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You are here: Career Services > FAQs about co-ops and internships
 

 
Undergraduate CEIP
Cooperative Education / Internship Program
 
 
 
Frequently asked questions about co-ops and internships
   
1. What's the difference between internships and co-ops?
2. Are internships and co-ops full-time or part-time?
3. Are internships and co-ops paid or unpaid?
4. What are pay rates for co-ops and paid internships?
5. Are there fees for the Co-op / Internship Program?
6. Can I get academic credit for an internship or co-op?
7. Are internships always in the summer?
8. What if I want to do an internship during a fall or spring semester?
9. Can I co-op just in summer?
10. If I get a co-op offer, when and how long do I work?
11. Can I pick the geographic location where I want to work?
12. Do employers provide housing?
13. Am I guaranteed a co-op or internship position?
14. Is there a minimum GPA requirement?
15. When should I start looking for internships and co-ops?
16. It's April. Do you know of any internships for me?
17. When do employers advertise and hire for summer positions?
18. Who and where are the co-op and internship employers?
19. Where have students in my major gone to work after graduation?
20. Do I write or call employers?
21. Is it okay to use e-mail to contact employers?
22. How many letters and resumes should I send out?
23. What if employers tell me to apply online on the organization web site?
24. What do I put in my resume for an internship or co-op?
25. What should my objective say?
26. What if I don't have any experience related to my major or career goal?
27. Do I need to be registered in Hokies4Hire to look for co-op and internship jobs?
28. Are there internships and co-ops through On-Campus Interviewing (OCI)?
   

 
Q: What's the difference between internships and co-ops?
A: Both are work experience related to your academic program.
 

Internships are usually, but not always, one term.
Internships are usually, but not always, in summer.
At VT, depending on major/college, 32% to 81% of students do an internship. (There are other kinds of work experience, and most students get more than one type of experience during college.)

  Co-ops are usually, but not always, multi-term; e.g. you might work fall semester, go to school in spring semester, work summer, go to school in fall, and work the next spring semester. Schedules vary depending on when you need to be in school and when the employer needs you to work (see more at Work / School Schedule).
At VT over 90% of students enrolled in CEIP are in engineering.
   
Q: Do most VT students get experience, and if so, what kind?
  Yes; 91% at last report from our survey of graduates; results contained in the Post-Graduation Report. But almost 1/3 WISHED THEY'D GOTTEN MORE EXPERIENCE. (Ouch! We're glad you're looking for experience!)
 

Our grads were asked:
What kind of experience did you have? (check ALL that apply)

  Number Percent  
  1210 40%  Volunteer work
  1355 45%  Part-time job
  1720 57%  Summer job
  541 18%  Unpaid internship
  1551 51%  Paid internship
  170 6%  Co-op
  543 18%  Undergraduate research
  339 11%  Field study
  137 5%  Other
  But what about for MY MAJOR?
See Post-Graduation Report, read down to:
Career-related learning and experience during college
.
Select to view your major (or college).
   
Q:  Are internships and co-ops full-time or part-time?
A:  Internships can be either; depends on employers' needs and the way each employer chooses to structure an intern program. Some internship programs are very formal and structured, while others offer more flexibility to negotiate terms. Co-ops are always full-time positions.
 
Q:  Are internships and co-ops paid or unpaid?
A: Internships can be paid or unpaid; this depends on employers' preferences and on the career field and on the job market supply and demand conditions which exist. Co-op positions are always paid.
 
Q: What are pay rates for co-ops and paid internships?
The compensation for co-op and internship positions varies greatly among employers and geographic locations. You can do salary research for salaries in your field.
Be aware that in some career fields, unpaid internships are common and are the best way to get career-related experience. (Students who do unpaid internships do not register with Career Services CEIP.)
Career Services' salary data for first term co-ops lists the average pay rate for VT students' first co-op work terms for several academic majors. Each employing organization sets its own pay rates. Please note this does not represent all career fields and all majors; just those who register in the CEIP (Cooperative Education & Internship Program).
Students who work multiple terms typically receive raises for their second, third, etc., work terms. Pay rates are often based on the number of credit hours you have completed, so your employer might ask you to provide a transcript (you obtain it from the University Registrar) to verify your completed hours.
Additionally, some employers provide housing and other benefits.
 
