If you are considering an internship or co-op, here are are some common questions and answers that might help you feel more confident in pursuing an opportunity. Have more questions? Email careerengr@umd.edu.

Watch Student Panel Discussion: What is a Co-op & Why do It?

What is an internship?

  • An internship is a short-term, professional work experience that provides an opportunity to learn relevant skills and gain real-world experience in a particular field of study. Internships can be full time during the summer or part-time during the semester. They are typically about 10-12 weeks and can be paid or unpaid.

How do I find an internship?

  • There are multiple ways to find an internship; here at Engineering Career Services, we aim to help you in this process! We organize career fairs to give students and employers the opportunity to network with each other. Furthermore, make sure to check your email for the Career Engineer Newsletter about upcoming information sessions and applications. Applications for internship positions can be found on Careers4Engineers or C4E (you can also research specific companies and access GoinGlobal, another job board, through C4E). LinkedIn and other job boards also have posted positions. Additionally, networking can provide internship opportunities.

Do I need an internship to get a job?

  • While there are other ways to gain experience before landing a full-time position, an internship is a great way to build relevant skills and learn about professional work-environments. It allows students to experience what it would be like to work at specific companies and find what works for them, as well as helps to narrow down their interests. Internships also provide an opportunity to build a network and make connections. While not required, internships are definitely helpful experiences to have during the job-searching process.

When should I start looking for a position?

  • You should start the internship search as early as possible! However, no worries if you are not ready to start; you still have time! Employers have opportunities for students of all years and the application process is ongoing throughout both the fall and spring semesters for summer positions. Make sure to keep track of deadlines for specific companies and positions you are interested in. 

How can I find a summer internship abroad?

  • Please see the International Job Search tab on our Job Boards page for more information.

How can I get an internship with no experience?

  • Though you may not have previous job or internship experience, you can showcase your skills through your previous projects as a student. If an employer is looking for a skill that is related to a project you have completed, you can express that through your resume or in an interview. You can also network with employers during career fairs or information sessions and from there they can offer internship positions to you. Other things you can appeal to employers with are your experience with volunteering, competitions, or clubs. There are transferable skills that employers look for when hiring.

What salary should I expect as an intern?

  • Salary is company-dependent so make sure to do your research! Most companies offer hourly wages or stipends, potentially with a housing stipend for relocation. You can check websites, such as Glassdoor, to get an idea of what a typical intern salary may look like. Avoid asking about salary in interviews. Reference the Evaluating Salary and Job Offers handout or feel free to schedule a meeting with our career advisors to discuss your job offer. See the Salary Information page for the average internship salaries for engineering students at UMD. 

Can I negotiate my salary as an intern?

  • Salary negotiation is company dependent. Some companies view internships like any other position within their company and recruit the best talent possible at competitive salaries. If you feel that you have strong reasoning for why you deserve a higher salary as an intern, it never hurts to ask if the compensation is open for negotiation. The worst a company can say is “no”. Learn more in our Salary Negotiation Handout

Should I accept an unpaid internship?

  • Ultimately, this is a decision that is up to you. If you are in a position where you are able to accept an unpaid internship, it is still a great opportunity to gain experience and develop your skills. Unpaid internships can help to build your resume and provide you with real-world experience. However, it is natural to desire to be compensated for the work that you are doing and may be a necessity given the time you are dedicating to the experience. In this situation, we recommend looking further for experiences that will provide compensation. However, you can also apply for UMD’s Bright Futures Scholarship or the Glascock Fund (application).

What do I do if I have multiple internship offers?

  • Before committing to a company, compare your offers. Factors such as company culture, job description, relocation, and salary can assist in your decision. Once you accept an offer, you are obligated to it. View consequences of reneging on our policy webpage.

What is the typical amount of time worked in the summer as an intern?

  • A standard 40 hour week is typical for a full-time summer internship; however, some internships may be part-time (anywhere between 15-30 hours per week). 

What responsibilities can I expect in an internship?

