100% on your studies, however, will weaken you in the eyes of recruiters, who are looking for people with prior experience.
 
  • #3
Thanks, Ben. I decided to take the TA. I have an interview soon for the summer internship, so I guess that settles my problem.
 

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