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A whopping 99% of students at the Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business have had an internship before graduating. And with the school’s co-op system, that’s no surprise.
Cooperative Education (co-op) is a distinctive educational approach that Northeastern and a few other schools are known for. Students may take six months away from school, during which they are not charged tuition, in order to complete a paid internship. At the D’Amore-McKim School, at least one co-op is required to graduate. The school has partnerships were thousands of companies worldwide, and works one-on-one with students to help them develop interviewing and resume-writing skills.
“The co-op was a huge draw to the school,” says Brian Schwartz, an alumnus from the Class of 2014. “I was fascinated with being able to graduate with up to a year and a half of experience, and the concept of making your classroom time more practical and less theoretical.”
At D’Amore-McKim, students starting leaving campus for co-ops as early as the sophomore year. Schwartz, who was majoring in business with a finance concentration says he worked at a tech company for his first co-op, did more operational work for the second, and took a step away from finance and worked at a cloud consulting company for his last.
“You can graduate knowing that you at least checked off some of the boxes,” he says. “I graduated with a very robust resume compared to some of my colleagues who went through more traditional programs. I’d been through a ton of interviews, I’d worked in a corporate environment, and I can definitely say that aided my post-grad job opportunities.”
CO-OP FROM THE GET-GO
Preparation for co-op begins right away. When new students first arrive on campus, Peggy Fletcher, associate dean of undergraduate programs, says they meet with their academic advisors and set up their first semester courses. “In addition to the academic courses, they will take a series of three one-credit courses, one in the first semester, one in the second, and one in their sophomore year, to prepare them for the co-op,” she says.
The first one-credit course is taught by academic advisors who help students get acclimated to college, and also get them thinking about what the want to do career-wise. The second is more focused and is taught by both academic advisors and faculty. They get students talking about their interests, where they want to go out on co-op, and what courses they’re interested in taking, or subjects they might be interested in minoring in. And the third one-credit course is purely about the co-op. Students look for jobs, and the school helps them write their resumes and perfect their interviewing skills.
Fletcher says quite a few students will do as many as three co-ops, and the experience helps a lot of students realize both what they want to do in their careers, and also what they don’t want to do. “If a student would like to go into accounting, we’ll send them out of an accounting co-op, and the student might come back saying ‘I hate this, I never want to do it again,’” she says. “So we’ll have faculty go over it with the student: What did you like? What did you not like? What do you think you need to strengthen? Do you want to switch to a finance major?”
‘OUR STUDENTS DO EVERYTHING’
And despite going out on co-op cycles regularly, Schwartz from the Class of 2014 says it didn’t dominate student-life. For example, aside from the co-ops, students also participate in a number of applied learning programs at the school.
“Our students do everything,” Fletcher says. “They’ll do two or three co-ops, they may do two or three international programs, they may do a combined degree. We have hundreds of study abroad programs, and we also have international programs that can last from one week up to two years.”
For many of the shorter international trips, Fletcher says where the students go often depends on what they’re studying. “We try to weave experiential learning in and out of our classes, because it does inform the students. When they come back to the classroom, they are different students, and they ask really good questions,” Fletcher says. “The classes inform them of what kind of experiences they want. If someone is interested in social entrepreneurship, we can send them to work in microfinance in South Africa. If they’re interested in sustainable business they can go to Iceland.”
MULTIPLE EXPERIENTIAL OPTIONS
And there are plenty of experiential learning opportunities on-campus as well, including the IDEA Lab, a student-led venture accelerator. Fletcher says a number of companies have come through the accelerator, and Northeastern’s entrepreneurship community spans the engineering, computer science, and business majors.
And even within business school academics, students can expand beyond their chosen majors. Fletcher says they’re currently developing certificate programs, which will be four-course small programs that students within and outside the business school can take to develop a background in narrow subject areas without having to go through the whole business school curriculum.
These small programs will be in business analytics, human capital development, healthcare management, and others that are so narrow not very many students will want to concentrate in them. But Fletcher says the certificate programs will be able to give them a little more experience in those areas.
NOT JUST A CO-OP SCHOOL
“So the experience is not just about co-ops,” she says. “Though certainly co-op is our claim to fame. Every student finds that their path is just a little different.”
Overall, D’Amore-McKim alumni awarded the school average scores on P&Q’s survey. The school placed in the top seven for academic advising, and top six for how well the program prepared students for the world of work. However, it ranked in the bottom ten concerning extracurricular opportunities.
The school reports that nearly every student in the Class of 2017 had an internship before graduating, and 95% had a job within 90 days of graduating. The average starting salary was $63,437 — up from 2016’s average of $60,810 — and top employers include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte.
WHAT ALUMNI SAY
“I had to write a Bachelor Thesis for my German university. It was though since it was not required for Northeastern, so I had to do it outside of classes. I still received advice from Northeastern professors which was great!” – Class of 2014 D’Amore-McKim alum
“I spent 2 years living, studying and working abroad in Spain. It was an incredible experience that taught me first-hand how business is conducted abroad, the cultural nuances to be truly culturally agile and complete immersion to achieve fluency in Spanish. I also did 2 full-time work placement positions that helped me carve out things I liked and didn’t like so much in the workplace. Finally, I wrote a senior thesis while abroad where I was able to express creativity while applying all of the lessons learned over my years of school.” – Class of 2014 D’Amore-McKim alum
“Each 6 month co-op experience I participated in gave me invaluable real-world experience which helped me to shape my preferences/interests in the work world and hone the skills I would need to be successful post-grad.” – Class of 2014 D’Amore-McKim alum
Where the Class of 2016:
Ernst & Young: 14
Morgan Stanley: 9
State Street Corporation: 9
The TJX Companies: 6