Hands-on experience give students the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom in a real-world environment.
Experiential learning can take a variety of forms including internship, co-op, service learning, research, projects through student societies, and study abroad.
The UMass College of Engineering values these experiences and recognizes the benefits that hands-on learning provides. Two of the most common forms of experiential learning, internships and co-ops, provide hands-on learning within a professional setting. However, it is important to know that the terms "co-op" and "internship" may be used by different groups or individuals to mean different things.
Internship: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), “An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent”. Because of regulations pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Engineering internships are generally paid positions within an engineering-related organization that provide professional-level experience. Internships typically occur during the summer or winter break, but can also be part-time positions that occur during the academic semester. *
Co-op: Co-ops are longer experiences that generally last 6-9 months. While on co-op, students will stop taking classes in order to work full-time, but will maintain their full-time student status by completing the co-op contract through the UMass CareerConnect system. When you complete this paid experience and submit the co-op contract, it will appear on your transcript. All students must fill out a Co-op contract through CareerConnect. Login to CareerConnect using your student NetID and password, then click on My Account, then Internship/Co-op (add new). Part of the contract includes gaining permission from your department’s undergraduate program director. *
- Dept. Permission Form for Student Away on Internship or Co-op [pdf]
- Placement Requirements Form [pdf]
- If you do not have a 2.0 GPA, you must also get permission from the Dean to go on co-op: Dean's Permission Form [pdf]
* There are additional requirements for international students who want to go on internship or co-op. Please see below for details.
Accepting Offers: When you accept an offer for an internship or co-op, both the UMass College of Engineering Career Center and the employer expect that you are acting in good faith and that you will honor that commitment. It is your responsibility to thoroughly evaluate an offer and decide if the opportunity is right for you before accepting it.
Research is engineering-related work done in an academic laboratory — whether at UMass, or at another educational institution or national lab.
Guidelines for International Students
If you are on an F-1 student visa, you must fulfill certain requirements in order to gain practical training through either an internship or co-op so that you don’t violate the terms of your visa.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is off-campus work experience (training) that is an integral part of an established curriculum. In practical terms, this means an opportunity must be required by the curriculum, or if not required, the student must receive credit for the training.
Because the UMass College of Engineering does not require practical work experience in order to graduate, international engineering students MUST register for a 1 credit independent study course in order to complete either an internship or co-op experience.
How Do I Know if I am Eligible to Apply for CPT?
To be eligible for CPT, you must:
- Be in lawful F-1 status
- Have been enrolled on a full-time basis for one academic year (i.e. two full, consecutive semesters before applying for CPT), and be in good academic standing
- Have a job offer
- The position must be relevant to your field of study
- Not be enrolled in an intensive English language training program
- Have UMass approved health insurance
- * Note: students are NOT ELIGIBLE for CPT once you have completed all degree requirements.
The Application Process
- You must first have an internship or co-op offer from an employer within your field of study: Resources in finding internships and co-ops [pdf]
You must bring a copy of the job offer from the employer to the Undergraduate Program Director (if you are an undergraduate student) or Graduate Program Director (if you are a graduate student) in your academic department. The letter with the offer must:
- Be addressed to you
- Written on the company’s letterhead (no emails)
- Provide a job description and a job title
- Specify whether the position is part-time or full-time (students may work full-time (40 hours/week) during vacation times—summer or winter break, or up to 20 hours during the academic year unless you are going on co-op and have completed the necessary forms with Career Services (see above).
- Specify the start date and the end date of the internship or co-op
- Include the complete address of the site that the work will take place (street, city, state and zip code)
- The academic advisor will complete a form to enroll you in a 1-credit independent study and will sign the completed the CPT Authorization Form (must be filled out in advance) [pdf]
- Bring the completed CPT Authorization Form (signed by academic advisor) and the job offer letter to the UMass International Programs Office (IPO), located in 70 Butterfield Terrace. The IPO office will send your completed CPT request to SEVIS electronically to generate a new I-20 and the CPT work authorization will appear on page 2 of the new SEVIS I-20.
- Make sure you have updated your address in SPIRE within 10 days of any change while you are on F-1 status.
Other Important Information
Please view the International Programs Office's CPT Application Packet [pdf] for a more comprehensive understanding of how going on CPT may affect your eligibility for future post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), travel considerations, and social security card information.