What is co-op?
Cooperative education is a unique educational strategy that seeks to educate the whole person. Co-op schools like Northeastern recognize that classroom learning provides only some of the skills students will need to succeed in their professional lives. Building on this knowledge, Northeastern has been a forerunner in developing a process which seeks not only to educate students in the academic realm, but in the professional realm as well. Based on a recent U.S. News and World Report ranking, it seems like our method is a success: Northeastern University is one of the top co-op schools in the nation. In addition our Career Services office has consistently been ranked #1 by Princeton Review.
Cooperative education assignments are available throughout both the public and private sectors. Participation in co-op enhances a student's self-esteem, occupational information, and technical knowledge, while providing students with solid job-seeking and job-success skills.
Is co-op mandatory in CCIS?
Each student at Northeastern University must complete one form of experiential education: Co-op, International Co-op, Study Abroad or Research.
Almost all students in the college participate in co-op, finding it to be an extremely worthwhile experience. Although cooperative education is not a requirement, it is strongly encouraged in the College of Computer and Information Science. The faculty of the college believes that co-op strengthens the knowledge learned in the classroom by immersion in the practical problems that utilize that knowledge. We see that students experience significant personal and professional growth, evidenced by their self-confidence, initiative, and technical skills.
Traditionally most undergraduates in the college participate in 3 co-op experiences of 6 months in length during their academic career. The newer Creative Industries programs are set up with two 6 month co-ops. Students who want to graduate in 4 rather than 5 years may do so by completing one less co-op and adjusting their summer schedules.
How does the co-op cycle work?
The co-op cycle consists of three phases: Preparation, Activity, and Reflection.
The Preparation phase consists of all of the steps necessary to get students ready to go out on co-op. This includes learning the basics of presenting yourself professionally, meeting with your Co-op Faculty Coordinator to discuss your co-op and career goals, and providing your coordinator with employment-specific information. All students are required to take a co-op preparation course which helps them prepare their first "technical" resume and cover letter, learn professional interviewing skills, develop a graduation plan based on their co-op pattern, and learn about professional ethics. The preparation process includes attending a Seeking New Assignment meeting and culminates in a meeting called "Final Clearance," which students must complete in order to enter the Activity phase and participate in co-op. Students meet with their coordinator and must go through Final Clearance every time they wish to seek a new co-op position.
The Activity phase includes seeking, finding, and working in a co-op position. Working closely with employers over the years, the CCIS Co-op Team has developed many diverse co-op positions. These are contained in a database that students are allowed to search once they pass Final Clearance. Students follow the parameters set by the CCIS Co-op Team and indicate to which companies they want their resumes referred. The Co-op Faculty Coordinators will send their resumes to those companies where appropriate. Students may also seek positions on their own.
The co-op job search is, in most ways, similar to the search for a permanent, professional job. Employers will contact students for interviews, make hiring decision, and offer whatever salary they think is appropriate. Students can accept or reject any job offers they receive. Once students accept an offer, however, they may not continue to search and will work for the company for the six month co-op period. During the work term, students are required to complete a Goal Setting exercise with their manager, and keep in periodic contact with their Co-op Faculty Coordinator regarding the job experience. Oftentimes, a Co-op Faculty Coordinator from the CCIS Co-op Team will visit students and their managers onsite.
The Reflection phase occurs after each co-op period. Students are required to write a Reflection Report which ties in with their goals set at the beginning of their co-op experience. They must also attend a mandatory group reflection meeting in which they can discuss their co-op experiences and how their experiences have shaped their career goals. Students complete a self-evaluation and employers evaluate their students’ performances on the job. Both evaluations are discussed with the faculty coordinator prior to a subsequent co-op. Students receive a grade for each co-op semester, which is dependent on their successful completion of all three phases.
What kinds of co-op jobs are available?
Co-op jobs are dependent on industry demand. The CCIS Co-op Faculty develop, review and approve each job to ensure that it is an appropriate learning experience, but otherwise no restrictions are made on the kinds of jobs students can work. With the diverse dual major options within CCIS, the Co-op Faculty targets industries ranging from software development and network administration to project management, bioinformatics, game design and many more relevant fields. The Co-op Faculty work with each student individually to determine the types of target jobs that match the student’s background, skills and career goals. The student’s eligibility for each job depends on the criteria of the job description and the competitiveness of the applicant pool. Previous experience, grades, technical aptitude and professional and emotional maturity all play a major factor as well. Each student is required to put in a substantial amount of effort into their job search and work closely and consistently his or her Co-op Faculty Coordinator in a professional and collaborative manner.
