Internships and Co-op

Cooperative Education

Co-op is an educational partnership between the University and employer that allows current students to engage in a paid training experience related to their major and is administered by the Office of Internships and Career Readiness.

In this partnership, the employer provides the paid training experience while the University provides the academic oversight through the student’s enrollment in a course. The Co-op course is an online variable credit course that students enroll in each semester they are out training with an employer. This provides documentation on the student's transcript for each semester they are out training, ensuring the student's continuous student status with USF.

Although Co-ops and Internships are similar in offering guided learning experiences for students, there are some significant differences. We have created a Co-op or Internship Guide to help you determine which programs best fits your company’s needs.

BENEFITS OF Co-op for Employers

Cost Effective Talent Pipeline
Permits the evaluation of potential hires over an extended period of time, without a long-term commitment, that can end in a fully trained candidate ready to hit the ground running upon graduation.

Recruiting Assistance
Email Diane Mellon,, once you have posted your position. Additional outreach will be made to help spread the word of your opportunity to students who fit your posted qualifications for your position.

Student Accountability
Students enrolled in the Co-op course through the University must complete their experience for their grade (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) each semester. We also review the student's academic progress (classes as well as GPA) before they permitted to go back out for the next semester to ensure that the students are still enrolled as USF students and are in good academic standing.

Co-op Program options

Alternating Plan
Students alternate full-time semesters of training (33-40 hours a week per semester) with full-time semesters of study.

Parallel Plan
Students work their Co-op assignments in concurrent semesters, on a part-time basis (15-32 hours a week per semester) while taking classes.

Hybrid Plan
This plan accommodates a student’s academic schedule while allowing for the continuation of Co-op work projects. This would involve a combination of both part-time and full-time semesters of experience. (Example: Full-time hours during summer, with part-time hours during fall/spring semesters.

Requirements for USF Co-op Participation

Students who receive Co-op offers from employers should be enrolling in USF’s official Co-op courses each semester they are out on Co-op with an employer. For that reason, we closely monitor the types of experience and supervision students will receive. Below you will find some basic requirements for positions to qualify for USF Co-op program participation.

Position Requirements

  • Must require a specific type of degree to do the work (cannot be “any major will do”)
  • Work is directly related to the students field of study, with targeted learning objectives
  • Supervised by a subject matter expert who provides regular constructive guidance and feedback
  • Must be paid positions (current averages: $15 – $22+ an hour, with technical fields being on the higher end)
  • Co-op positions are expected to be a minimum of two semesters and can be as many as six semesters long*
  • Each semester a student is out on Co-op their experience should be increasing in complexity, building on pervious duties or a new rotation in a different facet of the field/industry. It should not be the same duties throughout the entire experience.

*Co-op positions can be full-time (33+ hours per week) or Part-time (15 – 32 hours per week). The hours per week can vary each semester based on students’ academic schedule/employer needs. We do not approve of back-to-back Full-time Fall and Spring Co-op experiences, as the students need to make academic progress with their coursework in their degree programs.

Responsibilities of Co-op Employers and Supervisors

  • Provide a professional and safe work environment (workspace and supplies needed to be successful on the job, general liability coverage, etc.)
  • Have relevant work/projects for the student to be working on
  • Supervisor should set learning objectives with their Co-op student each semester the student is out with the employer (required for student to submit learning objectives with supervisor's signature as an assignment for the required Co-op course)
  • Provide supervision/mentoring of students with feedback to help student grow in their profession. Although feedback should be ongoing throughout the student's experience, a required short evaluation form will be provided to supervisors to fill out at the end of each semester of the students Co-op experience. This is required as an assignment for the student's Co-op course.

While the Office of Internships and Career Readiness handles the academic side, as a best practice, we recommend that once a student has officially accepted a Co-op offer with the company that the recruiter notify Diane Mellon, the head of the Co-op program, so that she can work with the student for official enrollment in the USF Co-op Course.


Each organization has their own designated timelines for recruiting. Larger organizations who have well established Co-op programs tend to recruit for positions 6 months to a year in advance. Although this timeline works well for recruiting top talent it is not always necessary for all organizations. Below you will find a useful chart that outlines Co-op work terms based on USF’s academic semester timelines as well as suggested recruiting deadlines to consider.

Semester Extend offers no later than... Registration Begins Co-op Start Dates Co-op End Dates
Fall February / Early March Late March Mid/Late August (no later than 1st week in Sept) December
Spring September / Early October Late October Early/Mid January (no later than 1st week in Feb) Last week in April / First week in May
Summer February / Early March Late March Early / Mid May (no later than 1st week in June) Early/Mid August

*Important notes: It is ideal to have offers made by the beginning of registration. Students can still make changes to their academic schedules through the 1st week of classes.


To get started with recruiting with us, first please review the University of South Florida Tampa Jobs Board Guidelines for Employers. These guidelines apply to all employers offering full-time, part time, internship and co-op opportunities for University of South Florida Tampa (USF) students and alumni.

  • Positions meeting the guidelines are posted on our jobs board, Handshake. You will need a company profile, connected with the University of South Florida, to begin posting.
  • For assistance with creating your account and best practices in recruiting through Handshake, please view our Employer Handshake Guide.

Though similar to other job descriptions, Co-op postings should also disclose learning outcomes. When students recognize the value in the Co-op experience and understand the professional growth opportunities available, your target applicant pool will grow. Be as detailed as possible in your position description to convey an accurate picture of how the student can increase their knowledge/skill set, and be an asset to your organization. Here is a useful outline for creating a Co-op posting.


At USF, building your employer brand is easy to do because we've made this a key part of our services for employers. You can choose to take advantage of our career fairs, weekly tabling events, and on-campus interviews. You can also choose to work with us to create a custom on-campus event that aligns with your recruiting goals.

Our Employer Recruitment Guide has detailed information about all of the services and events available to employers who are looking to connect with USF students and alumni.

Developing a Co-op program takes commitment, but students and employers involved in one find a greater return on investment. In the NACE 2017 Internship and Co-op Survey, 85.5% of respondents said they considered on-campus recruiting to be the most effective recruiting technique for Co-op positions.