  • The responsibilities of an internship position are very job dependent. Refer to the job description for expected responsibilities and tasks. As an intern, expect to contribute to meaningful work for the company. It is possible you will be working on projects with a team of other interns or a team with full-time employees. 

What can I expect for my first day?

What are my rights as an intern?

What if I am assigned something out of my ability?

  • Internships provide an opportunity to further develop your skills and learn new knowledge from professionals in the field. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and let your supervisor or teammates know that you need help with a task. You are not expected to know everything! Don’t doubt your qualifications- you were hired for a reason! 

How do I gauge the formality of an end-of-internship presentation?

  • If you are unsure, ask your supervisor or presentation organizer.

How much should I interact in meetings?

  • It’s natural to feel nervous at first; however, people want you to be engaged, interactive, and curious. You are being paid for your opinions and ideas. Trust yourself and don’t undervalue what you can bring to the table. The fresh set of eyes that an intern has can be extremely valuable in finding new perspectives on a given topic. 
  • However, it is important to do the prep work before showing up to a meeting. Have an idea of who will be attending the meeting and the objective of a given meeting. All of this information should be in the meeting invitation, but, if it is not, reach out to the organizer. Write down any questions/initial thoughts/research you have done prior to the meeting. This prep work can save you a lot of stress in trying to think of something to say in the moment. 
  • To avoid this stress you may want to consider cooperating with a co-worker or supervisor you feel comfortable with. If they know you have done some research in advance they can help set up an “assist” for you that may look something like this: “[intern name] and I were talking earlier about this. [intern name] would you like to share some of your thoughts?”. Don’t learn to rely on these assists but they can really help you break the ice in meetings and become an integrated contributor. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to always deliver eloquent additions. Your role as an intern is not to always have the correct answers. Contributing probing questions are just as useful and important as comprehensive answers. 

What are best practices for communication?

  • Establish effective communication with your supervisor and colleagues to optimize your internship experience. Ask for individuals’ communication preferences (meetings, emails, chats, etc.); be mindful of replying to all emails (even if it’s a brief “thanks!”); and practice speaking succinctly. 

What should I avoid in an internship?

  • Internships are learning experiences, so it’s best to avoid pessimism. Instead of thinking “I didn’t perform well”, “I don’t like this job”, “I don’t know how to perform this calculation”, etc., look at everything with a growth mindset: “I can learn from my mistakes”, “I have learned what I value in a job”, “I can grow my network to learn how to perform this calculation”. Keeping a positive attitude and not being afraid to ask for help will help ensure you get a lot out of an internship experience. 

I don’t think this internship is the right fit for me, how do I proceed?

  • Take time to collect thoughts regarding why you think your current situation is not the right fit for you: What do you want to gain from an internship? What were your expectations going in and how does the situation differ from these expectations? What are you currently learning? What are you not learning that you would like to learn? What are your relationships like with those around you? What would you change about your current citations? What would you keep the same about your current situation?
  • Reach out to Engineering Career Services (careerengr@umd.edu) to discuss your situation and brainstorm next steps.
  • Talk with your supervisor or internship coordinator. There may be flexibility for you to join a different team or department that you are curious about. You won’t know until you ask. 
  • If flexibility is not available, focus on avoiding tunnel vision and look for chances to volunteer and learn new things even if these opportunities are not right in front of you. Build connections and work to expose yourself to new skills and ideas and  utilize LinkedIn and company specific networking platforms.
  • If you feel that you have exhausted your ability to find new opportunities in a given situation, focus on learning one thing from the internship. This could be one new skill to put on your resume or how to deal with difficult people. Internships are a way to learn how to make opportunities and deal with professional environments. Internships are also inherently valuable in showing you what you don’t want in a future job. Your overall experience will still be worthwhile in your future applications.

What should I do at the end of an internship?

