Cooperative Education, or co-op, is a unique kind of education at RIT. As the keystone to an experiential education, a co-op gives you the opportunity to apply what you’re learning in the classroom through meaningful work experience.
Unlike an internship, a co-op at RIT is:
Full-time (35 hours or more per week)
Directly related to your field of study
Single term to two consecutive terms in length
Complex and challenging work assignments that align with your academic level
Applied to your academic schedule through your department
Co-op gives you the opportunity to:
Help define your career path after graduation
Apply the theory you are learning in your course work to real, professional situations
Earn a reasonable salary, which will help finance your education
Develop additional technical skills and enhance vital soft skills such as critical thinking, professional communication, teamwork, and more.
Network with team members and professionals in the company to help accelerate your future job search
Stand-out to recruiters in your full-time employment search after graduation with an experience that can elevate your starting salary, compared to other entry-level candidates
Undergraduate students must be in good academic standing with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. Students are not eligible for co-op after they have completed all their degree requirements.
Graduate students must be in good academic standing with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and have completed one academic year. Students are not eligible for co-op after they have completed all their degree requirements. Total blocks of co-op should not exceed one year or three terms (fall, spring, or summer semesters each equal one term; intersession is not counted as a term). Exceptions can be made only with departmental approval.
A majority of undergraduate programs at RIT require co-op. Click on your degree in this list of RIT degree programs to learn about co-op requirements.
College of Art and Design
Saunders College of Business
Golisano College of Computing and Information Science
As a student participating in the RIT Cooperative Education Program, it is expected that you are behaving in accordance to the RIT Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook on and off campus, operating according to accepted business ethics and standards while on co-op, and accepting the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education’s Co-op Student Agreement. By not following the agreement below, you accept the consequences of not obtaining your degree.
Primary responsibility for obtaining an acceptable co-op position.
Permission to allow the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education to release a copy of my resume and/or unofficial academic transcript to appropriate employers who desire candidates that meet my qualifications and background.
To regularly check co-op job postings and on-campus interviews listed in Handshake
To give serious consideration to all appropriate co-op opportunities when offered by employers, even though the position may not be my first choice for either type of work or geographic location of the assignment.
Responsibility to notify the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education of any co-op job offer I agree to take within three days of accepting it. I will register my assignment with your office using the Report Your Job form.
Registering for the appropriate co-op course as identified by my academic department. Dependent on my college, I am aware this may require registration through the Student Information System (SIS) or through my academic department.
Obtaining approval in advance by both the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education and my academic department should I wish to participate in a co-op assignment longer than two consecutive terms. I acknowledge I cannot register for a third consecutive term without this approval.
Completing the total amount of co-op work required or expected by my academic department. I acknowledge all co-op work assignments must be completed prior to my final academic term of enrollment at RIT.
Honoring my commitment in accepting a position and work as long as my services are required during the agreed upon period. Accepting an offer of employment is a contract between me and the employer. I cannot back out or renege on an offer of employment once accepted.
Acknowledgment that wages earned while on co-op are subject to state and federal income taxes and that, in the State of New York, co-op students are not eligible by law for Unemployment Insurance Benefits resulting from their co-op work experience.
To submit the appropriate application for co-op work experience credit report or form to my academic department for each work period completed. I am aware this report must be completed by the deadline date identified by my academic department.
Notifying the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education of any change in my academic or employment status or of any problems associated with my job search or co-op work experience. I acknowledge students on a Leave of Absence or suspended from the Institute may not participate in co-op.
Failing to comply with this Agreement may affect the awarding of my degree.
Salary and Income
Have an understanding of realistic salary rates for co-op positions in your field. Our Academic Program Overview page has the latest co-op salary data. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), salaries/wages paid to co-op students are fully subject to applicable federal and state income taxes. Your employer determines your compensation level. Salary rates are based on a number of variables, including your academic plan, year level, prior work experiences and established company policies. There may be some room for negotiation based on circumstances.
Registering and Reporting
A co-op is reported after accepting a new offer and per semester of co-op length. Complete the following actions:
Once you sign your co-op employment offer letter, use the registration procedure for your major to “register” your job. If you locate a job on your own, check its acceptability for co-op with your department or career services coordinator before accepting the position.
Your salary is confidential and will not be seen by other co-op participants and employers. It is important that you let us know what your salary as this information is used to compile average co-op salaries for your specific department and college.
Most departments require you to prepare a Work Report or Application for Co-op Credit form for each work period. Your department or career services coordinator will provide forms or instructions. These forms must be completed and submitted by the due date to receive co-op credit.
If you are placed on academic suspension while working in a co-op position, that block and subsequent blocks cannot be considered as official co-ops. You are obligated to explain your change of status to your employer. Be advised that your coordinator will inform your employer that you are no longer a student at RIT. No evaluation form will be sent for the work experience. See your department if you have questions regarding academic suspension.
The RIT cooperative education program is tuition free.
Financial Aid: Financial aid includes federal and private alternative loans as well as grants and scholarships. With the exception of the federal Pell Grant, most forms of financial aid are not awarded for semesters of co-op employment.
Pell Grant Recipients: The grant will be credited to your student account after the drop/add period for the term. You must report your co-op. After your co-op has been verified, check with your department to see if you or your department registered you in SIS.
