One of the unique features or of this master’s program that sets it apart from other programs of this nature is the inclusion of a co-operative education component to enhance the student experience and better prepare them for the transition to the work environment in this growing field.
Co-operative education programs (“co-op”) have been in existence at post-secondary institutions for decades; however, not all post-secondary institutions and/or programs offer this option as a part of the curriculum, including graduate programs of study.
What is a Co-op Program?
A co-op program is one that balances classroom theory with periods of practical, hands-on experience prior to graduation. Through the co-op program, students can alternate academic study with full-time employment, gaining practical experience in their field of study. Co-operative education typically occurs during a student’s junior or senior year of college when it is included as a part of an undergraduate program. There are no standard formats for a co-operative program; the format is tailored to the curriculum requirements, so the student needs to understand how the co-op fits into the program schedule, the timing of when co-op placements take place, and whether the co-op structure aligns with their goals.
Why Do a Co-op Program?
A co-op program can benefit the student in the following ways:
- The student gains significant work experience
- The student learns about the industry in a real-world situation outside of the classroom
- The student earns income (with full-time hours) during their program
- The program offers the ability to make new contacts and network, meeting people in the industry
- The student can learn various business skills outside the classroom
- The program offers he potential to leverage the co-op experience into full-time employment after graduation
Co-op vs. Internship vs. Work Study
Many people believe a co-op placement is the same as an internship. While the opportunity for paid work is common to both, there are some differences between the two opportunities. Internships are usually undertaken during breaks (summer), whereas co-op programs run along with the studies or take place during a full term in place of a term of study. So, internships usually last for two to three months and are considered short term. On the other hand, a co-op program allows students to work with a company for a longer period, including full-time or for a longer period (e.g., six months to a year). Students can even earn academic credits for a co-op program or a co-op placement. Some co-op programs help students in coping with job-related experience. For work-study programs, the employment is generally based on campus, and the jobs are either part-time or temporary, with the student typically carrying a regular course load. With a co-op, the student is usually not taking classes during that time and is working full-time for the employer for the term of the co-op.
The PARM Co-op Experience
The PARM program continues to build and cultivate its network of industry relationships with corporate partners and alumni to provide a pipeline connecting students with employers, both in the short term, through the co-op placement process, and long term whereby the student gains valuable hands-on work experience in the industry. It is the goal of the PARM program to best prepare its students for the demands and rigors of the world of data science and predictive analytics. Accordingly, the opportunity for students in this program to include a co-op placement in the completion of their studies can arm them with invaluable skills and knowledge prior to entering or returning to the workforce. It also can provide the student with a better understanding of how the field of data science works in the industry and offers the chance to meet other professionals currently working in this field, either as peers, or as mentors.
The PARM program, in a traditional sense, has rigorous course requirements to complete the degree:
- Core required courses (12 hours) for all students in the program
- Concentration required course (12 hours) for the concentration selected by the student
- Elective courses (8 hours)
Taking a closer look, the core required courses consist of a practicum component that includes 2 hours of case-study work. The practicum provides the student with the opportunity to apply their classroom skills and knowledge to real-world applications. For this program, the practicum acts as a bridge between the classroom and the co-op placement. The co-op component is optional in this program; however, the practicum is required because it forms a part of the core course requirements for every student. There is also flexibility with the co-op program in that it can be completed either in between terms of study or at the end, once the student has completed all the course requirements.