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Co-Op Professional Practice
Co-Op Professional Practice is a program in which students alternate periods of full-time work and full-time study. It gives students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and earn a substantial amount of their financial support while working toward a bachelor's degree. The employment is not just any kind of job scheduled in conjunction with classes. It is professional level employment in the students' fields of interest and a genuine educational experience.
Co-op students complete the same degree requirements as other computer science majors and can expect to earn a "B.S. plus experience" in four-and-a-half to five calendar years.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Participation in the co-op program requires students to be away from campus during some fall and spring semesters, which interrupts the students' social life on campus and may make it difficult for the students to hold leadership positions in student organizations. It also requires students to be on campus or at work during most of the year: co-op students do not enjoy leisurely summers. Co-op students normally need an additional half-year or year to earn a bachelor's degree.
The principal advantages are: a richer education, professional experience, financial support, and a broader outlook on careers that helps students to know better what they can do after graduation.
A Richer Education. Co-op students learn by doing -- by applying the theories and techniques they have learned in Purdue classrooms and laboratories. Knowing the applications, they find subsequent course work more meaningful and interesting. Co-op gives students ideas for electives, thus helping them make better use of their time at Purdue.
The University screens prospective employers to insure that co-op work assignments are valuable learning experiences in themselves. The assignments must be challenging. They must use and supplement the students' studies. They must increase in difficulty and responsibility as the students progress in the program.
Professional Experience. The experience of co-op is two-fold. One, of course, is the work itself. The other is working as part of a group. Scientists, for the most part, do not spend all their professional time in isolation the way students usually do with their study time. Scientists frequently work as parts of teams. They need to get along with others and to communicate their ideas. Experience of this sort is quite attractive to potential employers.
Financial Support. How much the student earns depends on the employer, the number of co-op work sessions the student has completed, and the quality of the student's performance. Generally, co-op students can expect to earn enough to pay their living expenses while at work plus most or all of their expenses (fees, room, board, books,etc.) on campus.
A Broader Outlook on Careers. In which area should I concentrate? Should I go to graduate school or to work? Should I work in business, industry, government, or a university? These questions face all students; and the co-op program can help them find better answers because, during employment periods, co-op students see what scientists in various areas do and how their activities depend on their degree level.
To be eligible for Co-Op Professional Practice, students must be in the computer science bachelor's degree program; have a grade point average of at least 3.0 in computer science courses; and have an overall grade point average of at least 2.8. They are also normally expected to complete CS 18000, 18200, and 24000 before their first work session and either 25000 or 25100 before their second work session. The program entails four work sessions after completing CS 18000, 18200, and 24000, and either 25000 or 25100, all with grades of C- or better. At least two of these four sessions must be semesters. Students who begin earlier thus take five work sessions. Students who want to have fewer work sessions should discuss that with the departmental co-op coordinator. The University recognizes completion of the program by awarding a certificate when the student graduates.
The application process typically involves preparing a resume, being interviewed and accepted by the coordinator, selecting prospective employers, and being interviewed by the employers. Most of the latter interviews are conducted on campus in February. Interviews may also take place at the employer's place of business. Acceptance by the coordinator does not guarantee interviews with employers or offers of employment.
After the student has accepted an offer from a co-op employer, the student, the departmental coordinator, and the employer work out a schedule of work and study periods. This enables the student to plan courses and the employer to plan job assignments. Modifications can be made later by mutual consent.
Students usually begin co-op jobs after they have completed two, three, or four semesters on campus. Co-op work sessions consist of a semester or a summer session, although the starting and ending dates of employment may not coincide with the University calendar. The student must be on campus for at least one semester each year.
Co-op students must register for the appropriate (non-credit) Professional Practice course and pay the industrial practice fee for each work session. The course is graded (S or U) on the basis of reports from the student and the employer. The fee is used to meet partially the expense of conducting the program.
On the job
The employer assigns a supervisor who guides the student's work and helps the student fit into the organization. While at work, students are expected to dress and to conduct themselves according to the standards of the employer. At the end of each work session, the student must submit to the departmental co-op coordinator a written report on the session. The employer also submits an evaluation of the student's performance. Co-op students normally remain with the same employer while they are in the program.
Students living in Purdue residence halls are released from their housing contracts when they work during a fall or spring semester. They are also given first priority in University housing when they return to campus. Fraternities and sororities may set their own policies for members who are co-op students.
Most co-op employers help students locate housing for their work sessions.
International students must obtain proper ISS or USCIS approval prior to commencing co-op experience (including any orientation, training, and working). Failure to do so could lead to a loss of legal status and may impact future immigration benefits. Please see ISS for more information: http://www.iss.purdue.edu/.