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Internships and Co-ops

Internships and Co-ops (summer and semester) provide students with a competitive advantage when seeking full-time career opportunities in industry. These programs enable students to gain up to a full year of professional work experience and to explore career paths in-depth.

  • Co-op Program – Student alternates terms of work with terms of school, working at least two semesters and one summer with the same company (approximately 12 months total).
  • Semester Intern – Student works one time period of 4-7 months with a company (spring or fall semester may be combined with a summer).
  • Summer Intern – Student works for one company during a summer (2-3 months). Students may complete multiple internships in their academic career.

Benefits of Participating in a Co-op or Internship Program

  • Experience first-hand what practicing chemists/chemical engineers do
  • Earn money to finance education
  • Potentially secure a full-time job offer before graduation
  • Start professional career early
  • Develop communication and teamwork skills in a professional setting
  • Build and apply technical knowledge and skills
  • Identify and refine career goals
  • Receive higher pay and status after graduation



Isaac Nathan Strain ChBE, Class of 2017

“Taking a co-op was the best decision of my college career. With the industry experience I gained, I returned to school with a greater understanding and applied it to the following semester. I achieved my first ever semester of straight A’s and attribute it all to the learnings I acquired from my co-op. For anyone interested in attaining industry experience, growing their intellect, or making some good money, I’d highly recommend taking a semester to take advantage of a co-op!”Isaac Nathan Strain

Cooperative Education Programs

As you consider your education in Chemical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we would like to take the opportunity to inform you of our Cooperative Education Program. The School of Chemical Sciences sponsors a thriving cooperative program. The word “cooperative” in this context means that three parties are participating and hold joint responsibility: the Student, the University, and the Employer. In this program industrial companies are cooperating with the departments to provide practical professional work assignments for our students. An integral part of the program is the experience of working full time for an industrial firm during several different school terms. During the other school terms, of course, students attend the University full time to complete their academic degree requirements. The total program involves extending the completion of the baccalaureate degree by no more than one calendar year.

Participation in the cooperative education program is indicated on the University of Illinois transcript by official registration in special courses. That is, while on each work assignment, the student is officially registered in the University of Illinois as a student participating in an off-campus program. Completion of a minimum of three work assignments is recognized by a certificate issued by the School of Chemical Sciences.

Through the work assignments, which become increasingly more challenging and professionally oriented, our students acquire invaluable industrial experience. This experience will be beneficial to the student who plans to seek industrial employment immediately following graduation and to the student who will pursue a graduate degree before seeking full time employment. The work assignments give students a chance to apply the knowledge which they are learning in the classroom in a practical situation. It also allows students to find out what actually goes on in industrial organizations.

Another major factor which students find attractive about cooperative education is the salary. Most cooperative students are paid a competitive salary during their work assignments, and are able to save enough to defray a portion of their school expenses. Additional benefits are offered by many companies, including relocation expense coverage, tuition expenses, and job offers upon graduation. Cooperative education is among our most substantial financial aid programs.

Interviews for cooperative education assignments are typically held on campus in the fall semester, with some additional interviews during the spring semester. If you wish to discuss the program in more detail or express your interest in it, please make an appointment with Patricia Simpson, Coordinator of the Cooperative Education Program in Chemical Sciences, 105 Noyes Lab, in the fall of your freshman year. For help planning your academic program, please see the SCS Advising Office.


Internships are different from Cooperative Education experiences, as we define them. An internship is a one-time work experience that is most commonly in the summer or sometimes during a semester. Students who plan to do an internship during a fall or spring semester are expected to register for Chemistry 295 or ChBE 210, as appropriate. If the internship is repeated with the same company it is still considered an internship. It is also possible for a student to have several internships with different companies, thus allowing a student to obtain multiple experiences in various industries.

For an experience to be considered a cooperative education experience, a student must have applied for the program and work a minimum of three terms with the same company (only one term may be summer). Student interns are typically paid quite well. Companies may also provide additional benefits including relocation/housing expenses and potential job offers upon graduation.

Although some interviews for internship positions are held during the spring semester, most internships are quite competitive and thus positions typically fill early in the fall semester.

More Information

For more information, please contact Patricia Simpson at (217) 333-1051 or

Check out potential Chemistry careers on the American Chemical Society website.