Internship vs. Co-Op: What is the Difference?

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work experience

Oftentimes, while applying for jobs, a requirement may be “relevant work experience.” For people considering entering into a new career in insurance, it is important to know how to fulfill that requirement.

Engaging in internship or co-op opportunities can help job seekers be better prepared for the application process, and help them ultimately land their desired job. But what is the difference between internships and co-ops?

Internships

Internships are an opportunity for a student or trainee to gain work experience for a short, defined period of time. An intern receives work experience with an organization to gain relevant skills in a particular field. These opportunities can be paid or unpaid, and for college credits or simply for experience.

Typically internships have a small time commitment, so they can be done by high school or college students who also have to spend significant time on their academic studies. An internship can also serve as a test drive of what a career in a given field may be like. Therefore, internships give the opportunity to experiment and see if a career is or is not a good fit.

Co-Ops

Co-ops, also known as cooperative education positions, generally refer to a full time position commonly occupied by students. Like internships, they are used to gain work experience with an organization to gain relevant skills.

Unlike internships these opportunities are often more time consuming (30-40 hours a week), and are completed in times alternating with traditional academic studies. Co-ops are also sometimes multi-term, meaning there may be an agreement to work multiple terms alternating with a student’s school terms. When engaging in a co-op, you want to be more confident that this is the career path you would like to pursue, considering the time and effort invested.

Which is best for you?

Depending on the time you are able to commit and your career goals, which opportunity is best for you will vary. Consult with educators and industry professionals in the career you are seeking. They will be best to advise which opportunity may be best for your career path.

Keep in mind, any opportunity for industry experience is positive and can help set you apart from other candidates. Check out resources at ohiohighered.org to learn more about internships and co-ops and explore what opportunities may be available in your area of interest.

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