The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Experiential Education

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 for undergraduates 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 a co-op contract through the . 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  Login to Handshake using your student NetID and password, then click on “Career Center”, then “Experiences” and then click “Request an Experience.”  Part of the contract includes gaining permission from the appropriate undergraduate designated faculty members.*

* There are additional requirements for international students who want to go on internship or undergraduate 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. Once you accept an offer you should not continue interviewing or consider accepting another offer!

Research is engineering-related work done in an academic laboratory — whether at UMass, or at another educational institution or national lab.

Resources for Internships and Co-ops [pdf]

Resources for Research [pdf]

Study Abroad (UMass IPO office)

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 a summer or semester-long Internship 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.

In the College of Engineering, there are unique requirements for off-campus work experience and training for undergraduate and graduate engineering students:

Undergraduate engineering students participating in an internship during summer or winter break must register for a 1 credit independent study course.  Undergraduate students participating in a co-op program must sign a co-op contract but do not need to register for any additional course credit.

Graduate engineering students MUST register for a 1 credit independent study course in order to participate in an internship experience of any duration. Please note that Non-thesis Master’s students are only eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for summer or winter break internships.

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 they have completed all degree requirements.

Step by Step Instruction sheets for Applying for Curricular Practical Training:

Undergraduate Co-ops: (Semester or Semester Plus)

Undergraduate Internships: (Summer or Winter Breaks)

MS & PhD Semester Long Internship

MS & PhD Summer or Winter Break Internships

For more information about the CPT application process, please make an appointment with one of the following career staff: Graduate Students – Christina Mata; Undergraduate Students – Sally Darby. Appointments can be made through your UMass Handshake account.

Other Important Information

Please view the International Programs Office's F Visa CPT & OPT Information Page 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.