Q: Are there fees for the CEIP (Cooperative Education / Internship Program)?
A:  Yes. Fees are minimal (not full tuition!). See fees.
   
Q:  Can I get academic credit for an internship or co-op?
A:  You do not receive academic credit hours for co-op positions if you are registered with the CEIP. You do not receive academic credit for internships when you are enrolled in the CEIP.
  For other internships, the authority to grant academic credit is entirely determined by each academic department; some absolutely never do, some commonly do; with some it might be negotiable. Ask in the department of your academic major.
If your department allows this, academic credit is usually earned by registering for a Field Study or something similar, and usually requires you to submit academic work, such as reports, to a faculty member, in addition to the employer's on-the-job requirements. Some departments offer internship seminars or courses, in which they assist you with internships. Again, this is entirely up to the individual academic department.
   
Q:  Are internships always in the summer?
A:  No. You will find the majority of internships offered in summer, but some employers offer internships year 'round, including fall semester or spring semester terms. Some employers (such as tax preparers or political campaigns) may have a busy season during the year when they employ interns — and therefore offer non-summer internships.
   
Q:  What if I want to do an internship during a fall or spring semester?
A:  First check with your academic department (the department which offers your major) to find out what affect leaving campus for a semester will have on your academic standing and your ability to get the courses you need in the appropriate sequence.
  If you are receiving scholarships or financial aid, inquire in those offices what affect leaving campus for a semester will have on your scholarship or financial aid.
  Determine whether or not you need to be formally enrolled as a student at Virginia Tech during your internship to meet the employer's requirements or for other reasons.  If so, inquire about your academic department's policy to see if it offers or allows (or requires) academic credit for an internship. Only academic departments may grant academic credit.
  If your internship is full-time, you may be able to enroll in the Career Services CEIP (Cooperative Education / Internship Program). Review requirements of the job to be eligible and student eligibility requirements.
   
Q: Can I co-op just in summer?
A: If you work only in the summer, this is typically referred to as an internship (although some employers may call this a co-op). However, some employers do not offer summer-only programs.  Be aware of the requirements of each employer as you search for your job.
  If your job is full-time , you may be able to enroll in the Career Services Co-op / Internship Program. Review requirements of the job to be eligible and student eligibility requirements.
   
Q: If I get a co-op offer, when and how long do I work?
A: See Work / School Schedule.
   
Q: Can I pick the geographic location where I want to work?
A: You can search for a job in a particular location, but you are advised to look at all opportunities. You should be aware of the job market for your skills and take that into consideration — some career fields offer more opportunity and you may be able to be more selective about location. Other career fields are more competitive and you may need to go where the employers have needs. Some employers may assist with relocation and living expenses.
   
Q: Do employers provide housing?
A: This varies widely. A very few provide housing; some rent-free; some require you to pay rent. Some employers provide assistance finding housing. Some provide some financial assistance or allowance for moving and/or housing. If you get a job offer and the employer hasn't explained exactly what help they provide, you should ask.
You may find something helpful in relocation and housing resources.
   
Q:  Am I guaranteed a co-op or internship position?
A: No.  Applying for a co-op or internship position is competitive.  Employers evaluate your resume and compare you to your peers at Virginia Tech and elsewhere.
Students with higher GPAs and appropriate extracurricular experience are more likely to receive job offers; but other factors are involved, especially supply of, and demand for, student candidates.
Just as in any job search, employers will evaluate your interpersonal and communication skills in determining whether or not to offer you a co-op or internship position. Employers look for geniune enthusiasm and interest when deciding between job candidates.
There are fluctuations in employers' needs and in the job market.
   
Q: Is there a minimum GPA requirement?
A: For any particular internship or co-op job, employers determine if they have a GPA requirement. To register for CEIP, there is a minimum GPA. Review student eligibility requirements.
   
