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).

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.

Featured Student 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

elisa livingston portrait

Coming Full Circle

“Originally, I’m from Colombia, and I immigrated with my mom to the U.S. when I was eight,” says Elisa Livingston, E’14, civil engineering. Livingston’s mother worked multiple jobs so that Elisa could have the best educational opportunities. “My mom, she sacrificed so much.” Northeastern offered the career-focused engineering programs that Livingston was looking for—especially with […]

Onto NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

“Interdisciplinarity.” That’s what drew PhD candidate Venkata Shashank Konduri to Northeastern. Konduri is pursuing a PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering, meaning he is taking coursework from different disciplines and performing valuable research on complicated, multi-subject problems. “During the course of my PhD, I took classes from various departments like civil engineering, marine science, policy, and electrical […]

Broad Experience Made the Difference

Aravind Uthaman, ME’19, civil engineering, was crawling on his hands and knees for more than 300 feet into a water conduit tunnel. It was certainly not a position he expected to be in when graduated in 2019 with a master’s degree in structural engineering. But then again, Northeastern students pride themselves on being able to […]

Co-oping Through Coronavirus

Blog by Louiza Wise, BS Environmental Engineering Class of 2021