Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education:
The Perfect Complement to Your Degree

There’s a classic conundrum that recent college graduates have to untangle: Employers want candidates who have work experience. But how do you get experience without a job?

That’s easy. Get a co-op.

There’s a reason RIT is ranked 11th among top schools for co-op and internship programs by U.S. News & World Report (2021). Our cooperative education program is designed to provide you with career experience–early and often–to a variety of industries and environments. And, with cooperative education built into most programs, and available and encouraged in all majors, you’ll gain the experience that sets you apart–experience that employers look for in their next top hires.

A screenshot from a video showing hexagons on the left and text on the right saying: "What is Co-op?"

RIT Co-op: Designed For Your Success

At RIT, our students earn more than a degree. They graduate with real, relevant career experience. And that’s because of RIT’s co-op program.

Our co-op program is one of the best university co-op programs in the world. We have built relationships with thousands of companies and organizations in nearly every type of career field. Last year, more than 4,500 students participated in co-op positions with more than 3,400 hiring organizations.

Students alternate co-op blocks with semesters of on-campus study. On co-op, you’ll spend a semester working in industry learning the ins and outs of professional life in your degree field. You’ll have the opportunity to amass hands-on experience working in a variety of settings, from large Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders, to small start-ups and world-class not-for-profits.

During co-op, RIT students are given real-world work responsibilities and are supervised. At the conclusion of a co-op, supervisors complete a co-op work report, which is an evaluation of each student’s co-op performance. Students also complete a work report that details their co-op experience, work responsibilities, and accomplishments. This report is reviewed by the student’s academic department. 

Students are also assigned a co-op advisor. These are career services professionals, each of whom are an expert in a particular career field. Before you apply for a co-op, advisors work with you to refine your resume and practice your interviewing skills. During your co-op, they check in with you regularly to see how your co-op is progressing and to answer any questions or concerns that arise. After your co-op, advisors connect with your employer and supervisor to have them complete a co-op evaluation that helps rate your co-op performance.

Co-op vs. Internship. It’s a common question we’re always asked. So what’s the difference between the two? Both co-ops and internships are immeasurable in providing hands-on career experience.

In general, cooperative education is more significant than your typical internship. Co-ops are full-time employment and range in duration from one semester or one summer term to longer back-to-back co-op blocks (e.g., summer term plus fall semester; spring semester plus summer term).

Internships can range from a few hours a week to full-time employment, and everything in between. Some may be paid and some may be unpaid, depending on the employer and the career field. While most RIT majors require co-op, a few encourage internships because in some degree fields, internships tend to be more common. While internships may be shorter in duration, they are equally as valuable in providing career experience, hands-on learning, and professional exposure.

Both co-ops and internships give you the experience you need that sets you apart from competitors.

At RIT, students are responsible for identifying and applying to co-op positions. However, RIT has built partnerships with more than 3,400 hiring organizations and we assist in connecting you to thousands of employers who are looking to hire co-op students. Two campus-wide career fairs–one in the fall and one in the spring–welcome hundreds of employers to campus. At these career fairs, employers meet directly with students and conduct hundreds of on-campus interviews. In addition, several programs host specialized career fairs. These smaller, major-specific events present opportunities for one-on-one conversations with employers who are looking to hire co-op students from particular degree programs.

In addition, many employers seek out our students specifically for co-ops, knowing that they will be hiring a prepared, well-rounded student who can make meaningful contributions to theor organizations.

A World Leader in Co-op

There’s a reason RIT has one of the best university co-op programs in the world. We have been offering a college co-op program for more than 100 years. We value the preparedness and practice a co-op program provides, and the myriad ways that it benefits all. Simply put, cooperative education is the career experience that converts knowledge into know-how, skills into expertise, and thinkers into doers.

It’s the crucial element that makes an RIT education exceptional.


Total earned annually by RIT students on co‑op


Students participate in co‑op


Hiring Organizations


Of co‑op employers said they would hire their RIT co‑op student for a full‑time position

A person running tests on a motherboard

8 Reasons Why Co-op Is the Key to Success

1. High employment outcome
RIT has an overall 95 percent outcomes rate. Students gain experience early and often, apply their learning in meaningful ways, contribute to real-world problems, and build resumes that aren’t the least bit padded.

2. Career experience before you graduate
Through your interaction with industry experts, exploration of professional work environments, understanding of perspectives, and application of skills in real world settings, you’ll amass solid, career-focused experience. You are well-positioned for outstanding employment opportunities.

3. Test drive career options
Co-op is a great way to explore different jobs, industries, and types of organizations with no risk, helping you make a more informed decision about the types of jobs and work environments you most enjoy working.

4. Earn a full-time salary
You’ll earn a full-time salary as you gain experience on co-op. This can be used to support your tuition and help offset college expenses, or it can set you up for financial independence after graduation.

5. No co-op fees or tuition
You won’t be charged fees or tuition for co-op, because we believe you should be able to focus on developing your skills, gaining hands-on experience, and exploring your professional future without worrying about extra expenses.

6. Extraordinary employer and alumni partnerships
Industry partnerships provide unmatched opportunities at influential, innovative companies worldwide. And, with 135,000 alumni working around the globe, you’ll benefit from a network of professionals ready to advise and support your career aspirations.

7. Unparalleled support
RIT’s co-op advisors do more than help you identify and apply to co-op positions. They continually check in, provide guidance and support, and are an invaluable resource for all of your professional inquires while you’re on co-op.

8. Develop the “soft skills” that lead to success
RIT can teach you the technical and analytical skills that make you a valuable employee. But the soft skills–leadership, judgment, attitude, self-confidence, etiquette awareness, professionalism–those are the competencies that truly set you apart, and the skills that can only be learned on the job.

RIT’s Outstanding Hiring Partners

We couldn’t possibly list all 3,400 of our hiring partners. It’s a list that keeps on growing.
But here’s a sample of some of the places around the world where you might find yourself working.

Amazon's logo
Apple's logo
EA's logo
Facebook's logo
Fidelity Investments logo
Google's logo
Honda's logo
IBM's logo
Johnson and Johnson's logo
Lockheed Martin's logo
Microsoft's logo
MoMa's logo
SpaceX's logo
Tesla's logo
Disney's logo
RIT students in business attire standing in line to enter the career fair


Learn more about co-op requirements and connect with an advisor who can help you identifying and apply to co-op positions in your major.

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Become a hiring partner.