A Co-op (Cooperative Education Experience) is a three to nine-month position related to your major, for which you are working at least 20 hours per week if part-time and 35-40 hours per week if full-time and earning at least minimum wage. During a fall or spring Co-op, you will set school aside for a period of time, yet maintain your status as an enrolled UMass Amherst student without paying tuition. Students secure a Co-op in different ways. Some find positions on their own and come to Career Services for assistance in processing their Co-op contract. Others need more assistance in finding and applying for positions and may seek our help earlier.
No matter how you secure a Co-op, once you have accepted an offer, you must contact the Field Experience Office to learn how to process necessary placement details.
While working in a Co-op position, you will maintain your full time student status and you will be automatically reinstated to your academic program when you successfully complete the Co-op. However, if you resign or if the Co-op employer terminates you for any reason, you may need to apply for re-admission to UMass Amherst.
All students who are doing a Co-op will submit a Co-op Experience contract online with Career Services by logging in to Handshake with their SPIRE Net ID and SPIRE Password.
If the Co-op takes you away from campus during a Fall or Spring semester, you will need to get a Departmental Permission Form and Placement Requirements Form signed, which are found on our Forms page. This is important, so that Career Services can request Co-op leave status for you from the Registrar’s Office. If this is a summer only Co-op, these two forms are not needed, but you still need to enter the data into a Co-op Experience contract in Handshake.
You must have earned at least 45 credits and have at least a 2.0 GPA overall to participate in a Co-op field experience. If you do not have a minimum of 45 credits completed or do not have a minimum GPA of 2.0, you will need to get permission from your Academic Dean to participate in a Co-op. You will need a signed Dean's Approval Form.
International students who have been offered a Co-op position will need to follow the UMass International Programs Office (IPO) procedure for obtaining Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization: https://www.umass.edu/ipo/iss/curricular-practical-training-cpt . Be sure to get CPT authorization before accepting a position. You will need to attach a copy of your authorization form CPT/I-20 to your Co-op Experience contract in Handshake.
Domestic students must get approval for an international Co-op from the UMass International Programs Office (IPO) at least six months in advance. You will have to attach a signed copy of the International Programs Office (IPO) Approval Form to your online Co-op Experience contract. You can find that form on our Forms page.
You will have to complete an Evaluation online, and you will have to log (track) your work hours. Your onsite Co-op supervisor will be asked to complete an Employer Evaluation of your performance and verify your work hours at the end of your Co-op; this will be sent to your supervisor from Central Career Services Field Experience Office. When you complete the Co-op, after we receive the evaluations and you have logged your hours, Co-op recognition can appear on your transcript.
- Attend a brief workshop for an overview of the Co-Op Field Experience process. We hold these sessions when classes are in session in 508 Goodell on Wednesdays at 4:00pm. See our Calendar to confirm.
- Register and explore Co-op listings through Handshake and other internship websites. Go to Finding Internships and Co-ops for help using Handshake, as well as other tips for finding positions.
- Visit Career Services during Fall and Spring semester Walk-in Hours (M-F, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.) for help with your resume or cover letters. Bring a printed draft of your resume or cover letter with you as well as information on any specific field experience opportunity you are pursuing.
- Upload your resume to Handshake and other Web sites and begin applying to interesting internships and co-ops. Check listings frequently since new positions are added daily. For help with this process, call Career Services at 413-545-2224.
- Notify the Field Experience Office immediately when you accept a position. Keep a record of all field experience offers you receive.
Once You Accept a Co-op Position
- Complete a Co-op Experience contract online in Handshake.
- Generate a Department Permission Form and a Placements Requirements Form: If your Co-op is during the fall or spring semester and will take you away from the UMass Amherst campus, you will need to get a Departmental Permission Form signed by your faculty advisor or department head, and you will have to sign a Placements Requirements Form. These forms are available on our Forms page. For summer-only Co-ops, neither of these form is required.
- Scan both forms into pdf files and attach (upload) them to your Co-op Experience contract in Handshake.
- If you do not have a minimum of 45 credits completed or do not have a minimum GPA of 2.0, you need to attach (upload) a signed Dean's Approval Form.
- If you are an international student, for a Co-op position in the United States you will need to first obtain CPT approval and then submit a copy of your CPT/I-20 form indicating CPT approval.
- If you are a domestic student and your Co-OP is outside of the United States, you must contact the International Programs Office (IPO) at least six months in advance of your Co-op to seek IPO approval. You have to attach (upload) a signed International Internship and Co-op IPO Approval Form to your Experience contract.
- IMPORTANT: When filling out your online Experience contract, you should Save As Draft until you have attached (uploaded) all of the required forms. Then you may submit your Experience contract. Once you click Submit on Handshake, you will be UNABLE to submit any additional permission forms that may be required.
- If you have any questions about the process or what forms are required, please send an email to the Field Experience office at email@example.com.
- Career Services will put you on Co-op status with the University, once the Co-op Experience online contract is completed and the Departmental Permission Form and Placement Requirements Form (and any other applicable forms) are received. This ensures that you will not get a bill for the time you are gone, and that you will not have to re-apply to Admissions to return from your Co-op.
- Log (track) your weekly work hours in the spreadsheet provided by Career Services.
- Complete final evaluations online. Near the end of the Co-op, you and your supervisor will both receive emails with final evaluations. You will both need to complete and submit these electronically. Once you have logged your work hours and these evaluations are received in Career Services, your Co-op can be listed on your transcript as professional experience.
Other Important Steps
After you accept a semester long co-op position and check in with the Field Experience Office, you may also need to check in with the following campus offices:
213 Whitmore Administration Building
If necessary, change your graduation date with the Registrar’s Office so that you will be able to pre-register for the semester when you will return to campus.
Residential Life Student Services
235 Whitmore Administration Building
If you are living in on-campus housing, remember to cancel housing for the semester you’ll be away and arrange housing for the semester after your co-op.
Financial Aid Services
255 Whitmore Administration Building
Students who receive financial aid should meet with Sharon Ruth, the Financial Aid liaison for internship and co-op students.
International Programs Office
70 Butterfield Terrace
International students must contact the International Programs Office to obtain information regarding visas and CPT.
Domestic students who will be on Co-op outside of the United States must contact the International Programs Office for permission at least six months in advance.
Education Benefits and Enrollment Verification Questions:
215 Whitmore Administration Building
Students currently receiving veteran’s benefits should contact this office for information about what impact a co-op may have on their benefit eligibility.