Most students leave high school knowing the next step is college, though the next step after college is more uncertain.
To uncover those steps students have the opportunity to take advantage of Auburn University's cooperative education or co-op program.
Judith Bailey is a senior at Auburn University graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering and in part of the co-op program. Through co-op, Bailey was connected with the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and spent the equivalent of a year and a half working there.
Job experience and connections are two of the most valuable assets that a college student has when looking for a job. Bailey, like many others who co-op, was given these assets resulting in the Marshall Space Flight Center offering her a job after graduation.
“Usually if you are a good co-op then you’re offered a job, of course if they’re hiring,” Bailey said.
The biggest deterrent for most students who hear about to co-op is that giving up at least a year during college to work means giving up on other parts of college life.
Bailey explains, “I’m a member of a lot of organizations. I also did study abroad for a year, so there are a bunch of things you can do even as you co-op.”
Bailey also explains that working a semester or summer does not disconnect the student from the university. “You are always connected to Auburn through the co-op program. You still get all of your Auburn e-mails; you know what’s going on at campus. If you co-op in the Southeast, there’s plenty of times you can come back for football games.”
Co-op is a great program to gain relevant work experience. It is different from an internship because every business has a salary that increases as the student progresses in college. Last year co-op wages, without benefits, reached $6.23 million.
Working with companies also gives students valuable insights into what career a student truly wants to pursue. Bailey explains, “You work somewhere, maybe you work in design, and you find out well, I don’t really like design I like building things more, so it kind of gives you an aspect of what you like.”
Another valuable lesson is how to interact with co-workers and work in a different environment.
“It’s a lot different then when you go out to a workplace and you have to deal with people who are older than you, younger than you, they are from different parts of the country,” Bailey explained. “So you kind of learn how to interact with people in a work environment instead of sitting in a class with somebody and just learning from a teacher.”
A rewarding aspect of co-op according to Bailey is accomplishing a project and seeing it used within the company.
“When you go to school, you sit in a classroom most of the time…but having that hands on experience where you are actually doing something that comes to fulfillment [and you get] to see what you work on go somewhere, help somebody is very fulfilling.”
A misconception about co-op is that it is only for a specific few majors. Academic disciplines typically recruited range from aerospace engineering to social work, covering more than 60 majors in six different colleges.
For more information on co-op visit www.auburn.edu/co-op
, the office at 104 Ramsay Hall or call 334-844-5410.