About Co-op

About the Program

The Cooperative Engineering Education Program at The University of Texas at Austin was established in 1966. Traditionally, starting their junior year, co-op students would alternate three semesters of full-time employment with on-campus coursework. Today, co-op students are eligible to begin work after completing 28 hours of coursework, and can complete a minimum of two semesters of full-time work, including back-to-back terms and summer semesters.

Student Requirements

Co-op students are expected to complete the following program requirements.

  • Successful completion of either two or three semesters of full-time work with the same employer.
  • For each co-op work term, the student is expected to:
    - register for the co-op course and pay applicable tuition and fees, and
    - complete all co-op course requirements, including the work assignment.

Student Learning Outcomes

The Co-op Program established expected learning outcomes for student participants as determined by ABET. Co-op Student Learning Outcomes are divided into three areas:

  1. Academic and Technical Competencies
  2. Professional Development Competencies
  3. Personal Development Competencies

Students complete a self-assessment at the beginning and end of each co-op work term in order to measure achieved outcomes and enhance the reflective learning process. Co-op employers complete a student work performance evaluation for each term to monitor progress and provide constructive feedback to student.

Employer Expectations

Employers must meet certain program expectations as well.

  • Provide the student with at least two co-op work terms.
  • Educate students by having them perform technical engineering work relevant to their academic discipline.
  • Provide direct supervision by an engineer.
  • Review the student’s work and complete a performance evaluation for each semester of work.
  • Maintain communication with the Co-op office regarding recruitment and student performance.

Based on student feedback, the following elements can further enhance the co-op experience:

Assign challenging tasks with increased responsibility. Spending multiple semesters with one employer gives co-op students the opportunity to work on complex projects and gain more responsibility as their work terms progress.

Provide a mentor. Whether a direct supervisor or an experienced employee, a mentor can help the student navigate the organizational culture, learn about industry, and explore career options.

Encourage open dialogue on performance. Receiving positive feedback and constructive criticism from supervisors and mentors is crucial to the co-op student’s development as an engineer.

Coordinate networking opportunities. By including students in employer events or arranging activities especially for co-ops, the employer can give students a better understanding of the working culture and help them feel more connected with the organization.

Scheduling Co-op Work Terms

Work terms are determined between the employer and student, typically based on job requirements of the organization as well as the academic needs and work performance of the student. Co-op work terms can either be alternating semesters or one long semester back-to-back with a summer semester (i.e. Spring/Summer or Summer/Fall). However, scheduling must include at least one long semester (i.e., fall or spring), and cannot be two long semesters back-to-back (i.e., Fall through Spring).