PhD Co-op and Internships
Northeastern’s co-op program offers students a unique opportunity to integrate their academic knowledge with industry. Students may gain up to eight months of full-time work experience, allowing them to learn more about their fields through hands-on application of skills, build their resumes, earn an income, and gain a competitive edge for post-graduation employment opportunities.
In preparation for a co-op search, students will complete a professional development course, Career Management for PhD Engineers (ENCP 7100) or Introduction to Cooperative Education (ENCP 6100), which provides valuable skills needed to be successful in securing a co-op position and performing while on the co-op work experience. During their search period, eligible students work one-on-one with a knowledgeable advisor to prepare their search materials, identify appropriate positions, and hone their networking and interviewing skills to ultimately secure a co-op role.
Students are permitted to participate in one co-op experience that can range from 4-8 months in time. The co-op experience may be full-time or half-time.
Participation in a co-op at the doctoral level is an opportunity for students who have achieved excellent academic progress and success and who demonstrate professionalism and a readiness to further their learning with workplace experience. Co-op allows students to develop professional skills and clarify their career goals.
Co-op is not guaranteed for any student and is an optional opportunity available to students who approach their program of study intentionally and mindfully.
A co-op search is the period of time when the student is applying to co-op jobs, participating in interviews, and considering offers. The requirements in this section must be met before a student can engage in any of these search activities and they must continue to be met during the entire search. See below for additional information and rules that apply to accepting offers and during the co-op job.
- Complete the Intent to co-op process by the departmental deadline, receive authorization to begin a search, and meet with your assigned co-op coordinator. All students in their second semester or later will receive this form via email.
- Authorization is granted to search during specific semester (Spring, Summer, Fall), and the authorization applies to co-op jobs that would be worked during a specific semester (e.g., a student searching in Fall may be approved to search for a Spring co-op job).
- Students who do not secure a co-op placement during their first co-op search may request to search again in a later semester. Such an extension can be requested at most once. Before beginning the co-op search process, please be sure it is a good time in your program to be searching. To continue searching into another semester, students must complete the Intent to co-op process a second time.
- Students are responsible for communicating with their program to learn more about this process, including the deadline for completing the Intent to co-op
- The student must be enrolled full-time at a campus which offers co-op for one continuous academic year prior to beginning co-op. All students must return to campus for at least one semester to finish their programs after working on a co-op or internship.
- During Fall or Spring, the student must be enrolled full time and have been enrolled full time in the immediate previous Fall or Spring semester to be authorized to search. During Summer, the student must have been enrolled full-time in the previous Fall and Spring semesters to be authorized to search.
- Successfully complete or be enrolled in the appropriate section of Career Management for PhD Engineers (ENCP 7100) or Introduction to Cooperative Education (ENCP 6100). Students who have taken an equivalent course or who have significant prior U.S.-based work experience can apply to have this requirement waived. Visit the ENCP 7100 Waiver Request for more information and to submit a request.
- Students in a PhD program must have written permission from their research advisor to participate in a co-op search. International students must also have a valid I-20/DS-2019 and demonstrate sufficient English proficiency in one of the following ways:
- Complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree at an accredited institution which conducts classes in English as determined by Graduate Admissions.
- Achieve a TOEFL score of 95 or higher, IELTS score of 7 or higher, or Duolingo English Test score of 125 or higher. Co-op does not accept the “MyBest” score from TOEFL; scores must be from a single test session.
- Additionally, the following guidelines apply to co-op search eligibility (both domestic jobs within the US and global positions):
- Students may participate in only one co-op experience during their PhD program. A student who participates in a co-op at the PhD level cannot search for a second co-op but may be eligible to complete a PhD internship.
- Students must be approved to search before engaging in a search.
- Students may not apply for jobs outside of the Northeastern co-op job database prior to meeting these search eligibility guidelines and receiving approval via their program’s authorization process.
- Students changing degree programs must meet all co-op eligibility requirements for the new program to participate in co-op. Students are encouraged to discuss the impact of changing programs with the appropriate co-op team before or during the application process.
- Students who are dismissed from or resign from a co-op job for circumstances under their control will receive a U (unsatisfactory) grade for co-op work experience and be ineligible for other future co-op experiences.
Exceptions and Appeals
Any exceptions to the above requirements need to be approved by the appropriate program’s co-op team. See Contacts below for relevant co-op department contacts.
