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University of Colorado Denver

Experiential Learning Center
 

Experiential Learning Center

Internships & Co-ops Defined


Internships and Co-ops – What’s the Difference?

Internship - a professionally related work experience grounded in academic application and learning objectives. It is an academic course designed to integrate classroom study with planned, supervised, and evaluated work experience that strengthens students' professional and personal growth. Internships are one-semester experiences and may be paid or unpaid. Employers nationwide underscore the importance of internships, citing internship experience as a top criterion when screening candidates. In recent years more than 87% of new college graduate hires had internship or cooperative education experience.

Co-op (Cooperative Education) - non-credit* paid work experiences related to students’ field of study which complement academic training and promote career development. They are often multi-semester relevant learning experiences where students receive progressively more challenging assignments or rotate positions within the organization.

* The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences uses the term “Cooperative Education” to describe credit-bearing internships.

Benefits for Students Involved in Internships & Co-ops

Student participation in structured internships & co-ops can yield tremendous dividends. Some of these include:

  • A proven method to help students apply and deepen classroom learning
  • Broadens students’ learning opportunities.
  • Develops more competitive and employable graduates from your department.
  • Contributes to student retention.
  • Creates opportunities for faculty and employers to exchange ideas, research, and expertise.
  • Increases community engagement opportunities for faculty and university.
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