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Internships and Cooperative Education (Coops) provide students with a great opportunity to gain real-world experience while still in school. In addition to giving students direct experience in the field they are considering, interaction with others in the field can help provide perspective on career path options.  Don't wait until your third year to think about an internship or co-op assignment. Sometimes companies take on interns after their freshman or sophomore year. Students have an opportunity to work in an engineering lab or in manufacturing and they learn some of the realities of how industrial products are developed and manufactured.

University Career Center Resources
It's a good idea to begin planning your coop or internship many months ahead of when you want to start the experience.  Many university career centers offer resources on local internship and coop opportunities.  A good example of a university career center's coop site may be found at Drexel University. Another good site with information on Co-ops is the career center site at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Corporation Resources
Students should also contact companies directly to explore options and express an interest in the field.  Many large corporations have websites dedicated to internships, which explain the application process and upcoming positions.  According to General Motors, "Co-op students have the opportunity to explore career options in a variety of areas while continuing with their class schedules. The hands-on, practical experience will make it easier for students to decide on a specific career direction while the income from the work can help to defray some educational expenses." Exampl
es of corporation coop sites may be found at IBM, General Motors, NASA, GE Aircraft Engines, and Texas Instruments.

Professional Society Resources
Some professional societies sponsor or help organize internships for students.  For example, the Society of Physics Students supports National Internships that offer nine-week, broad-based learning opportunities for undergraduate physics majors in the areas of scientific research, outre
ach, and policy. Other examples can be found at the Nucleus Summer Research Opportunities site, which is sponsored by both the American Association of Physics Teachers and SPS. And, the American Chemical Society supports an International Research Experiences for Undergraduates (IREU) program. Clic
k here for links to other professional societies related to your field of interest. 

Additional Online Resources
The following sites offer additional resources on internships:

Career Cornerstone Center Profile Excerpts
The following excerpts from Cornerstone profiles address the value of coops and internships:

Melinda Cecacci

Aerospace Technologist - Flight Control
NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston, TX

"Cooping was an essential part of my professional life. I wouldn't be here at NASA Johnson Space Center without my co-op experience. I would advise engineering students who are just starting out or those who are about to graduate, to polish up on your communication and presentation skills. This is important in my job at Johnson Space Center, where I work on a team of flight controllers who come from many different backgrounds -- math and physics majors and engineers from electrical to civil to mechanical to chemical. We are more effective because we can draw upon and share a wealth of knowledge."
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C. R. (Chuck) Pennoni, P.E.

CEO
Pennoni Associates, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA

"When Pennoni Associates is looking for an engineer to add to our staff, we look for a number of things. Besides looking for the education, the quality of the education and the area or discipline of the education, we also look for someone who has experience. And that experience is usually gained through a cooperative program such as Drexel University's. Drexel is not the only a coop school in the United States; Northeastern and Cincinnati are also cooperative education schools. We find that that experience is very, very important in coming into the work force because it allows the engineer to be productive from the first day on the job as opposed to going through an orientation and training program. So although we don't hire exclusively from cooperative education schools because we recognize we should have a good mix in our work force, we do look to Drexel quite a bit for graduates because of that internship that has been achieved."
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Lakisha Powell

Project Engineer
DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company
Garden City, NY

"While I was in school I was a member of NSBE, which is the National Society of Black Engineers. I was also a member of AIChE and NOBCChE. Through them I got my summer jobs. It's very important to make sure that you do your summer internships. We have a program where I went to school called UROP, which is the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. And that's basically working with a professor during the semester, or during the summer, on individual research topics. It's a good way to be able to apply what you're learning in class, because as you learn it you have really no idea, then when you start actually applying it, it's like: `Oh, that's exactly how it works, or that's what it really means.' I would highly recommend some type of internship for anyone. "
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Matthew McGoff

Technology Leader
Procter & Gamble
Cincinnati, OH

"While I was going to Georgia Tech, I did co-op with several companies. I cooped with Coca-Cola for a couple of quarters. And I cooped at a few, small manufacturing shops, where I got some real hands-on experience. The co-op experience helped me understand what I could expect in the real world. It also supplemented a lot of the course work that I learned from Georgia Tech. In getting my hands on and actually experiencing real equipment and real processes. It was real valuable."
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Maria Angelo

Area Consultant
DuPont
Deepwater, NJ

"Through my four years in college, the summer assignments I took were the things that prepared me the best. That would be the thing that I would recommend the most to college students: If you can get into a co-op program, do it. If you can't get into one, find summer jobs that are in industry or find out if there are summer intern programs you can get involved in, because not only does it give you a flavor for industry and how it works, but it also helps you know whether you want to stay in that field or get additional schooling in a different field. When I was a sophomore, I thought I wanted to get a master's degree in biomedical engineering. Then, I worked at Air Products as a summer student and realized that I didn't want to get a master's degree, I wanted to work in industry. That internship shifted my thinking, and that was really valuable."
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Franklyn Hall

Chemical Engineer
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC

"In a classroom setting you can see diagrams and balances, but until you really get into a plant, you don't see realistically that everything doesn't look exactly like a schematic diagram. You really get to understand the ins and outs of the everyday workings of a chemical plant and how things really operate. I also had some experience, from the business side of it, when I worked at a contract manufacturing group. That helped me see that chemical engineers do not always have to work in chemical plants. There are other places they can work, as far as in business development groups, for industry. In general, because I had the opportunity to work in three different chemical processing industries, I gained an advantage in getting this job because of the different industries that we deal with and because of the different processes that we see."
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