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Just how important are internships and co-ops?

I recently asked a third-year engineering student what she is doing this summer.  Her response? “What do you mean? I worked hard all year long on my grades.  I earned a 3.5 GPA! I deserve a break. My summer is all about rest and relaxation.”

Unfortunately for this student, her “rest and relaxation” will almost certainly hurt her in the long run professionally. The days are gone where a high GPA is all you need to be prepared in your field and get a job upon graduation.

Just a few quick stats about the advantages to having co-ops or internships:

  • Your competition has it: Last year, 83% of OSU grads with firm plans at graduation had a co-op or internship.
  • Potential job offer: Approximately 50% of students who intern/co-op accept positions with their intern/co-op employer upon graduation.
  • Higher starting salary: OSU engineering graduated in 2013 who had co-op/internship experience reported a 9% higher salary than those without similar experience.

But it’s not JUST about competition and getting a job.  It’s also about your own professional and personal growth.

  • Knowledge is power:  Cliché as it sounds, you won’t be able to know for sure if you like an industry, company, job function, or even location unless you experience it.   You may find the industry so interesting that an internship will cement your career decision. Or, you'll find the industry so boring that your internship will lead you to change your longterm plans. But it's better to learn that lesson during a one-semester internship than as a full-time employee.
  • Learning and Enhancing skills:  While getting an “A” in a class is great, you need to be able to apply those skills on the job. Co-ops and internships are a chance to put what you learned in the classroom to use and practice. This is also an opportunity to learn what your best skills are, which ones need improvement, and how to work with people.
  • Building your reputation and forming relationships: Performing well as an intern helps build your reputation in the industry.  While you may not receive an offer from your internship company, your supervisor may be able to serve as a reference or write you a recommendation--or a co-worker could introduce you to a friend who is hiring at another company.  Never underestimate the power of networking!

Work experience and a degree go hand-in-hand.  If you don’t have a summer internship or co-op, now is the time to begin looking for autumn and spring opportunities. 

ECS is here to help! Schedule a resume review and/or job search consultation now by calling 614-292-6651.  

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

About the author

Katy Arenschield

Katy Arenschield is the Engineering Co-op and Internship Program Manager.