Internships and Co-ops

Engineering cooperative education/internship programs combine classroom studies with supervised work experiences. Students are employed by an industry business or government organization in a position related to their major field of study. Positions may be located anywhere in the world. Cooperative education/internships provide practical work experience in the field and let students apply the theory they’ve learned class to real-world projects. Internships and co-ops are great opportunities for students to get their foot in the door at companies they may want to work for after college, too.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) strongly encourages students to do summer work, internships, or co-ops while they are seeking their bachelor’s degree. Graduate students also may participate in an internship or co-op opportunity.

How Do Internships and Co-ops Work?

Students on an official Iowa State sanctioned co-op or internship must be registered for an Iowa State class and maintain full-time student status. Students do not pay any tuition or fees, and the employer pays the student for his/her work. An internship is generally a semester and a summer, a co-op consists of two alternating semesters and a summer, and a summer work period usually lasts about 10 weeks during summer break. See Engineering Career Services for more information on these experiences.

Where to Find an Internship or Co-op

First, gain an understanding of the Engineering Career Services rules located on their Internships page. Then, hunt for a job using CyHire or other online job boards. To participate in the program and receive college credit for your internship or co-op, students are expected to maintain a satisfactory academic and disciplinary record while attending classes at the university and a satisfactory work record while they are employed.

Use these tips to being searching for an internship or co-op:

  1. Start early and attend the Engineering Career Fair. Some companies establish closing dates for summer applications as early as January 1, while others take applications through May. Investigate your job options and opportunities, selecting likely jobs and companies. ISU CMS and the Engineering Career Fairs are great resources to use in your search. If you are considering working abroad, contact the International Programs office.
  2. Update (or create) your resume and send it to selected companies.
  3. Contact companies as necessary. Hopefully during this stage you will be invited to interview, perhaps more than once. Optimally you will receive an offer.
  4. Accept the job offer, if desired. Be aware that some companies may send an offer two days before classes start for the next semester, or operating budgets dictate a hiring freeze after you have been interviewed. The best thing you can do is be flexible and prepared.
  5. Verify the start date, salary, and supervisor information. You will need these details later. You also should make sure you are aware of other aspects of employment, such as benefits and insurance coverage.

How to Earn Credit for Internships or Co-ops


  1. Complete the appropriate fields on the Employment Acceptance Form (EAF). You will need to print this form and turn it in when you meet with your adviser.
  2. Read the College of Engineering Internship, Co-op, or Summer Program Syllabus available on the Engineering Career Services (ECS) website. Read it carefully and follow all applicable steps. (NOTE: Be aware that you will fail the co-op/internship course if you do not complete the employment information sheet near the beginning of each work term, and the student evaluation and the OPAL assessment at the end of each work term.)
  3. Get your academic adviser’s approval and signature on the EAF. The advisor checks to confirm that you are an Iowa State engineering student and that you did not accept the position while on temporary enrollment.
  4. Take the EAF form to Engineering Career Services in 308 Marston Hall.
  5. Sign the employment agreement with the company. Once you have done this and ECS approves the EAF, ECS will provide you with a reference number to register for an “R” credit class.

NOTE: The College of Engineering generally discourages students from taking courses if they are involved in a full-time work experience, but taking one or two classes may be acceptable. Please discuss any plans to take classes during a work experience with an academic adviser.


Graduate students who secure internships or co-ops during your graduate form need to fill out the ECpE Approval and Guidelines for Internships Form.

International graduate students who secure an internship or co-op position also will need to complete the Curricular Practical Training for F-1 Students Form from International Students and Scholars Office.

Graduate students must receive approval from your major professor/adviser and the ECpE Student Services Manager to participate in an internship or co-op program.