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Co-op Engineering Program

How the Co-op Engineering Program Works

To maintain the academic standards of the program, the Engineering Professional Practice program reports to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Tickle College of Engineering. All students alternate full-time studies on campus with full-time periods at work in positions related to the students’ majors and career goals. The work periods overlap semesters when school is in session.

Students work a minimum of fifty-two weeks in several work terms with the same employer. At work, students are subject to all the rules and regulations of regular employees at your organization and each work term is recorded on their transcripts. Students at work are monitored by program personnel with both students and supervisors submitting a series of reports to the Engineering Professional Practice program. Similarly, students in school are also monitored to be sure progress is being made toward degree completion.

In 2016, over 40% of engineering students in the college participated in the Cooperative Engineering program. More than 490 employers are registered with the program, with the majority of them located in the southeast.

To participate, students must be enrolled in one of the following programs of study:

Aerospace Engineering Biomedical Engineering
Biosystems Engineering Chemical Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering Computer Engineering
Electrical Engineering Industrial and Systems Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering Mechanical Engineering
Nuclear Engineering

A student’s work and school schedule may be something like the example below.  Other co-op patterns can be used, based on the needs of the student and the employer.

Year Fall Spring Summer
1 School School Work or Vacation
2 School Work School
3 Work School Work
4 School Work or School School
5 School Graduation

Active co-op participants alternate full-time academic study terms at UT with full-time work terms with business, government, and industry. Work and study terms overlap each other and are of approximately equal length. The employment must be related to the student’s field of study and subsequent work terms should carry more responsibility and difficulty. Students remain with the same employer throughout the duration of their involvement with the co-op.

In order to participate, students must register with the program. They then attend required preparatory workshops and seminars and submit required paperwork to the Office of Engineering Professional Practice. The paperwork includes a co-op agreement, a resume, an official transcript, and a degree plan approved by the student’s academic advisor.

Students can begin their programmed patterns of work and study anytime after successfully completing their first year at UT and no later than halfway through their junior year. All co-op activity must be completed before the student’s final semester in school before graduation. To participate, students must be registered with UT as full-time students and must be full-time students at the Knoxville campus between each work term in order to remain in the co-op program.

To receive a certificate of completion, students must work a minimum of fifty-two weeks. Spring and Fall work terms are nineteen and twenty weeks in length, respectively. The Summer work term is thirteen weeks long. Academic schedules permitting, students sometimes elect to work more than the fifty-two-week minimum by adding more work terms. Typically, students work at least three sessions and graduate one semester later than students who choose not to participate.

Requirements for Participation

You can register for the co-op program if:

  • You are registered with UT as a full-time student

However, registering for the co-op program and participating in the program are two different things. In order to actually participate in the program, which entails going on a co-op assignment, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be enrolled in the Tickle College of Engineering
  • You must have completed thirty hours of course work**
  • You must be a full-time student at UT between each work term unless otherwise approved by the director of Engineering Professional Practice and your faculty advisor in the Tickle College of Engineering.

**Please note that you cannot go on your co-op assignment until you have at least thirty hours, which most students attain after their first year. We also take into consideration AP credit, so students who come in with more hours will possibly be able to go out on assignment sooner.

Student Benefits of Co-op Assignments

  • Helps bridge the gap between theoretical study and the professional world
  • Provides greater understanding of exactly what engineers do in order to confirm their decision to study engineering
  • Become professionals who take their learning from the classroom and adapt it to the workplace
  • Provides a head start on classroom learning by working with engineering principles on the job
  • Receive co-op program participation on their academic transcripts
  • Improves self-confidence, motivation, professional skills, and the ability to interact with people
  • Significantly increases the level of job and salary offers upon graduation
  • Ability to offset educational expenses with co-op earnings
  • Receive one year’s credit toward professional licenses in the state of Tennessee upon program completion

Co-op Students Stay on Track for Graduation

Cooperative education at UT requires a student to work at least three semesters with the same company, typically alternating between work and school. Co-op students are motivated to graduate as quickly as possible. To this end, the college has structured its academic program to ensure minimal impact to engineering graduation rates.

Since 2013, improved opportunities to take courses during summer semesters at the university level has enhanced our co-op students’ ability to graduate more quickly. Previous summer semesters did not have a robust enough set of course offerings to always ensure timely graduation rates.

Students who start the co-op process the summer before their sophomore year and make full use of the three summer semesters can still graduate in the spring of their fourth year. A co-op student with a well-advised plan still only needs to take eight academic semesters to graduate unless they decide to add a minor or participate in additional academic activities such as study abroad.

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