  • As the end of your internship approaches, make sure to thank your supervisor and teammates, as well as any other mentors that offered guidance, and ask if you can exchange contact information so that you can stay in touch.
  • If you are interested in returning for another internship or full-time position, you can ask your supervisor about any future opportunities and inquire if that is a possibility.
  • It is a good idea to ask your supervisor if you can use them as a reference in the future, as well, and go over a performance review of your work from the internship so you know how you can improve.
  • Don’t forget to compile a list of your experiences from throughout the internship and update your resume with this information! 

What is a co-op?

  • A co-op is an opportunity to gain professional work experience in a particular industry by alternating semesters of full-time study and full-time, paid employment. The non-credit Engineering Co-op Program allows students to maintain student status while working a co-op. 

How does a co-op differ from an internship?

  • Co-ops provide a more in-depth and extensive work experience by allowing students the opportunity to work for a company for a longer period of time. You may receive additional training or work on more significant projects, simply because you will work more hours than as an intern. Additionally, while internships can be paid or unpaid, co-ops are typically paid for a full-time wage during a work term. 

How will I graduate on time with a co-op? 

  • While some may be able to graduate at their expected graduation time after completing a co-op (by taking concurrent or summer/winter classes), it is common for students to push back their graduation a semester or two. However, don’t let this stop you from pursuing a co-op! Co-ops can help you achieve your career goals, and a small difference in graduation date is unlikely to matter in the long run, especially when full-time offers from co-ops are likely upon graduation.

What benefits do I get as a co-op employee?

  • Generally, benefits are reserved for full-time hires, although you might find that you can accrue leave while on co-op. Make sure to read your offer letter and company policies for details. If you are in doubt about your benefits, contact your company’s HR representative. 

Will I get hired full-time after I graduate?

  • While it is not guaranteed that you will be hired full-time after you graduate, it is a possibility*! Make sure to put your best foot forward throughout your co-op, and try to network with the professionals that you meet. However, some companies may not be hiring full-time when you graduate. In this scenario, is it still useful to have experience and connections with that company, and it may be a possibility in the future. Make sure to stay in touch with your supervisor and mentors! *Employers are not obligated to offer you a permanent position after a co-op, and you are not obligated to accept such an offer if it is made.

Does my major offer a co-op program? 

  • All undergraduate engineering students are encouraged to consider co-ops.

How will I pay for my tuition during a co-op?

  • Students who are only registered for the 0 credit ENCO course during the fall or spring semester are only charged $78 for the course. Since students are not charged student activity or athletic fees, they may lose access to some campus activities or services, such as free student athletic or performing arts tickets, or RecWell facilities. Students enrolled in additional courses during a co-op will be charged tuition based on the number of credits they take. If the course is dropped before the first day of classes, a 100% refund is issued. There will be a significant decrease in the refund amount after classes start, and after the schedule adjustment period ends, there will be no refund.

Can I keep my scholarship with a co-op?

  • Each type of grant, loan, and scholarship has its own requirements of enrollment status. Is important to determine how participating in a co-op will affect these awards early on in the process. Contact an advisor in the Office of Student Financial Aid (umfinaid@umd.edu, 0102 Lee Building) prior to accepting a co-op. You may be able to defer the award to future semesters, but arrangements must be made in advance with the scholarship administrator. Send an email to sfa-scholarships@umd.edu, including your name, UID, and a copy of your signed offer letter (on company letterhead) that includes the start and end dates of your co-op position.

How long can I do a co-op?

  • Co-ops typically last anywhere from 3-12 months. Participants of a co-op may commit to multiple terms with an employer, either consequently or spread out in between semesters of full-time classes. Ultimately, the length of a co-op will be dependent on the company and position. You may be asked to provide proof to Engineering Career Services that your departmental academic advisor approves of your work/study plan if you will participate in two consecutive co-op semesters in order to enroll in the 0 credit co-op course.

How late can I start a co-op?

  • You can begin a co-op at any point during your undergraduate career.

Can I do a co-op while attending school?

  • Because the nature of a co-op is typically full-time work, it may be difficult to attend school full-time in addition to a co-op. Furthermore, some co-ops may require relocation, so in-person classes would not be possible. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to take virtual classes part-time during a co-op.
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