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Developing Internship & Cooperative Education (Co-op) Programs

Senior electrical engineering student Brandon Sellers solders components on a circuit board making an erosion monitor at the University of West Florida Friday April 1, 2016 in Pensacola, Florida. (Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO)

Internships and Co-ops are formal, supervised learning experiences where students may apply knowledge and information acquired from their academic program of choice. These programs should incorporate clear objectives of what the student will learn. If you feel like you have opportunities that are reflective of any of the programs below, consult with the UWF Community & Employer Engagement team. 

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An internship is most often a one semester experience that may or may not be for course credit. It may also be paid or non-paid. However, non-paid internships should comply with the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA). Paid internships must comply with minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under the FLSA. Hours per week are determined by employer and intern for both types of internships positions.

Fair Labor and Standards Act

Cooperative Education programs (Co-ops) are multi-semester experiences that are always for course credit and always paid. Students may choose from two types of Co-ops: parallel or alternating. A parallel Co-op student works and attends school at least two semesters in a row, averaging 15-25 hours a week at work and 9-12 academic credits. An alternating Co-op student alternates between workplace and school semester by semester, working 40 hours a week during work terms and going to school full time during academic terms.

Weighing the Benefits Between Internships & Cooperative Education

  • Both Co-ops and internships are intended to be learning experiences for the student; the intent should be to help students grow and develop in their career field and to connect their work to what they are learning in the classroom.
  • Internships work well for short-term projects, typically only taking about four months to complete.
  • Co-ops work well for any organization looking to have an “intern” for longer than a semester.
  • Co-ops allow the student to gain responsibilities semester by semester, and she/he stays with the organization for at least two semesters.
  • Both Co-ops and internships are great avenues for converting a student to full-time status without the need for added recruitment costs—you have already recruited and trained a potential full-time employee.

If you are an organization seeking students for volunteer and service opportunities, please post your positions using Handshake, our free job posting database. For more information, please contact the Community & Employer Engagement team at 850.474.2254 or