Students who wish to appeal the decision of their program’s co-op faculty may do so by submitting an appeal to the COE co-op Standing Committee, whose decision is final. For instructions on submitting an appeal please email your co-op team at the address listed below.
- Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil & Environmental Engineering
- Electrical & Computer Engineering, Internet of Things, and Wireless & Network Engineering
- Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
- Product Development offered through the Sherman Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship Education
- Multidisciplinary Graduate Engineering (MGEN)
- To accept and start working at a co-op job, a student must have received authorization to search for the specific term. For all requirements to gain approval to search, see above.
- The student’s academic record must demonstrate a high level of success, including no missing grades, no incomplete grades (grade of I), no grade of W in the most recent Spring/Fall semester completed or in progress, no more than one repeated/substituted course, no academic probation or disciplinary issues, and a cumulative GPA of 3.200 or higher.
- Courses transferred from other institutions or from Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies do not factor into a student’s overall GPA and as such are not used to determine co-op eligibility.
- Before starting a co-op job, the student must have completed two full-time academic Spring or Fall semesters. The student must return to campus for at least one semester after the co-op work experience.
- The student must have successfully completed or be enrolled in Career Management for PhD Engineers (ENCP 7100) or Introduction to Cooperative Education (ENCP 6100). For more details, see above.
- Students may participate in one co-op experience during their PhD program. The co-op experience must be with a single company.
- The length may be one of the following: 4 months (Spring, Fall, or Full Summer), 6 months (Spring plus Summer 1 or Summer 2 plus Fall), or 8 months (Spring plus Full Summer or Full Summer plus Fall). Fall plus Spring is never allowed; Spring plus Fall is never allowed.
- Co-ops must be full-time (32+ hours per week).
- International students must have a valid I-20/DS-2019 and obtain CPT/AT authorization and approval for any paid or unpaid work experience prior to starting work. They must also comply with all the requirements of their student visas.
- When students are given access to search for co-op, they must agree to abide by the COE Co-op Performance Agreement. This agreement is housed within NUworks and should be read, and understood, in its entirety. A student who is in the process of seeking a cooperative education experience and is disqualified because of violation of co-op performance standards is ineligible to seek a future cooperative education experience. In other words, the student forfeits the opportunity to participate in co-op. Below are a few highlights from this agreement.
- Do not apply to, interview for, or accept any internship/co-op jobs within or outside of NUworks before approved – if this occurs you will not be able to work for that employer, and may lose your opportunity to participate in the co-op program entirely.
- No reneging – once a student commits to an employer the student must honor that commitment and cannot change their mind to work for a different employer.
- Must pass all required pre-employment screening – if a student fails a pre-employment screening and has their offer rescinded, they will not be eligible to search for another co-op position.
- Must discuss any offers with your co-op coordinator before accepting.
- Must honor commitment to employer regarding length of co-op as decided upon at time of offer.
- Student visa holders are responsible for understanding and complying with all US government regulations relating to their visa status and CPT or other work authorization. Refer to OGS with any questions.
- Other Commitments During Co-op
- During co-op, a student’s primary focus should be on the co-op work experience. Students may not hold a graduate stipend assistantship at the university during the semesters planned for co-op. Students should not hold any other job without prior approval from their co-op coordinator. If a student holds a second job, the co-op job must always be the priority.
- Half Time Co-op: Students on half-time co-op are required to take one 4-credit course while on co-op to maintain full-time student status during the spring or fall semesters. Additional courses while on half-time co-op will not be approved.
Full Time Co-op: Students may not take a course during full-time co-op, without special approval from their co-op department. Approval will only be granted for specific academic reasons of a required pre-requisite or a course that only meets once or less per year. This option is only available to students who have completed 25SH or less before starting co-op. If approved, course and student must meet all the following:
- The course must be online or meet after 5pm of the student’s co-op job’s time zone. The work schedule cannot be changed to accommodate a course. The final exam and any other course requirements occur on the weekend or after 5pm of the student’s co-op job’s time zone.
- The course cannot be during an accelerated term (i.e., summer 1, summer 2, or winter intercession).
- The course must not have a lab, recitation, or other co-requisite.
- The course must not be an Experiential Project course.
- The student must have demonstrated high academic excellence by holding a GPA of 3.67 or higher.
- The student cannot hold an on-campus job.
Speak with your co-op coordinator to learn the process of consideration for this exception.
