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Understanding The Financial Considerations Of An Engineering Co-Op Program

On Aug 27, 2018

Is an engineering co-op program worth it? Here, we will explore the co-op program’s financial benefits and look at how Ball Systems has been a great place to kick off my career.

Let’s start off by looking at the finances. In a typical co-op, a college student alternates between school and work, typically making a long-term commitment to return to the company they started off with. My schedule looks like this:

co op pic 2

A co-op will give students access to more short-term income that can help them along through college, but that comes at the cost of delaying the opportunity to earn a full-time salary. Let’s look at some example numbers to clarify. These numbers are made up purely for concept explanation and do not necessarily represent real-world scenarios. Let’s say a budding engineering co-op earns $10 a year, but a full-time engineer can earn $20 a year.

co op pic 3

By the looks of it so far, a co-op doesn’t seem to make sense financially, at least from a longer-term point of view. Let’s throw a few more variables in to see how these might change the situation. 

  1. Student debt
  2. Experience value

Everybody’s financial situation going into college is different and there is no single point of advice I can give that will apply to everyone, but for those borrowing to go to school here is a good rule of thumb… paying debts early = quicker financial independence. And for those fortunate enough to be in a situation where borrowing isn’t necessary, access to more short-term finances presents an excellent opportunity to start investing in a retirement account!

Already having a full year of industry experience upon graduating makes for a much more valuable applicant to a lot of employers. Not only do co-op students usually get better employment opportunities, but the company that originally hired the student will often extend a job offer (as long as they didn’t blow up too many motors… not that I’ve ever been in that situation or anything). Let’s look at our finances with our new assumptions. A co-op student makes $10. A graduated non-co-op student makes $20. A graduated co-op student makes $25 because of the experience they can leverage when looking for their first job.
co op pic 1

This chart makes it clear that a co-op can give you access to both more short-term and long-term income if the student is able to use his or her work experience to get a higher paying post-graduation job.

Although there are innumerable financial benefits to joining a co-op, it’s not all about the money. The following comes from Purdue University’s website:

“All three work sessions are spent with the same employer, which allows for a strong relationship to build between the student and employer. As a result, students are able to work on longer, more important projects and are able to take on increasingly responsible and diverse roles in their work sessions.”

I’ve experienced these benefits first-hand at Ball Systems. Everyone here has been dedicated to helping me grow as both an engineering student and as a person. This first session has flown by, and I’m extremely grateful for the important rolls I’ve been given this summer. Coming in, I never would have thought I’d be assigned to help get our biggest project rolling through the door, but after just a month of working here, I had been given a long-term task that made my first engineering job more fun, stressful, fulfilling, and exciting than I ever could have hoped for. Ball Systems strives to make this a great place to work, and great employees get greater results.

Read more from our marketing intern this summer.

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