Worried That Co-ops Will Delay Your 4-Year Graduation Date?

Posted: February 17, 2011

Many students voice concerns to us about graduating "late" because of a co-op rotation. "I want to be able to graduate in 4 years" is the usual hesitation when considering co-ops. In this week's blog, we want to discuss opening up your job search to include co-ops, in addition to internships, as well as the pros and cons of graduating on-time without experience.

Applied experience outside the classroom is heavily emphasized for engineering students. Many companies will list "previous co-op or internship experience" as one of their entry level career requirements. It's why 89% of students employed at graduation last spring had internship or co-op experience. It's for the same reasons that education majors must complete student teaching before being certified or nursing students must pass their clinicals before practicing.

A successful job search has nothing to do with how long it took you to get your degree and everything to do with your ability to demonstrate competence in engineering. Internships and co-op work assignments are one sure way (but certainly not the only) to gain the experience necessary to demonstrate engineering competence. On average, students without internship or co-op experience need 6 to 9 months to complete their job search - significantly longer than students with experience.

We do not blindly suggest that you extend your education beyond four years. One of the biggest concerns that must be addressed is money. A couple extra quarters or year on campus means extra tuition and housing. Luckily for you all internships and co-ops through ECS are paid (see our website for wage information). With some advanced planning, the extra time on campus is manageable for most students. There are students who co-op and still manage to graduate on time, often by taking classes over the summer.

You will never again have the opportunities to learn like you do now as an engineering student - take advantage of them. There is nothing wrong with taking 5 (or more) years to graduate. I took 6 years to graduate with my B.S in Chemical Engineering and have zero regrets. I paid for my degree, co-authored 3 patents, engage with engineering students on starting their internship/co-op experience and will be graduating in a few short weeks gainfully employed in a job that I know is perfect for me. My co-op experience is the foundation for my successful job search and it's our hope that you will have the opportunity to share a similar experience.

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Authored by Dan Lamone.