group working together

What Is Co-Op/Internship?

Columbia State Community College believes students can develop needed skills by engaging in challenging and interesting situations in the workplace.

This 'applied learning' can provide opportunities for students to develop their abilities in 'real world' work environments. The Co-Op program is flexible and tailored to meet the aptitudes and career interests of each student.

Co-Op is similar to an independent study course. The student, with assistance from the workplace supervisor and faculty sponsor, establishes learning objectives at the beginning of the Co-Op period. The reports from the workplace supervisor and visits by the faculty sponsor will assure that each student obtains maximum benefit from the program. Successful completion of the Co-Op will allow the earning of college credit for the course. A grade of Pass or No Pass will be determined by the supervisor's recommendation and faculty evaluation of student achievement.

Although there is no guarantee of Co-Op placement, every effort is made to place students. If compensation is involved, the rate of pay is established between the employer and the student. The employer pays wages directly to the student.

To identify potential workforce partners visit the Columbia State Community College Career Services webpage,  or HOT JOBS & INTERNSHIPS:

Required Documents

Co-Op Agreement
Co-Op Midterm Evaluation
Co-Op Final Workplace Evaluation

Staff / Faculty Sponsors:

Required forms for completion by FACULTY SPONSORS (Instructors and/or Academic Deans) located in Charger Net MyCN under Faculty & Advisor TAB then on right hand side scroll down under Faculty Documents

COP 201 through 206 Cooperative Education (1-6 hours)

This course is a practical work experience in an industry or business related to the students major field of student. Close communication is maintained between employer and co-op staff (instructor or dean) to ensure maximum benefit to the student. This course should allow students to explore the field in which their vocational interests lie and determine whether it is suitable for them. This course may be used as a general elective upon co-op staff approval. Students will be required to work a minimum of 60 hours for each credit hour earned. Students may repeat co-op courses to maximum total of six credit hours.

COP 201 Cooperative Education (60 hours minimum)
COP 202 Cooperative Education (120 hours minimum)
COP 203 Cooperative Education (180 hours minimum)
COP 204 Cooperative Education (240 hours minimum)
COP 205 Cooperative Education (300 hours minimum)
COP 206 Cooperative Education (360 hours minimum)
Grading of CO-OP Courses is on a Pass/No Pass Basis.


Permission of instructor required.

How Do I Enroll in Co-Op?

  • Must Meet the following criteria:
  • A minimum GPA of 2.0
  • Permission of your faculty sponsor
  • In order to qualify for entry and to continue in the program,
  • students must not engage in conduct that results in college disciplinary sanctions or academic penalties.

Complete these steps:

  • Complete cooperative education application (available in the Academic Division offices and/or administrative offices of the Extended Campus locations)
  • Obtain approval/signature from faculty sponsor
  • Discuss potential placement with faculty sponsor
  • Contact potential employer and schedule interview
  • Notify faculty sponsor of interview results
  • Faculty sponsor will register you in the appropriate co-op course when you have a placement
Start early - Registration deadlines for Co-Op courses are the same as for any other course

The Internet... Best Sites for Finding Internships “is a winner” among internship search sites “because of its connection to colleges and universities.” Duke is one of many schools that use the site as a springboard for students. It’s loaded with listings, and filters for customized searches. caters to those seeking a position with a nonprofit. “Easily sort internships by their area of focus, whether they’re paid or unpaid, and even by language.”
Source: “boasts the largest job board in the United States for media professionals.” Its listing of media internships is the most thorough available.

