Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Computer Science

Co-op instructions for undergrad CS


Through the assistance of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Cooperative Education Office, formal arrangements are established with industry that permit students to rotate four-month terms between the workplace and the classroom. At the University of Pittsburgh, this rotation begins after the completion of the sophomore year, and extends into the senior year, with the Co-op student completing at least two four-month work rotations. These rotations, which are typically but not necessarily with the same employer, allow job duties to increase as the knowledge and skills of the student progress.

During Co-op rotations, students earn competitive salaries.

APPLYING AND ENROLLING

In order to register for the Computer Science Co-op Program, the student must submit the following materials to the School of Computing and Information Cooperative Education Coordinator, Alka Singh (adsingh@pitt.edu):

  • Provide evidence of major declaration in Computer Science and of good academic standing – this is done by providing an unofficial transcript submitted in person – free to students at G3 Thackeray Hall
  • Complete the Co-op statement of understanding online
  • After the statement of understanding, login with your Pitt ID to complete this personal information form
  • Provide a resumé (submitted in person or by email – must be in pdf, word .doc , or word .docx format)
  • Provide completed Co-Op Schedule form submitted in person or by email. This form must be approved by the CS undergraduate office

APPLICATION DATES

Students apply to the Co-op Program at least one semester before they begin their rotations (in many cases, this is well before you have a Co-op employment offer). In order to be eligible for all positions, please see the following dates for paperwork completion.*

  • Spring Co-op: End of September
  • Summer Co-op: End of January
  • Fall Co-op: End of May
  • *These deadlines are established with the student’s best interests in mind. It is still possible for a student to apply after these dates, however, this student will have missed out on opportunities.

Students on Co-op assignment are still responsible for getting themselves registered for classes in the term following their Co-op term. Some assistance may be provided by the engineering Co-op office. Additional assistance may be provided by the Computer Science Department.

For more information, see the Cooperative Education Home Page. If you are interested in the Co-op program, your first point of contact should be the SCI Co-op Coordinator, not the CS Department.

SCI Co-op Education Contact:
Alka Singh
520 IS Building
412-624-0879
adsingh@pitt.edu

CS Co-op Coordinator/Advisor:
John Ramirez
(412) 624-8441
ramirez@cs.pitt.edu

 

CO-OP CAPSTONE OPTION

Completion of at least 2 four-month Co-op rotations and a summary paper can be used by a Computer Science major to satisfy the Capstone graduation requirement. However, the Co-op does not count in place of any regular Computer Science courses.

In addition to receiving an “S” grade for at least two co-op rotations, students using their cooperative education experience for their capstone requirement must complete an 8-10 page paper as the final requirement. This paper must be completed in the term following your final co-op rotation. The deadlines are as follows:

Final Co-op Term Paper Deadline
Fall March 1
Spring June 30
Summer October 15


The topic should be an examination / explanation of your co-op both from a technical point of view (projects you did, things you learned, etc) and from an experiential point of view (workplace issues, organization, etc).

Please use a standard format (.doc, .docx, .pdf) and submit via email to Dr. Ramirez. You are strongly encouraged to have your paper reviewed by the Writing Center  http://www.writingcenter.pitt.edu/ prior to submission.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to most of your questions can be found by reading the undergraduate Co-op Handbook, which is used by Engineering, Computer Science, and Information Science undergraduate students.  However, answer to the most common questions asked about Co-op are also below:

How do I register for Co-op credits once I have an offer, and how much does this cost?
You will need to provide a copy of your offer letter to the SCI Co-op Coordinator (Alka Sing) that must include:

  • a description of the position
  • duration of the position (start and end dates for each rotation)
  • salary
  • name and contact information of on-site supervisor
  • verification that the position is full time

If you are an international student, you will also need to apply for CPT through My OIS. As a Computer Science undergraduate co-op student, you will then be registered for a one credit course entitled CS 1906 – Computer Science Cooperative Program. The fee for this course is $325 plus the safety and transportation fee, activity fee and prorated computer fee. Students will be registered for this course prior to the commencement of each work term. After completing three terms, registration for the co-op credit is optional (unless you are an international student on an F-1 Visa – please see Alka Singh for details). Regardless of whether you register or not, if you remain with your co-op employer for additional terms, we still consider you part of the co-op. 

Note: Students do not pay the standard university resident or non-resident per-credit charges, the co-op substitutes instead. University tuition charges can be found at: https://ir.pitt.edu/tuition-rates-fees/

Am I able to take classes while I am on a work rotation?

 Students cannot take any coursework during the first work rotation unless necessary. During subsequent co-op rotations, as per the guidelines established by our Deans and Faculty, students are permitted to take a maximum of one evening course per Co-op rotation. Of course, if you travel or work overtime, check with your employer before committing to a class. Approval to take this course must be granted by BOTH your site supervisor AND the Computer Science Co-op Coordinator.

 

What work hour and duration criteria must I satisfy for the experience to be allowed as a Co-op experience?
a minimum of 2 rotations, a maximum of 4 rotations
a minimum of 32 hours per week and a maximum of 40 hours per week
15 weeks is preferred per rotation, as low as 12 weeks per rotation is accepted

Can I participate in Co-op in my final term of study?
No - students cannot graduate in a co-op semester

Can I telecommute?
No – the experience must be at the employer’s physical location; if the work environment is dispersed across multiple locations, the student must work at the physical location of the on-site supervisor.

What is the difference between Co-op and an internship?
A Co-op is a multiple rotation full-time only experience that is agreed to up-front and which requires students to map out how they will still achieve semester-by-semester graduation requirements in a timely fashion.   A student must be registered for 1 academic Co-op credit per Co-op rotation, the fee structure is different for the Co-op credit than a “normal” credit course, and a student is defined as a full-time student during each Co-op rotation through enrollment in the 1-credit Co-op course.  Co-op credits cannot be directly counted towards fulfilling degree requirements, but if the capstone option of Co-op is achieved, the capstone requirement is met (but the student would still need 120 relevant credits other than Co-op in order to graduate).

An internship is a 3 credit practical experience with a strong academic component that: a) directly applies to degree requirements, b) does not have to be paid, c) can involve an employer with whom we do not have to establish a formal Co-op relationship, and d) can be part-time.

Can I switch an experience from Co-op to internship or Internship to Coop?
No – this determination must be made in advance of any work done for the employer; once you have committed to a Co-op with an employer your experience with that employer must remain a Co-op experience.  If you have committed to an internship with an employer, your experience with that employer must remain an internship. 

If I am an international student studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, what work authorization issues do I need to consider?

  • Co-op registration must be designated as full-time
  • The work must be related to the degree

Work authorization can be achieved as CPT or pre-completion OPT, but CPT is most common.  However, please note that CPT authorization cannot extend beyond 12 months or OPT is negated.