Q:  When should I start looking for internships and co-ops?
A:  For summer internships, start in fall and keeping looking through spring — until you get a position. Use school breaks (Thanksgiving, winter & spring breaks) to make contacts at home, if "home" is where you would like to be located for your internship. For co-op positions, begin looking at least one semester before you hope to begin work. Be aware that if an employer requires a security clearance, it may take up to six months between the time the employer begins considering you and the time you can begin work.
   
Q:  It's April. Do you know of any internships for me?
A: 

This is a very frequent question. As advisors, we see job and internship notices throughout the year, and we talk to employers during the year and are aware of their hiring activities. Knowing that for any given summer, there are likely thousands of Virginia Tech students seeking experience, we would not have personal knowledge of every single internship. Even if I read internship listings all day, every day, I would soon forget the details of the ones I read last week! So while we do not have, in pocket, one internship just for you (in any month of the year!), we can advise you on the process of looking for an internship (as we do here online, and in workshops). There may be some employers still seeking interns in April, but you will have to be ultra-diligent to find them. There are no short cuts or tricks!

Questions for you, the answers to which will help us best steer you:
Where have you looked?
What websites?
With whom are you networking?
Have you been reading the e-mails sent to you from your department or college career liaison about internships and career resources?
Have you looked on your department's web site? (Frequently there are excellent resources there of which students are not aware.)
Have you looked on Hokies4Hire? (That's where employers post jobs for Virginia Tech students.)
Have you looked at web sites for your career field?
Have you asked students ahead of you in your major where they worked?
Are you in a co-curricular or career-field-related organization?
Have speakers come in to talk about internships and careers?
Have you taken a role in your organization to recruit career-related speakers?
Are any of your professors doing research on which you could assist?
Are the following making your look employable?: your resume? your letter-writing? your interviewing? your interpersonal skills? your handshake?
Are you focusing with employers on what you have to offer them? (Or what you want for yourself?)

   
Q:  When do employers advertise and hire for summer positions?
A:  This varies from September to May. Some employers look for candidates in fall, even if they might not know their exact hiring needs until much later. The earlier you look, the more opportunities you will find, but it doesn't necessarily mean you will have an offer wrapped up early. And some employers recruit at career fairs and through the On-Campus Interviewing Program early in fall semester.
   
Q: Who and where are the co-op employers?
View the current employers list to see the employers of VT students who are enrolled in the Career Services CEIP. (This is a sampling of employers whom VT students have worked for; students who do summer internships typically do not enroll in the program, so their employers would not appear on the list.)
You are not limited to working for the employers on the current employers list. Many other employers also hire co-ops and interns. See where to find co-op and internship jobs, so that you know about all the places to look.
 
Q: Can I find out where students in my major have done internships?
Students who do internships are not required to register with the CEIP. Ask in your department if there is an internship coordinator who can advise you.
   
Q: Where have students in my major gone to work after graduation?
Great question, because if a VT grad has gone to work for an organization (they're not all "companies"; some are agencies, non-profits, firms, etc.), you could take a look at the organization web site and see what they do, and if they might have internships! We've got that, year by year in the Post-Graduation Report! Look at: Post-Graduation Report detail: employers, job titles, locations, listed by undergrad major. As you can see, you can sort this by any of the headings, and you can filter it by major or college.
   
Q:  Do I write or call employers? 
A:  For job advertisements, do as the posting instructs. If there is no position advertised, but you would like to contact the employer to ask if they offer internships, do what you're best at first:
  Write a targeted letter, to a specific individual, and follow up with a phone call, OR
  Call for more information (such as name of the person to whom you should write) and follow up with a cover letter and resume.
  Consider your timeline also. For example, if you are hoping to schedule visits to an employer during spring break, and spring break is just two weeks away, your time may be best spent making telephone calls or sending e-mail where appropriate.
  See where to find co-op and internship jobs and job search skills.
 
Q:  Is it okay to use e-mail to contact employers? 
A:  If the employer has provided an e-mail address, it is certainly acceptable to use e-mail. DO treat e-mail as a method of business correspondence and use the same rules as for traditional letter writing: accurate spelling and grammar, courteous tone, clear signature block with your return e-mail address, use Mr./Ms./Dr. in your salutation; don't assume the familiarity of using first names unless specifically invited to do so. In e-mail, with the overwhelming amount of junk mail we all receive, it is essential to use a subject line that is meaningful to the recipient who may have no clue who you are.
See guidelines for e-mail use in your job search and e-mail business etiquette and e-mailing resumes.
   