Keys To A Successful Intern Program
By Melanie McNary, SPHR
Developing and running a successful intern program involves much more than just calling a school and telling them to send over some intern candidates. Whether you are targeting high school or college students, careful thought, planning, relationship building and preparation are necessary if you want to avoid wasting time and money while realizing the short and long term benefits of being able to “try before you buy” entry-level talent. Here are some of my lessons learned in the course of managing intern programs:
  1. Gain support for the program from your senior leadership. Ensure they understand the value of building this pipeline of talent.
  2. If you are recruiting from out of town, consider budgeting for your interns’ housing expense. Housing can be a deciding factor when an intern is making the decision to accept your internship.
  3. Build relationships with students and establish employment branding across your targeted schools so their career services staff send you the best and brightest talent for your program.
  4. Seventy-five to eighty percent of your interns should be graduating within the next year so you have good availability for full-time hires.
  5. Your intern candidates should know your process and timeline. Create a project plan that includes a timeline for sourcing, manager interviews, offers, background checks. Follow up closely during your process. You can risk losing talented candidates if you let them hang out too long without communication.
  6. Hiring managers should create “Learning Agreements” in advance to ensure your interns have meaningful tasks and projects that contribute to the organizational goals. Menial tasks are a part of all of our jobs but should be limited for your interns.
  7. Ensure interns have an opportunity to meet senior executives and network with other leaders across the company. Bringing interns together weekly over breakfast or lunch for business presentations is a great opportunity. Include a formal orientation with a senior executive welcome and an end of program luncheon with your CEO.
  8. Find opportunities to rotate your interns through different departments for greater exposure and experience. A cross functional project for the intern group would be meaningful.
  9. Partner with local business associations to attend events as a group within the city after hours to showcase your city and allow interns to network with each other.
  10. Create a formal process for obtaining feedback on your program from your interns and hiring managers so you can improve the program each year. Share the feedback from your interns with your hiring managers. Ensure managers give interns feedback on their performance for their development.
  11. Finally, ask your managers to commit to hiring a certain number of interns who perform successfully. If you hire the best and brightest convincing them to plan for hires will be easier. Also, intern candidates will ask how many interns are hired full-time since that will be their goal when they graduate. Interns can be a great source of future talent for your organization. A well-designed and actively managed program can ensure your intern investment pays off, both in the short and long term.
Melanie McNary, SPHR, is a Vice President of Human Resources with Protective Life in Birmingham

New Department of Labor Guidelines on Internships By Penny Loretto
How to Decide if an Internship Needs to be Paid or Not

The recently issued New Federal Guidelines on Internships could affect the number of internships companies offer in the future. Based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was created to ensure that all workers be paid at least a fair minimum wage, the federal government is now cracking down on unpaid internships to discourage employers from the practice of having interns work for free.

According to The Department of Labor, the following six legal criteria must be applied when making a determination if an internship is required to be paid.

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

In the past, unpaid internships have become a common practice amongst companies. In order for an internship to be academic worthy, students doing internships in conjunction with their college coursework are expected to gain hands-on experience that helps them develop the knowledge and skills required to gain entry into their field. The New Guidelines could affect the quality of internships since one of the criteria states the employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.

The distinction that the New Guidelines are looking to enforce is that internships are for educational training rather than having interns do the work of regular employees. Many employers spend considerable time training and mentoring their interns and do not derive much benefit from having them complete an internship with the organization. While other organizations expect interns to jump right in and do the same work as a regular employee. An unfortunate result of strict adherence to the New Guidelines and in interpreting the issue of the legality of unpaid internships could make it more difficult for students to find internships in the future.

United States Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

Fact Sheet #71:
Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

This fact sheet provides general information to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to “for-profit” private sector employers.


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the term “employ” very broadly as including to “suffer or permit to work.”  Covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer.  Internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met.  Interns in the “for-profit” private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.*

The Test For Unpaid Interns

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation.  The Supreme Court has held that the term "suffer or permit to work" cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction.  This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria.  The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.  This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad.  Some of the most commonly discussed factors for “for-profit” private sector internship programs are considered below.

Similar To An Education Environment And The Primary Beneficiary Of The Activity

In general, the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit).  The more the internship provides the individual with skills that can be used in multiple employment settings, as opposed to skills particular to one employer’s operation, the more likely the intern would be viewed as receiving training.  Under these circumstances the intern does not perform the routine work of the business on a regular and recurring basis, and the business is not dependent upon the work of the intern.  On the other hand, if the interns are engaged in the operations of the employer or are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work, or assisting customers), then the fact that they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits will not exclude them from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements because the employer benefits from the interns’ work.

Displacement And Supervision Issues

If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.  If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA.  Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience.  On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training.

Job Entitlement

The internship should be of a fixed duration, established prior to the outset of the internship.  Further, unpaid internships generally should not be used by the employer as a trial period for individuals seeking employment at the conclusion of the internship period.  If an intern is placed with the employer for a trial period with the expectation that he or she will then be hired on a permanent basis, that individual generally would be considered an employee under the FLSA.

Where to Obtain Additional Information

This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.

For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website: and/or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

* The FLSA makes a special exception under certain circumstances for individuals who volunteer to perform services for a state or local government agency and for individuals who volunteer for humanitarian purposes for private non-profit food banks. WHD also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations.  Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible. WHD is reviewing the need for additional guidance on internships in the public and non-profit sectors.

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