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Cooperative Education


The objectives of cooperative education programs are to:

  • Provide educational and work experiences which are directly related to curricula and the student's career goals.
  • Develop student understanding of employment demands, responsibilities, and opportunities.
  • Provide career experience with an opportunity for continuing formal education.
  • Provide an opportunity for the student to apply principles and techniques learned on campus in real life problem-solving situations and to gain a better understanding of the decision-making and implementation process.


Cooperative education refers to an evaluated career education program that provides an opportunity for students to alternate periods of academic study with multiple periods of off-campus full-time employment. The program is designed to give students off-campus experiences that are closely integrated with and which enrich their total education and their academic and/or career goals. The student receives remuneration and university credit. (Example: Student spends two alternating periods with a business, government, educational, etc., organization.)

For information on internship programs, which typically consist of academic term-length assignments, please see Cal Poly’s Internships policy.


  1. Educational values to be obtained from the program must be clearly stated and understood both by the university and the employer. The educational values must be commensurate with the academic credit offered both as to curriculum level and equivalent hours.
  2. Remunerative aspects, if any, should be at a level commensurate with the job to be performed.
  3. Course credit may be given according to the following:
    • Preparation time required by the student outside of working hours is comparable to that of courses offered on campus.
    • Undergraduate students may receive up to 16 quarter units of credit on completion of the equivalent of a full quarter's cooperative education and submission of an acceptable final report. A maximum of 16 quarter units may be credited toward the bachelor's degree.
    • Grading shall be on a Credit/No Credit or letter grade basis as deemed appropriate by the student's department.
    • Graduate or postbaccalaureate students may earn up to 9 quarter units of cooperative education credit toward the master's degree. Letter grades will be assigned by the department cooperative education coordinator in conjunction with student's adviser and organization manager.
  4. Undergraduate students should normally have a 2.5 or better GPA to qualify for an cooperative education assignment. Graduate students will be Classified Graduates.
  5. The student and the program must be acceptable to the employer. Both the student and the program must be approved by the college dean. Selection of the student will be based on personal interviews and faculty recommendations where appropriate.


  1. The student will periodically submit written reports to the assigned faculty as required. At least one written report is required for each four quarter units of credit awarded.
  2. The student will function as an employee subject to all the duties and responsibilities of employees engaged in comparable work.
  3. The faculty supervisor will normally schedule at least one evaluative conference with the student and employer during the off-campus period.
  4. The total academic and outside workload of the student must be at such a level that the student can reasonably be expected to succeed.
  5. The employer of a full-time student may discontinue the cooperative education program at any time on one-week notice with a clear statement of the reason for the termination. If the termination is not due to failure of the student, where academic credit is part of the program, the student may be given credit for each week of a completed and reported program.
  6. The faculty supervisor may recommend termination to the dean of the college with a written statement of sufficient reason for the termination.
  7. If the student performs productive work for the employer, the employer may pay the student such compensation as may be determined. The employer should provide protection of the student by insurance, worker's compensation, or other essential protection. The contract with the employer should include a statement of this responsibility.


Campus Administrative Manual: "Academic Affairs" (PDF) (1973) (pdf).

Last updated: 6/27/2023

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