One of the most overlooked benefits of community colleges today are the “learn while you work” programs. The co-op or “cooperative education programs” offer students internships that can often lead to permanent jobs upon graduation, and offer a natural and easier transition into the job market. These internships not only offer you real-world learning while you working on your two year degree, but they also afford you the opportunity to earn valuable college credit at the same time. Co-op programs allow for networking opportunities as well as the chance to work your way up the pipeline after you have completed your degree.
As you continue through your co-op you will find that applying what you learn through course material will soon relate better to real-world situations. The information you cover during lecture and classroom time will become more tangible to your intended career choice as you will be able to relate it even more to your future career.
This is the kind of experience and motivation you can only get by working one-on-one. You will also be exposed to new methods and technologies related to your career choice that requires additional study or learning you had not planned.
Some may decide that a co-op program may not be right for them. When this is the case you can easily find community colleges that don’t require co-op programs to graduate, or that let you earn your credits in other ways such as completing independent studies. The benefits co-op programs are numerous, but the most obvious is that you gain first-hand knowledge of what the job actually entails.
Before selecting your community college you should find out which companies the college partners with. This is an excellent criteria you can use for deciding the best place for you to continue your education. If you don’t see one of the companies you would like to co-op with, you can always approach the company directly (usually through the human resources department), and work with your guidance counselor to see if you can arrange an exception.
Generally, two year schools require students to have a 2.5 grade point average to participate in cooperative education programs. You may also be required to have been a full-time student in the previous semester, and will nearly always be required to have finished your freshman year. International students must have clearance from the Office of International Student Services.
No matter what the interest, co-op programs have numerous benefits to students including being able to participate in a variety of workforces that may be of a potential career path to you. Most importantly, being able to work hands-on in the career field of your choice can give you the ultimate deciding factor on whether or not a certain career is right for you.