student on building top with solar panels

Co-op & Experiential Learning

Combining rigorous academics with a variety of experiential learning opportunities

Northeastern’s approach to education combines rigorous academics with experiential learning anchored by our world-renowned cooperative education program. Experiential learning encompasses our co-op program as well as project-based learning, research, global experiences, service learning, and student organizations.


Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education (co-op) is an educational model providing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to alternate between periods of academic study and full-time employment to gain hands-on, professional experience in their field of interest, and build personal connections and contacts. With hundreds of employer partners in Boston, across the country, and around the world, civil and environmental engineering co-op students graduate with not only a degree, but also invaluable connections and proven experience in their chosen field.

  • Generally competitively paid, full-time positions where the student is integrated with an employer partner and working on real-world projects.
  • Longer duration than a typical summer internship. Co-ops are six months in duration for undergraduate students, while graduate students have optional 4, 6, or 8-month opportunities.
  • A dedicated team of co-op coordinators coach students through the co-op search process and support them through their co-op experience.
  • Co-op coordinators maintain relationships with employer partners to provide students with robust co-op opportunities.
  • Provides a holistic learning model including preparation (introduction to co-op course), work (full-time co-op employment), and reflection (interpreting the experience).

Building on Her Co-Op Experiences

Carrie Tam, BS, Civil Engineering & Architectural Studies, applied her co-op experience at Walker Consultants to the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition, bringing the Northeastern team to the national finals.

Civil Engineering Co-op Experience

Jude Arbogast, BS, Civil Engineering, has done two co-ops at Suffolk Construction—one in scheduling and staffing, and the other in the field where he found his love of construction management. He says co-op allowed him to put his knowledge to the test and find out what he really wanted to do.

Environmental Health Hands-On Experiences

Anna Walsh, a fifth year student with an independent environmental health major, studies a variety of environmental contaminants. She describes two projects, one on air sampling and the other developing a framework for passive samplers for water samples. She did a co-op at Stockholm University in an environmental department getting significant experience.

Student Clubs and Global Experiences

student working on water system as part of Engineers Without Borders project.

Engineers Without Borders

Engineering without Borders (EWB) is one organization at Northeastern that allows students to travel to countries such as Uganda and Honduras to address their need for potable water. Since 2004 this student group has designed and constructed water projects in six communities, directly affecting over 2,000 individuals. Northeastern’s experiential philosophy allows students to become real world engineers while they are still learning in the classroom.

group of students doing a selfie photo overlooking Cagliari island in Italy

Dialogue of Civilizations

One example of a Dialogue of Civilizations is Sustainable Waste Management: European Practices for Resource Recovery and Environmental Protection led by Teaching Professor Annalisa Onnis-Hayden. Students travel to Cagliari, Italy and immerse themselves in the Sardinian and Italian culture while sailing the Mediterranean Sea, and learning about the rich history and traditions, while enjoying the crystal-clear water, white sand, and the mountains of this special island.

Student Experiences

A Perfect Storm Hit an Imperfect Climate Dialogue

By Auroop R. Ganguly, Professor, Northeastern University Instructor, 2022 Climate Dialogue in Tanzania When I generally hear the now clichéd phrase “this is not rocket science”, I usually try to smile in a way that I hope comes across as amused tolerance. When my graduate students use the phrase however, I gently tell them that […]

Carrie Tam.

Interdisciplinary Meets International

Carrie Tam, E’22, was always interested in buildings. It seemed perfect that she discovered Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Architectural Studies, a combined major of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, and the School of Architecture in the College of Arts, Media, and Design. “I’m […]

Nishant Yadav

Experiential PhD Spotlight with Nishant Yadav

Nishant Yadav, PhD interdisciplinary engineering student, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, participated in the Experiential PhD program. His research is in applying machine learning and AI to solving problems in climate and the environment. He joined CEE’s Sustainability and Data Sciences Lab at Northeastern under Professor Auroop Ganguly, and then worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, then NASA Ames Research Center, and is now starting work at Hitachi AI Labs.

Cassie Nickles

PhD Spotlight: Cassie Nickles, PhD’21 – Civil Engineering

Cassie Nickles’ research focused on large-scale river networks and hydrologic applications enabled by NASA’s upcoming Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. In the four years of her PhD, she published four articles in top journals: Remote Sensing, Water Resources Research, and Geophysical Research Letters. She also presented her findings at ten conferences, nationally and internationally. From connections made at these conferences, she had the opportunity to intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the summer of 2020.