An internship at Northeastern is a special case of experiential learning that applies only to PhD students. Like co-op, it is classified as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for F-1 visa holders or pre-Academic Training (pre-AT) for J-1 visa holders. An internship must be integral to a student’s research or dissertation. As such, the student’s research or dissertation would suffer greatly without this experience. Generally, because of the close relationship to the student’s research or dissertation, internships are arranged by the student’s faculty advisor. Further, it is incumbent upon the faculty advisor to sign and verify that this experience is integral to the student’s dissertation or research as part of the CPT approval process, allowing the student to have this experience. Paid or unpaid internships have the same requirements. Internships are never authorized in a student’s final semester. CPT internship requests must be approved by the student’s academic advisor, department chair, and the Graduate School of Engineering.
Internships, Co-op, and Pre-OPT: A position that a student finds on their own in a field related to their program of study, to provide funding during the summer, or to supplement their income does not qualify for internship CPT authorization, though the position might qualify as a co-op or pre-OPT experience provided the student meets all the qualifications for the relevant authorization. The key is that any internship must have a very direct and strong relationship to the student’s research or dissertation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Note: Employers may use the terms co-op and internship interchangeably. The job title for a co-op position could be Software Engineer Intern, for example. The differences between co-op and internship are detailed below.
|Must meet all co-op eligibility requirements||Open to all PhD students who have completed at least one year of study|
|Work with assigned co-op advisor, use NUworks||Find positions independently/with research advisor|
|Positions may be research focused or more general industry experience||Positions must be integral to research|
|Work with co-op coordinator for position approval/CPT||Work with research advisor, department chair, and Graduate Student Services for position approval/CPT|
|Research advisor agrees (in writing via email) to relinquish student from TA/GSA responsibilities for the length of the co-op||Co-op coordinator not involved|
|Enrolled in Co-op Work Experience while on co-op (no credit, no tuition, reflections/evaluations)||Enrolled in Doctoral Fieldwork or similar while working (for credit)|
|Can be done once||Can be done more than once|
|Contact for questions: assigned co-op coordinator||Contact for questions: Graduate Student Services, email@example.com|
This is a question to discuss with your research advisor, preferably early on in your program since it depends on your and your research advisor’s preferences. For some, completing a co-op during your first two years is considered preferable because of opportunities to clarify career goals, gain experience, and expand knowledge and skills. For others, co-ops later in the program are preferred so that the work can be integrated with your research.
If you entered the university as a master’s student, did a co-op at the master’s level, graduated, and continued onto the PhD level, you may do another co-op as a PhD student. If you entered the university as a PhD student, whether through BS entry or advanced entry, you may do one co-op as a PhD student.
If you experience an unsuccessful co-op search, you may try again to find a position. Searches do not need to take place in consecutive semesters (for example, if you search during the Spring semester for a Summer co-op and do not find one, you may search again the following Spring for a job the following Summer). Please note the expectation is that everyone participating in a search in a particular semester is committed to searching for a job during that semester. It is required that you discuss your co-op plans with your research advisor prior to beginning the search. If you find you are unable to invest the time and effort needed to search for a position, please discuss your options with your co-op coordinator.
Although not impossible, this is not recommended. Goals for the type of position you are seeking and process you plan to follow should be determined at the beginning of your search. From an employer perspective, co-op and intern positions are largely interchangeable.
Half-time co-op positions (16-31 hours/week) may be approved with the expectation that students take a minimum number of credits concurrently to maintain their full-time student status.
No. It is not possible to work either on co-op or PhD internship and then graduate. All students must return to campus for at least one full-time semester after working. This is both a university-wide policy and a CPT eligibility requirement.
You will work with your assigned co-op coordinator to have your CPT approved for co-op. For a PhD internship, your co-op coordinator is not the correct point of contact even if you have previously completed a co-op experience. PhD internships are authorized by your research advisor, department chair, and the Graduate School of Engineering.
Students who have taken an equivalent course or who have significant prior U.S.-based work experience can apply to have this requirement waived. Visit the ENCP 7100 Waiver Request for more information and to submit a request.
The SGA will need to be adjusted for you to obtain CPT and go on co-op. First, contact your research advisor for assistance having the terms of the SGA changed so it will not apply during the semester(s) you will be on co-op. Then submit the Request for SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 to OGS to update your funding information. You will need to provide an offer letter from the company to show you will have an income during the time the SGA is paused.
No. It is not possible to be enrolled in Co-op Work Experience in one semester followed by Doctoral Fieldwork the next semester because you would then be away from the university for a full academic year, which would delay your academic progress.