FAFSA: Co-op earnings will not negatively impact your eligibility for federal student aid in the subsequent year. You are asked on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to report earnings from a co-op. The reported co-op earnings will automatically be excluded from your adjusted gross income when calculating your expected family contribution (EFC).
If you have any questions regarding your co-op earnings, living expenses during co-op, or financial aid, contact your Financial Aid Counselor at email@example.com.
Rochester Co-ops: Students who co-op in Rochester may stay in RIT housing.
Out of Town Co-ops: Students who co-op out of town are responsible for finding their own housing near the employer’s location. Most employers will provide a list of apartments or housing options to assist students. Talk with your employer on housing before you move.
Students who return from co-op are guaranteed on-campus housing. Contact RIT Housing for any questions or concerns.
Dealing with stressful and uncomfortable situations can be part of the workplace learning experience.
If you encounter a concern, we encourage you to contact your Career Services Coordinator as we can offer advice or assistance in resolving the matter. It is important to address issues as they arise rather than ignore the problem.
We can assist coaching you on issues like:
Addressing discrimination and harassment complaints
Communicating with supervisors regarding your work-related concerns
Approaching conflicts on your team in a professional manner
While out on co-op, you will receive registration information from your department to register online for the next term. If your next term is part of a double block co-op, you must register for the second co-op as well.
Evaluation and Work Report
To receive a “Satisfactory” (S) grade for co-op on your transcript, the following evaluation documents must be completed and returned to the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education:
Student Co-op Work Report
Students completing a mandatory co-op have to submit a Work Report on their experience for their academic department to review. To get started, select “pending.” Confirm your supervisor’s role and email to successfully complete the report. If your supervisor changes through your program, update their information through the Update co-op supervisor tab.
The Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education sends a link to employers with direction to complete a Co-op Evaluation near the end of a student’s co-op term. It is the employer’s responsibility to rate the student’s performance at work, add comments, and submit the form back to the university.
The answer is no. You are not placed into a co-op position, but rather you apply and go through the same hiring process you would when you look for a job after graduation. The Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education does guarantee we will help you in any way we can with your search.
Standard academic credit is not given for co-op. However, you earn “credit” in that your department assigns a grade of “Satisfactory” (S) when you have met all of their requirements and have successfully completed your co-op assignment.
You report your co-op online to the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education. You also need to register for co-op in SIS (this varies by program, so check with your program coordinator or academic advisor).
It is ultimately up to the employer, but they often base it upon comparable co-op salaries and a candidate's experience. There may be room for negotiation. Your employer also determines eligibility for benefits, if any.
Jobs, which are listed through Handshake, are “approved” co-op positions. If you obtain a co-op position on your own and are not sure if it is acceptable, see your Career Services Coordinator, faculty advisor, or department chair before accepting the job. Keep in mind that if the job meets the criteria, it doesn’t matter if a company calls the job an internship or temporary employment.
A single co-op block is the same length as an academic term. You may, in fact, work longer depending on your exam schedule the preceding term and on your employer’s needs. A double block is two consecutive terms of work, without a break in between. Many students are scheduled for double blocks; others may choose to double block. Confirm with your academic department before committing to a double block to ensure your work does not interfere with courses. You and the employer negotiate the start date and the expected end date of the work period.
Maybe. Some co-op jobs are located in the Rochester area. Depending upon your program, there may be many or very few positions in Rochester. There is high competition for these positions. It is not advisable to limit your job search to any one specific area. You will enhance your chances of landing a position if you are geographically flexible. You should seriously consider all co-op opportunities in your career field for which you qualify, regardless of location.
Many out-of-town employers provide some help in finding temporary housing. The assistance varies: some companies will provide a list of possible apartments and room rentals; some will pay for a hotel for a few days while you are looking; some have co-op housing already arranged. It is a good idea to check with the colleges in the area because residence hall space is frequently available, especially in the summer. It is appropriate to discuss your housing concerns with an employer once an offer has been made.
Maybe. Some employers, especially those located out of state, will pay for all or part of your relocation expenses. It is important to have a clear understanding of your obligation before accepting a co-op position if extensive travel expenses are anticipated.
Yes. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, salaries/wages paid to co-op students are fully subject to applicable federal income taxes. They are also subject to applicable state income taxes. Any type of personal income should be assumed taxable unless IRS regulations specifically declare it to be “excludable” (i.e., tax-exempt). There is no exclusion of co-op wages in current regulations. International students are required to pay federal and state income taxes but not FICA (social security tax). It should be understood that the above information/advice is provided only as a convenience for you and is not legally binding. Students seeking further info should contact the Internal Revenue Service.
Cooperative education is for a limited time only and with established start and end dates. Eligibility for unemployment compensation is governed by state law, and in most circumstances co-op students are not eligible for unemployment compensation at the end of their co-op experience. In the event that a student is terminated from a co-op position prior to its originally scheduled end date, eligibility for unemployment compensation, if any, will be determined by the specific facts of the termination and applicable state laws.
Currently, in the State of New York, co-op students are not eligible by law for Unemployment Insurance Benefits resulting from their co-op work experience.
See your career services coordinator as soon as you feel anxious about your co-op job search. We can evaluate your search, make suggestions, and provide additional service that will assist you in meeting your goal. As a last resort, if co-op is mandatory for your program, a discussion with your academic department may be in order. Depending upon circumstances, it is possible that your co-op will be delayed or waived.