Undergraduate Research and Career Exploration

Internships and Cooperative Education

Experiential Learning Opportunities at Western Carolina University

Contact: WCU Career Services and Cooperative Education Offices, 828.227-7133 or visit http://careers.wcu.edu/

One important reason students engage in undergraduate research is to prepare for careers after graduation.  Internships, like service learning work, can be related to a student’s undergraduate research interests (the biology researcher does a summer internship with a national park or the creative writer does an editing internship at a local fiction review, for example).

The internship or co-op can help solidify a student’s career choice or choice of major.

Internships and co-ops often provide inspiration for undergraduate research projects, and these field experiences are essential in the search for a career.

 Students who want an agenda that connects undergraduate research/creative work with career goals (a very good idea!) need to become familiar with Career Services at WCU.

What are Internships and Co-Ops?
Internships and co-ops (the terms really mean the same thing at WCU) are semester-long experiential learning programs for which students may or may not be paid.  Many students do these in the summer.  For example, an English major interested in the book retail industry might do a co-op at a Barnes and Noble store, or an engineering major might do a co-op with the Department of Transportation field research office in Tennessee.

Internships and co-ops are available in every discipline/major offered at WCU. 

Internships and co-ops might be regional, national, or international.

Students at WCU usually arrange co-ops through the Career Center in conjunction with advising from a faculty member in the major. Some majors (education, engineering, or nursing, for example) coordinate their own internship programs. 

Academic Credit for Internships and Co-Ops
A 1 credit hour co-op requires the student to work part time, 20 hours a week for 10 weeks.

A 3 credit hour co-op requires the student to work full time, 30-40 hours a week for 10 weeks.

Students may receive up to 15 hours of upper-level credit (5 classes) for co-ops and internships but should work carefully with the faculty advisor in the major to be sure these credits count toward the degree program or are counted as elective credit.

Internships and co-ops are evaluated using a pass/fail (S/U) grading system.

Requirements for Academic Credit
The student’s major department determines specific academic requirements.  However, at a minimum, all students must prepare a term report and work log.  The employer provides WCU with a written evaluation of the student at midterm and at the end of the term.  The student’s academic work and the employer evaluations are assessed by the Career Services Liaison (usually a faculty member in the student’s major) for credit on a Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory basis.

Eligibility Requirements
WCU requires eligible students to achieve sophomore status (30 hours), have a minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA, and be enrolled at WCU at least half-time.  Many positions also require students to have some course background in their major, and employer eligibility requirements for internships and co-ops vary.

Some internships and co-ops are managed directly by the department or college and others are available through the Career Services office.  This office specifically manages internships in Art, Graphic Design, Interior Design, and English.  However, information regarding internship and co-op opportunities for all disciplines is available through the Career Services office.

Financial Aid for Internships and Co-Ops
Students are highly encouraged to apply for financial aid.  Students who are given financial aid awards and also accept a co-op position cannot accept the aid during the co-op term if they are registered for less than half-time.  However, some students take courses while pursuing a co-op position and receive partial financial aid.

For More Information about Internships and Co-Ops
Internship and co-op opportunities are posted on JobCat, a website provided by Western Carolina University’s Career Services office.  Students may access JobCat at http://careers.wcu.edu/.


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