The education system has transformed considerably over the years to education practical and not just theoretical for students. Internships and Co-operative education, better known as co-ops are two ways in which students can involve them in a field study by taking up a job.
If you are going to join college, then you must consider researching the difference between the two and then look for a college or university that best fits your choice. These are the major differences between co-op and internship:
How Long Will I be Working for?
Internships are usually meant to last for a single term. They may or may not require full-time work from the interns. Summer internships are most common, but an organization may hire an intern any time of the year.
Interns usually work in the same position for a course of 9 to 12 weeks. Students who are still in high school or those in their junior years of college are more likely to choose internships. It is an excellent gateway for students into understanding the work culture and office ethics.
Co-ops, on the other hand, are a way of developing practical experience in the students by providing them with work opportunity in between semesters. Students are required to take up full-time, paid positions. This means that they will not be attending college for the course of time when they are employed. Co-ops can last anywhere from 3 months to a year.
If a university offers co-operative education, then it is most likely that the university would have tied up with various companies already for offering full-time, paid positions to the students. Most universities do not require students to pay the tuition fees for the term when they are employed. But this can vary and you will have to check with your college before applying for a co-op.
Will I be Paid?
Internships can be paid or unpaid. This depends on the extent of work, and the terms of the organization with which you choose to intern. Colleges usually provide credit to students for the internship. The main aim of the internship is to provide experiential learning to the students and to help them get a glimpse of the different types of work opportunities available in their field.
Co-ops are paid positions. Students do not attend college and are instead required to work full-time. This is why they are paid for their work. Many students find co-ops to be an easy way of offsetting education expenses and supporting the family.
Keeping in mind that you will not be attending college, it is possible that your university may no longer provide you with student benefits. It is best to understand how your college supports co-ops and if you will be able to reside in the college and complete your co-op. These questions should be asked before opting for co-op so that you have a clear understanding of the choices you make and you will be able to prepare accordingly for it.
Quality of Work Experience
Internships are useful in providing students with the opportunity to understand the work culture and to explore the different opportunities available in a workspace. Since internships last for a relatively shorter period of time than co-ops, interns have the advantage of flexibility in choosing different companies and positions for their internship.
You will be holding one position and learning about a single area of focus during an internship. But you can apply for a different position for your next internship and you can acquire knowledge about a different area of focus.
Interns also create their own network of business acquaintances during their internship. If you complete more than one internship at different organizations and in different positions, then you are likely to have a strong business network by the time you pass out of college.
Co-ops provide students with high-quality work experience where they gain in-depth knowledge during their period of employment. This gives them a significant edge over fellow students. Co-op students usually do not get any credits from the college, but they gain extensive experience because they invest more time in the co-ops as compared to interns. This also allows them to be involved in bigger projects and to make a notable contribution to the organization in which they work.
While interns tend to work in different positions for different organizations for short periods of time, co-ops help students not just experience but immerse themselves in the work culture making it possible for them to understand about their field of study, their area of focus and the work ethics which can help them become professionally successful. Students who choose co-op are more likely to secure higher pay and higher positions as well when they complete college.
Beware! Companies may Use these Two Terms Interchangeably
Now that you know the difference between co-op and internship you may find it easier to choose which kind of experiential learning will be more suitable for you. But before you proceed, and start looking for organizations that offer internship or co-op programmes, remember that these two terms are often used interchangeably by many companies. Go through the details and ask your employers about the details of their programme before you proceed.
You must also research universities and colleges that offer such programmes. Check details about the programmes and find out if the college has already collaborated with specific organizations to provide you with an internship or co-op. Additionally, find out if your college will give you credits for your work. While you are not likely to get credits for co-ops, colleges usually give students credits for internships. You must also check details of how your position in the college will change if you start a co-op.
By making informed choices, you will be able to steer your future towards greater success and ensure that you do not reach a point of uncertainty with your career. I wish you luck with your studies and I hope that by understanding the difference between internship and co-op you will be able to make a better choice.