Internships and Co-ops

Internship and co-op experiences provide valuable opportunities for engineering students to develop real-world technical and teamwork skills, build professional networks, and find mentors. Students who complete internships and co-ops enter the workforce after graduation with relevant experience that they can highlight during a job search.

Participation in internships and co-ops is optional in the College of Engineering; these experiences are not required for graduation. However, students who wish to take advantage of internship or co-op opportunities have a variety of resources available to help them search for positions. 

What's the Difference?

The definitions of the terms "internship" and "co-op" can vary at different institutions and among employers. The College of Engineering at Penn State uses the following definitions.


  • A short-term—usually one-semester—work experience with one employer
  • May be taken for credit
  • Open to all undergraduate and graduate students who have completed at least one academic year (i.e., fall and spring semesters) at Penn State


  • A rotational work experience working with one employer, usually two or three semesters in duration (most co-op experiences include at least one spring or fall semester in addition to summers)
  • May be taken for credit
  • Open to all undergraduate students who have chosen a major and completed entrance-to-major requirements

Academic Credit Options

Students have a variety of options to earn academic credit during an internship or co-op work experience, including internship and co-op courses, English 202C by portfolio, distance learning, and transfer credit.

Benefits of being registered for credit during an internship or co-op experience include:

  • Retaining full-time status (12-credit equivalent for undergraduates, 9-credit equivalent for graduate students) while registered for as little as 1 credit
  • Earning credits toward your degree requirements
  • Retaining your class scheduling priority, as well as access to student football tickets and Penn State library resources
  • Continuing to defer any student loan repayments
  • Receiving ongoing faculty and staff oversight and support during your work experience

Domestic students (i.e., U.S. citizens and permanent residents) who do not wish to register for internship or co-op credit during a fall or spring semester should consider completing a Leave of Absence form with the University Registar for the duration of the work experience. Students in this situation should also meet with their academic adviser to ensure that they understand their status at the university, specifically if they do not plan to take any Penn State courses while working. 

International students are required to be registered for credit during any internship or co-op experience in the United States, regardless of semester.

Internship and Co-op Courses

All engineering students have the option to enroll in one of our internship or co-op courses—ENGR 185, 195, 295, 395, 495, or 595.

English 202C by Portfolio

English 202C by Portfolio—ENGL202C(p)—may be a good option for you if you are already confident about your technical written communication skills and you want to save time toward your degree by receiving credit for work you are already doing or have already done.

Distance Learning Courses

If desired, you may also take distance learning during your internship or co-op experience through the Office for Digital Learning or the Penn State World Campus.

Transfer Credit

If you are doing an undergraduate internship or co-op on site near the campus of a university other than Penn State, you may choose to take one or more courses at that institution concurrently with your work experience and transfer the credits to Penn State.

Transfer credits do not affect your grade point average; only the credits are transferred, not the grades. However, you must earn a grade of C or better in each course in order to receive credit.

The Undergraduate Admission office website provides information about transfer credit policies.

Financial Aid

If you are planning to do an internship or co-op during a fall or spring semester and you rely on student financial aid to help pay for your college expenses, your work experience could impact your aid in the following ways:

  • You will be ineligible for federal grants or loans (such as the Stafford Loan) because you will be registered for fewer than 6 credits. However, you might be eligible for other types of grants or loans, including private loans.
  • Internship and co-op courses are considered distance education courses, so they will not count toward the minimum 6 credits you need to be eligible for federal financial aid.
  • Most scholarships awarded by Penn State, including Schreyer Scholarships, will be deferred to future semesters in which you are enrolled in courses on campus. However, if you receive scholarships from outside agencies, contact those agencies directly to discuss your eligibility during your work assignment. If you need confirmation that you are registered for internship or co-op credit, please contact us.
  • Almost all engineering internships and co-ops are paid; this salary will be taken into account as income when you complete the following year's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and may impact the amount of future aid you are eligible to receive.
  • If you are seeking credit for your internship or co-op, you will be considered a full-time student for the purpose of loan deferment. This means any loans or grants previously awarded to you will continue to be deferred until after graduation when you will need to start repayment.

Because of all the variables involved in determining individual student aid packages, you should talk to an adviser in Student Aid prior to beginning your internship or co-op experience.


Work Site Housing

If your internship or co-op experience will be in person and located far from your Penn State campus, you will need to find housing near your workplace. Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations staff cannot provide assistance in locating internship or co-op housing.

Employers offer varying levels of assistance in finding housing for short-term employees. A small number of employers actually provide housing for students or provide a housing stipend. Some employers will provide information about local apartment complexes.

In most cases, however, finding housing at your work location is your responsibility. So, where should you start?

  • Ask your employer for the contact information for former interns you could contact for housing advice and information, or see if the employer can pass your contact information along to former participants.
  • Look for rental housing near your employer by using an online service such as:
  • If you are working near a Penn State campus other than the one you attend, you might be eligible to live in on-campus housing there, if available.
  • If you are working near the campus of a university other than Penn State, you could look for a sublet there.

Penn State Housing

If you are working on site during a fall and/or spring semester, you may need to make alternate plans for your Penn State housing while you are gone.

If you live on campus at University Park, you can make arrangements for a housing contract release for the semester(s) you are on an internship or co-op assignment. To request a contract release:

Housing Assignment Office staff will review your request and respond by email within 2 business days to confirm or deny the request.

If you live on campus at a campus other than University Park, contact your campus housing office for assistance.

If you live off campus at University Park, check out Off-Campus Student Support.

If you need assistance to pay for housing, try the Student Engagement Network (SEN) Grant Program.

Work Schedules

Daily work schedules for interns and co-op students vary by employer, although most students start work between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. and end between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Work schedules for virtual internships and co-ops may be more flexible. Your employer will discuss your work schedule with you after you have accepted a position.


Engineering internship and co-op positions are almost always paid; compensation varies by employer and by major or field of study. See our Salary Spotlight for information about what our undergraduate students earned recently.

Pre-Work Checklist

If you've accepted an internship or co-op position, see what steps you need to take before you start work.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032