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Co-ops and internships are exceptional ways to augment your recruiting function and make the most of limited resources. There are several strong reasons for implementing a co-op program or position into your organization:

  • Develop a strong and continuous pipeline.
  • Assess team, job and company fit before hire.
  • Decreases entry-level requisition turnover.
  • May replace entry-level requisition hiring.
  • Increases entry-level requisition productivity after hire.
  • Assists with on-boarding.
  • Increases employee referrals.
  • Formulates strong relationships with faculty.
  • Strengthens community/corporate partnerships.
  • Increases positive public image.



A “co-op” is paid work experience for which students may obtain academic credit within their declared major or minor. Students enroll in a class containing academic objectives which involve applying learned knowledge or skill set(s). Students are usually required to complete assignments or projects reflecting on their experiences. The instructor or coordinator will sometimes visit a co-op site. Participating organizations are asked to evaluate the student’s performance at the work site.

In order to adapt to the changing needs of area organizations, NKU offers two models of cooperative education:

  • Parallel:  students continue taking classes and work simultaneously, similar to internships. The co-op timeframe and work hours are flexible (most popular model).
  • Alternating: students stop classes to work for a predetermined amount of time and return to classes after the co-op ends (traditionally a semester).


NKU’s co-op program allows for maximum flexibility for both student and employer. Once the student has been selected for a co-op, the student is responsible for following the steps to receive academic credit. The employer is asked to complete a performance appraisal.



Internships can be paid or unpaid and students may choose to not obtain academic credit. Internships typically will allow a student to gain experience or skills that make them more marketable upon graduation.

The Department of Labor has set guidelines regarding Internships under The Fair Labor Standards Act (DOL Fact Sheet). Organizations will see more interest and stronger applicants if an internship is a paid position.




If you are wondering whether your position would qualify as an internship/co-op, NKU follows the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)  guidance, as outlined below.

To ensure that an experience—whether it is an internship or co-op—is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship/co-op by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met: 

  1. The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
  2. The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
  3. The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  4. There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework. 
  5. There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
  6. There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.  
  7. There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals. 

If these criteria are followed, it is the opinion of NACE that the experience can be considered a legitimate internship/co-op.  Approval of internship/co-op credit for a specific student occurs on an individual basis with the faculty in the academic department.

For more information, contact Career Services at (859) 572-5680 or


TIP: If just starting an internship program, consider reviewing the Cincinnati Region Internship Toolkit. It is a comprehensive guide for employers presented by the Greater Cincinnati Collegiate Connection (GC3).