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Get paid to gain in-depth experience in industry while a student

Science Co-Op Program

Co-op experiences are full-time jobs, typically two semesters long, where you’re expected to work 40 hours per week. During this time, you’ll remain a full-time student, but you’ll only register for one to three credits each semester.


Co-Op Program Features

Academic: A co-op is an academic program in which students earn credit for 2+ semesters of employment related to their majors.

Structure: Co-op experiences are typically two semesters long (Summer+Fall or Spring+Summer). Students are registered for 1-3 credits of SC 295 during the first semester and 1-3 credits SC 395 during their second. If there is a third semester, students may register for 1-3 credits of SC 495. Academic advisers can help determine the best way to use the credit. Depending on major, co-op courses may fulfill practicum or elective degree requirements.

Full-time: Co-ops are full-time jobs; typically students work 40 hours/week for the duration of the experience. Students participating in co-ops remain full-time Penn State students, though they are only registered (and pay) for 1-3 credits/semester.

Paid: Students are paid for their experiences – employers determine the rate of pay based on the job and level of skill.

English 202C option:  Interested co-op students have the option of compiling a portfolio of technical writing samples to submit to the English Department during completion of the second co-op assignment (SC 395) to earn credit for the English 202C requirement.

Co-Op Program Guidelines

  • You need completion of at least 30 credits, a 2.0 overall grade point average, be progressing in your degree program and be in good academic standing.
  • The co-op experience must be related in some way to your academic plan and educational goals.
  • Approval of academic credit and subsequent course registration in LionPATH must occur before starting the co-op experience. Since retroactive enrollment is not permitted, you need to apply in advance.
  • Your degree program is among the following:
    • an Eberly College of Science major; all science majors at all Penn State locations are eligible
    • a science-oriented major (ex. Toxicology, Immunology, Animal Bioscience, Biobehavioral Health, etc.).


Apply to the Science Co-Op Program

Complete the following steps to apply to receive credit for your co-op experience. Remember: You must complete this process before your co-op starts.

  1. Obtain a copy of your offer letter on company stationery. Your offer letter must contain the following information:
    • date
    • job title
    • exact start and end dates
    • hours to be worked per week
    • specific address of where you will be working
    • brief description of duties (specifically what you will be doing and either how or why you are doing that activity)
    • employer signature and the signer’s name and title
    • Here is a copy of these Offer Letter Components that you can use to help with the preparation of this letter.
  2. Meet with your academic adviser to complete and sign the Science Co-Op - Adviser Approval Form.
  3. In LionPATH, please accept Financial Responsibility and make sure there are no holds on your account.  Our office cannot register you for classes until this is done.
  4. Read and agree to the co-op Participation Agreement & Ethics Statement.
  5. Apply through the relevant online application form (see below) and submit all required materials.

Co-Op Registration Form

For BS/MBA majors, please contact Dr. Beth Johnson for your Co-Op form. 


If you are interested in participating in the Science Co-Op Program, please contact Dr. Tiffany A. Mathews ( for more information.


You will receive an hourly salary or stipend during your co-op that is equivalent to your level of experience and the job responsibilities. Salary rates vary from organization to organization, as well as from region to region.

Regardless of your intended educational or career path, participation in the Co-op Program will provide an opportunity for you to gain hands-on experience in a specific discipline, and exposure a professional environment with access to learning opportunities. Many co-op supervisors will provide letters of recommendation to graduate and professional school programs.

Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology: Centocor, GlaxoSmithKline, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Morphotek, VaxInnate, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Emerson Resources, Global Biological Supply Chain (J&J)

Government Agencies: National Institutes of Health, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, FBI

Non-Profit Organizations: Fox Chase Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Private Sector Organizations: IBM, Lutron Electronics, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Steel

This is only a sample of the employers who have participated in the Science Co-op Program. You can view the complete current list when you register with the program.

Since you retain your full-time student status while on co-op, you still should be considered a dependent for health insurance coverage purposes. If an insurance carrier requires verification of your full-time student status, you can request an Academic Verification.

Our office is able to assist you in your search for summer-only internships.

Yes, but hiring policies for non-U.S. citizens vary from organization to organization. You must indicate your citizenship status in your on-line profile so employers with any hiring restrictions will be aware of your status before contacting you for an interview. Once a position has been offered, you will need to complete all of the necessary Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and request documents to obtain approval for CPT before starting your assignment.

As a co-op student, you’ll acquire the necessary skills and experience to excel in a variety of work environments. If you are seeking full-time employment after graduation from Penn State, you may find that your co-op experiences and contacts will open employment doors that may be closed to those who have no practical work experience related to their discipline.

If you have already paid full tuition, a refund will be made with no fees or charges for the late notification. You will be released from your dorm contract for the semester you are completing a co-op, you are obligated to the remainder of the contract when you return to campus. It is your responsibility to notify the Housing Office of your plans.

Yes! Any Penn State student who meets the eligibility requirements (2.0 GPA, 30 credits completed, etc.) may participate in the Co-op Program. With web registration and on-line job postings, it’s easy for students at non-UP locations to participate. All correspondence with the Office of Science Engagement can be conducted remotely so we can ensure your needs are being met. Students in science-related majors in other colleges also are eligible; contact us if you have questions about whether or not you’re eligible to participate!

We are happy to work with you to determine if the assignment is appropriate for co-op credit. Contact our office to have your assignment reviewed. If your position is approved as a co-op, then you will need to provide all of the usual application materials and comply with the program policies.

You must be enrolled for the appropriate co-op course for one, two, or three credits during each of your co-op semesters, including summer semesters. You only pay tuition for the number of credits you take. Please contact the institution(s) that are offering you financial aid to determine whether or not participation in the Science Co-Op Program will have an impact.