Student Co-Ops vs. Internships

In many situations, the words co-op and internship are used interchangeably, but technically they are different. Both are great opportunities to gain practical experience that align with your academic studies and personal goals. Either one is a positive way to gain insight and experience in your field of choice.

Neither is better or worse, it’s about what you are seeking. Learn about both and then make an educated decision on which type of work experience will benefit you most.

Intern Posing for Photo Between Meetings


Internships give you an inside look at how the world of business works while developing skills that will transfer to your future endeavors. Internships last 10 to 12 weeks and are ideal for novice students who have little previous training. Interns typically spend their time in one position learning about one focus area like Fashion, Business, Advertising, or Sports Management.

Students may only have one internship, typically, between their junior and senior years of college. It may be required to graduate and can be paid or unpaid. Internships take place during the summer or during the school semester and help you establish your professional network. They are closely linked to your academic degree and are a sneak peak into the world that you may choose for your future career.


Co-op stands for cooperative education. Co-ops offer work terms that alternate with school semesters. This allows students to focus on their work or scholastic experience full-time. It means it takes longer to graduate, but you have valuable work experience and lots of contacts upon completion.

Co-op opportunities are full-time paid positions. Usually they are prearranged between the schools and the companies, which makes them easy to find. Co-ops are offered to younger students and individuals who are just starting their education and career.

Students receive lots of training during their co-op, but no credit is given to the student. The co-op arrangement also allows for flexibility. Students can explore different projects, positions, and areas of the company to find what truly appeals to them.

Upon completion of the co-op experience and graduation, students are typically offered higher wages and potentially better job opportunities. Students participating in co-ops tend to avoid student loans and end up with less debt – a big financial bonus.

How To Choose

As you can see, both internships and co-ops have benefits. It’s up to you to decide which one is best for someone in your shoes. Co-ops offer paid, full time work, but it takes longer to graduate. Internships offer focused mentored experience that may or may not be paid.

Talk with different companies and your school to learn what opportunities are available. Make the most of whatever you choose, and remember that experience and networking will make your application stand out when hunting for a job.


What are Externships?