Internships and Co-ops (summer and semester) provide students with a competitive advantage when seeking full-time career opportunities in industry. These programs enable students to gain up to a full year of professional work experience and to explore career paths in-depth.
- Co-op Program – Student alternates terms of work with terms of school, working at least two semesters and one summer with the same company (approximately 12 months total)
- Semester Intern – Student works one time period of 4-7 months with a company (spring or fall semester may be combined with a summer)
- Summer Intern – Student works for one company during a summer (2-3 months). Students may complete multiple internships in their academic career.
- Experience first-hand what practicing chemists/chemical engineers do
- Earn money to finance education
- Potentially secure a full-time job offer before graduation
- Start professional career early
- Develop communication and teamwork skills in a professional setting
- Build and apply technical knowledge and skills
- Identify and refine career goals
- Receive higher pay and status after graduation
All in all, my experience with LyondellBasell was stressful, exciting, and everything in between, so I would highly recommend it…
If I were to give a single piece of advice to prospective co-ops after me, it would be this: the people you work with (and don’t work with) are arguably your most significant resources. A textbook will give you the theory and equations behind a problem, but it can’t present the limitless experience and wisdom that your coworkers are always ready and willing to share with you. Be sure to expand your horizons during your experience. Don’t limit yourself to your assigned projects. I’ve realized that being afraid of asking questions or being wrong has been one of my largest obstacles. There are no stupid questions, there’s only curiosity; and if you have that, success is inevitable. Finally, connect your passions and curiosity to your work and you’ll find more than just a paycheck, you’ll find a home away from home.
Chemical Engineering, May 2023
"This summer I had the opportunity to work at Eli Lilly as a manufacturing science intern and it was an incredible experience. Having been heavily involved in chemistry research during my time at UIUC, I went into the internship unsure of whether a career in industry would be the right fit for me. My twelve weeks at Lilly allowed me to gain insight on the specific types of job functions there are in manufacturing and in a large pharmaceutical company as a whole. It was incredibly exciting to be a part of a cross-functional team while working on a project with real impact on the medicine making process that allowed me to actively apply in an industrial lab setting what I've learned from chemistry coursework and previous research. This summer cemented my desire to eventually develop a career in pharmaceuticals or biotechnology and allowed me to meet some incredible people, expand my technical skill set, and greatly improve my scientific communication and presentation skills. I highly recommend anyone to do an internship if give the opportunity!"
Chemistry, May 2018
As you consider your education in Chemical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we would like to take the opportunity to inform you of our Cooperative Education Program. The School of Chemical Sciences sponsors a thriving cooperative program. The word “cooperative” in this context means that three parties are participating and hold joint responsibility: the Student, the University, and the Employer. In this program industrial companies are cooperating with the departments to provide practical professional work assignments for our students. An integral part of the program is the experience of working full time for an industrial firm during several different school terms. During the other school terms, of course, students attend the University full time to complete their academic degree requirements. The total program involves extending the completion of the baccalaureate degree by no more than one calendar year.
Participating in the cooperative education program is indicated on the University of Illinois transcript by official registration in special courses. That is, while on each work assignment, the student is officially registered in the University of Illinois as a student participating in an off-campus program. Completion of a minimum of three work assignments is recognized by a certificate issued by the School of Chemical Sciences.
Through the work assignments, which become increasingly more challenging and professionally oriented, our students acquire invaluable industrial experience. This experience will be beneficial to the student who plans to seek industrial employment immediately following graduation and to the student who will pursue a graduate degree before seeking full time employment. The work assignments give students a chance to apply the knowledge which they are learning in the classroom in a practical situation. It also allows students to find out what actually goes on in industrial organizations.
Another major factor which students find attractive about cooperative education is the salary. Most cooperative students are paid a competitive salary during their work assignments, and are able to save enough to defray a portion of their school expenses. Additional benefits are offered by many companies, including relocation expense coverage, tuition expenses, and job offers upon graduation. Cooperative education is among our most substantial financial aid programs.
Interviews for cooperative education assignments are typically held on campus in the fall semester, with some additional interviews during the spring semester. If you wish to discuss the program in more detail or express your interest in it, please make an appointment with Patricia Simpson, Coordinator of the Cooperative Education Program in Chemical Sciences, 105 Noyes Lab, in the fall of your freshman year. For help planning your academic program, please contact the SCS Advising Office.
Internships are different from Cooperative Education experiences, as we define them. An internship is a one-time work experience that is most commonly in the summer or sometimes during a semester. Students who plan to do an internship during a fall or spring semester are expected to register for Chemistry 295 or ChBE 210, as appropriate. If the internship is repeated with the same company it is still considered an internship. It is also possible for a student to have several internships with different companies, thus allowing a student to obtain multiple experiences in various industries.
For an experience to be considered a cooperative education experience, a student must have applied for the program and work a minimum of three terms with the same company (only one term may be summer). Student interns are typically paid quite well. Companies may also provide additional benefits including relocation/housing expenses and potential job offers upon graduation.
Although some interviews for internship positions are held during the spring semester, most internships are quite competitive and thus positions typically fill early in the fall semester. Be sure to register with Handshake @ Illinois early in the fall if you are interested in completing an internship the following summer.