Where are most co-op jobs located?
Co-op jobs developed by the CCIS Co-op Faculty are mainly located in the Greater Boston area, since the vast majority of CCIS students are seeking positions here and because Boston is one of the nationwide hubs for tech activity. However, many students wish to work in companies out of state or even internationally and we greatly encourage this. We have and continue to expand our base of jobs to other areas such as New York, the Washington DC, California and Washington State. The CCIS Co-op team works very closely with Northeastern’s International Co-op office, which is dedicated to working with students who wish to co-op outside of the United States.
We also encourage students, working closely with their Co-op Faculty Coordinator, to use other resources outside of the CCIS co-op database to enlarge their job searches if they want to expand their options into different industries or geographic areas. Student developed jobs must be approved by the CCIS Co-op Team.
Can international students get co-op jobs?
Students on visas which allow practical training (such as F1 and J1 visas) are permitted to go on co-op under a faculty coordinator's supervision. Because there are strict regulations governing co-op and practical training, international students are encouraged to discuss their situation with their Co-op Faculty Coordinators early.
Most employers are able to hire international students. Some employers who are government contractors (requiring US security clearance) are unable to hire international students or even permanent residents.
International students may also consider "home country co-op," in which they return to their country of origin to work during the six-month period. This does not deduct from the student's available practical training, and for some students it provides a welcome "vacation" from study abroad. Students who are considering this option should discuss it with their coordinators early.
Can students work in other countries on co-op?
Students who wish to find a new job in another country must work not only with the CCIS Co-op Faculty, but also with the International Co-op Office, which has contacts and positions in other countries. In addition, they are knowledgeable about the requirements to obtain working permission in other countries. Finding an international position generally takes longer than a domestic one and students are encouraged to contact the International Co-op Office two semesters before the start of their co-op period. Depending on location, knowledge of an additional language may be required. CCIS students have worked in India, China, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Korea, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan and many other countries.
If you have relatives or contacts in another country who can help you develop a job on your own, the International Co-op Office can assist you in cutting through the "red tape" to work in that country.
What kinds of salaries can students on co-op expect?
Employer make salary decisions and salary is one factor students consider when accepting an offer. Salaries vary by type of position, skill sets and industry, but we do offer guidelines to employers. Co-op salaries for the more artistic sides of the combined majors in the Creative Industries tend to be lower or unpaid because that is the norm in those industries.
Am I guaranteed a job?
The CCIS Co-op Program is designed to prepare you for real world job searching and employment. In the real world, getting a job depends on your skill, experience, and professionalism. External factors such as job market conditions and competition can also be the deciding factors in how your job search goes.
The CCIS Co-op Faculty have taken steps to circumvent some of these factors, by:
- requiring students to achieve a level of professionalism before the job search begins.
- working individually with students to help them improve their job search skills and employability.
- forming relationships with employers in order to develop new job opportunities and improve the quality of existing ones.
Despite these measures, however, we cannot force employers to hire you. In tight job markets, students with weaker skills, grades or job search skills may have difficulty obtaining co-op positions. The co-op faculty will work closely with these students and with potential employers to try to find a good job match. In past semesters, students who are persistent in their job search, and diligent in working with their Co-op Faculty Coordinator, have found a co-op position.
Who is my co-op coordinator, and how do I reach him or her?
Melvin Simms, Ed.D. is a Cooperative Education Faculty Member and Associate Professor. He supervises all master's degree co-op students.
Aileen Yates is a Cooperative Education Faculty Member and Academic Advising Coordinator. She supervises undergraduate co-op students whose last names begin with A through F.
Melissa Irgens Peikin is a Cooperative Education Faculty Member and Academic Advising Coordinator. She supervises undergraduate co-op students whose last names begin with G through M.
Mark Erickson is the Director of the CCIS Cooperative Education Program and Academic Advising. He supervises undergraduate students whose last names begin with N through Z.