Q:  How many letters and resumes should I send out? 
A:  Don't send out anything, letter or e-mail, that could look like a form letter. What's that? A letter blasted to many people that looks like a sales pitch, and is not customized to the individual recipient (inserting the recipient's name is not customizing). You know when you receive a form letter in the mail; employers do too. Each letter you write should be targeted to the position applied for. Keep track of whom and when you've written, and follow up each letter with a phone call. See guidelines for correspondence in your job search.
Sounds like a lot of effort? It is. So it's better to write a few good letters that are likely to get results than a lot of average letters that are not likely to get results. Write as many letters as you can handle — doing your letters well, and doing follow-up calls.
   
Q:  What if employers tell me to apply online on the organization web site? 
 

Then do it. Do what they tell you to do. (One easy way to narrow a candidate pool is to eliminate everyone who doesn't follow instructions.)

But don't stop there. Network. Can you find a family member, friend, Virginia Tech alumnus or alumna who works at the organization? Are you using LinkedIn or HokieNationNetwork to find contacts? Networking is essential, especially when the job market is tight.

   
Q:   What do I put in my resume for an internship or co-op? 
A:  See resume guide, or follow the guidelines in the Career Services Career Planning Guide, free to Virginia Tech students by visiting us during office hours. Use these resume guidelines to help you write a rough draft of your resume and then come to Career Services for a resume critique through our walk-in advising service. You might have to do several drafts to get your resume final.
 
   
Q:  What should my objective say?  Does it have to be detailed or specific?
A:  It can be very simple. First, make sure your objective clearly states that you are seeking an internship or summer position, or co-op. Don't make the employer guess.
  Don't include phrases like "to gain experience in my field." The employer knows you want experience, but the employer doesn't necessarily know what "my field" is — clearly state which field you are pursuing.
  Don't say "to gain experience related to my major," because the working world isn't organized by major, and it's not the employer's job to be your career counselor.
  Examples of clear objectives are:  "summer internship related to social services" or "internship working with food service and dietetics," or "co-op position using and developing programming skills."
  If you are not sure what career field or industry you want to experience through your internship or co-op, meet with a career advisor in Career Services; we will be glad to help you learn more about career possibilities and how your major fits with the real world.
   
Q:  What if I don't have any experience related to my major or career goal? 
A:  That's okay; that's typical for college students, and that's why you're looking for an internship or co-op position in the first place.
Do include employment that is not related to your career goal because this tells potential employers several things which are relevant:  You've had the responsibility of having a job and (hopefully) know what it means to show up on time, get along with others, follow directions, take initiative, work with customers, and so on. If you've worked for the same employer for a long time, been promoted, or returned for more than one summer, this suggests you have a good track record with that employer. Employers value loyalty and longevity.
Do include college activities. If you are a freshman or sophomore, it's fine to include high school activities; by junior year, begin to edit out all or most high school activities unless there are one or two that are very exceptional (e.g., state or national level achievements) and/or they are very related to the career goal you are pursuing.
If you haven't gotten involved in college or community activities yet, get involved. They can be extra-curricular or co-curricular, as long as you get involved, take on roles in the organization and develop skills. Don't just join organizations to "pad" your resume. Employers can tell padding from substance.
 
Q:  Do I need to use Hokies4Hire to apply for co-ops and internships?
A:  There are co-op and internship positions listed in Hokies4Hire.
There are employers who will search Hokies4Hire for resumes for co-op and internship positions.
  To take full advantage of these opportunities, see steps to participation; this will guide you through the process.
  Also use other job search methods.
 
Q:  Are there internships and co-op positions available through On- Campus Interviewing (OCI)?
A:  Yes. You can apply for these jobs through Hokies4Hire.
  Be aware that OCI represents a segment of the job market. Employers who recruit through OCI tend to represent business, engineering, technology, scientific and computer fields. Also use other job search methods.
  See On-Campus Interviewing Program for more information.
 
 

 

 

           
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