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Graduate Co-op Eligibility and Requirements


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 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,  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.

As part of the co-op program students may participate in one co-op work experience within a single company during their program of study. The experience is full-time (35+ hours per week) and can range from 4-8 months in time.

COE PhD Students

Northeastern’s co-op program offers students a unique opportunity to integrate their academic knowledge with industry experience. Students may gain up to eight months of full-time work experience, allowing them to build their resume, earn an income, and gain a competitive edge upon graduation.

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 Accepting, Working a Co-op Job for additional information and rules that apply to accepting offers and during the co-op job.

  1. Complete the Intent to co-op process by the departmental deadline, receive authorization to begin a search, and meet with the assigned co-op coordinator.
  2. 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).
    1. Students who do not secure a co-op placement during their first co-op search may request to search again in a later semester.
      1. 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.
      2. To continue searching into another semester, students must complete the Intent to co-op process a second time.
      3. Students are responsible for communicating with their program to learn more about this process, including the deadline for completing the Intent to Co-op process.
  3. The student must be enrolled full-time at a campus which offers co-op.
    1. The student must have completed a full-time Fall or Spring semester at the Boston, Seattle, Toronto or Silicon Valley/San José campus.
    2. 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.
    3. During Summer, the student must have been enrolled full-time in the previous Fall and Spring semesters to be authorized to search.
  4. Students must have completed at least one full-time semester prior to beginning a co-op search and at least two full-time semesters prior to beginning a co-op position. All students must return to campus for at least one semester to finish their programs after working on a co-op or internship.
  5. Successfully complete or be enrolled in the appropriate section “Introduction to Co-op” (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 6100 Waiver Request for more information and to submit a request.
  6. Students must agree to the “COE Co-op Performance Agreement.”
    1. Co-op performance standards encourage professional and ethical behaviors throughout the co-op process and clarify procedures required for the continued success of our students and the co-op program. The College of Engineering co-op Performance Standards are communicated to all students in the “Introduction to Cooperative Education” (ENCP 6100) course as part of their preparation for the co-op experience. The standards establish co-op professional expectations of the student throughout the co-op search process and during the co-op term and address co-op related issues that may involve performance.
    2. A student who 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.
  7. Students in a PhD program must have written permission from their research advisor to participate in a co-op search.
  8. International students must also:
    1. Have a valid I-20/DS-2019.
    2. Demonstrate sufficient English proficiency in one of the following ways:
      1. Complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree at an accredited institution which conducts classes in English, located within the United States of America, Canada (excluding Quebec), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ireland, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Australia, or New Zealand.
      2. Achieve a TOEFL or IELTS score based on the student’s program. co-op does not accept the “MyBest” score from TOEFL; scores must be from a single test session.
        Program TOEFL IELTS
        Bioengineering
        Chemical Engineering
        Civil Engineering
        Data Analytics Engineering*
        Energy Systems*
        Energy Systems – Academic Link*
        Engineering & Public Policy
        Engineering Management*
        Environmental Engineering
        Human Factors*
        Industrial Engineering*
        Mechanical Engineering*
        Operations Research*
        Robotics with concentration in Electrical Engineering
        Robotics with concentration in Mechanical Engineering*
        Sustainable Building Systems
        95 7.0
        Electrical & Computer Engineering
        Electrical & Computer Engineering Leadership
        90 7.0
  9. *Additionally, the following guidelines apply to co-op search eligibility:
    1. 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.
    2. Students must be approved to search before engaging in a search.
    3. 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.
    4. These guidelines apply for jobs both domestic (within the US) and global.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Any exceptions to the above requirements need to be approved by the appropriate program’s co-op team. Individual co-op teams may implement additional requirements or guidelines that supplement these college-wide requirements and guidelines.
      1. Bioengineering
      2. Chemical Engineering
      3. Civil & Environmental Engineering
      4. Electrical & Computer Engineering
      5. Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
    8. 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.
  1. In order 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: Beginning a co-op Search.
  2. The student’s academic record must demonstrate a high level of success, including:
    1. No missing grades.
    2. No incomplete grades (grade of I).
    3. No grade of W in the most recent Spring/Fall semester completed or in progress.
    4. No more than one repeated/substituted course.
    5. No academic probation or disciplinary issues.
    6. A cumulative GPA of 3.200 or higher.
      1. Courses transferred from other institutions, or from Northeastern’s CPS, do not factor into a student’s overall GPA, and as such are not used to determine co-op eligibility.
  3. Before starting a co-op job, the student must have completed two full-time academic Spring or Fall semesters.
  4. The student must return to campus for at least one semester after the co-op work experience.
  5. The student must have successfully “Introduction to Co-op” (ENCP 6100).
    For more details, see: Beginning a co-op Search.
  6. Students may participate in one co-op experience during their PhD program.
    1. The co-op experience must be with a single company.
    2. The length may be one of the following:
      1. 4-months (Spring,  Fall, or Full Summer)
      2. 6-months (Spring plus Summer 1; or Summer 2 plus Fall)
      3. 8-months (Spring plus Full Summer; or Full Summer plus Fall)
    3. Fall plus Spring is never allowed; Spring plus Fall is never allowed.
  7. co-ops must be full-time (35+ hours per week).
  8. International students must also:
    1. Have a valid I-20/DS-2019
    2. Obtain CPT/AT authorization and approval for any paid or unpaid work experience prior to starting work.
    3. Comply with all requirements of their student visa.
  9. Additional Guidelines
    1. During co-op, a student’s primary focus should be on the co-op work experience.
      1. Other Work During co-op.
        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.
    2. Students must agree to the COE co-op Performance Agreement.
      1. co-op performance standards encourage professional and ethical behaviors throughout the co-op process and clarify procedures required for the continued success of our students and the co-op program. The College of Engineering co-op Performance Standards are communicated to all students in the “Introduction to Co-op” (ENCP 6100)course as part of their preparation for the co-op experience. The standards establish co-op professional expectations of the student throughout the co-op search process and during the co-op term and address co-op related issues that may involve performance.
      2. 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.

An internship at Northeastern is a special case of experiential learning that applies only to international 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. Like co-op, internships are not part of a jobs program, even if they do provide an experience that would be beneficial to employment after graduation. 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 primarily relate to process as detailed below.

Co-op

PhD Internship

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, gradstudentservices@coe.neu.edu

At what point in my program should I plan to go on co-op?

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 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.

No. PhD internships may be part-time, but part-time co-op is not supported in COE. Disclaimer: Temporary accommodations may be available due to COVID-19. Please check with your co-op coordinator.

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. 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 6100 Waiver Request for more information and to submit a request.

The SGA will need to be adjusted in order 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 from a full academic year, which would delay your academic progress.

Yes. Additional information and contact information for any questions can be found here.