Graduate Cooperative Education Program

A graduate student working on an art project at Virginia Tech

The co-op experience is intended to be an integral part of a graduate student's academic program, providing on-the-job experience that satisfies academic requirements such as a practicum, or allowing students to apply knowledge they have acquired through course work or research as they progress to degree completion. All graduate students may be authorized for co-op if they meet eligibility requirements. 

International Students in F-1 status are authorized for internship/co-op under Curricular Practical Training (CPT) by a DSO. F-1 status students must secure such authorization to participate in any type of off-campus employment, paid or unpaid. 

Summer CPTs may begin on May 18, 2020 and must end by Aug 21, 2020 (if you have a fall assistantship, you will need approval from your department to work on CPT after the assistantship contract start date of Aug 10, 2020)

Fall 2020 CPTs may begin on Aug 17, 2020 and must end by January 15, 2021 (if you have a spring assistantship, you will need approval from your department to work on CPT after the assistantship contract start date of Dec 25, 2020.

  • The student must have completed at least one semester of academic work at Virginia Tech in their program of study.
    • International students may qualify after two academic semesters (9 months) in F-1 status
  • The co-op course GRAD 5944 or GRAD 7944 (or the required course for the practicum) must be listed on a plan of study approved by the department and submitted to the Graduate School.
  • The student must be in good academic standing with a GPA of at least 3.0.
  • International students must carry health insurance that meets university requirements while participating in the Co-op Program.
  • Must be related to your field of study.
  • Must be full time; no part-time co-op will be approved.
  • Must be for one full academic term (fall, spring, or summer).  Start/end dates must largely overlap with academic terms:
    • No less than 6 weeks during summer (generally 6-12 weeks)
    • No less than 14 weeks during fall and spring (generally 14-16 weeks)
  • Must   be approved by  your academic advisor.
  • Employment as an independent contractor does not qualify for co-op.
  • Co-op employment is not approved in a student’s final semester, unless there is a compelling academic reason and the proposed employment is essential for the completion of degree requirements.
  • Co-op employment is not to be considered a form of financial aid.
  • Co-op may not be used solely to facilitate employment.
  • Co-op employment may not overlap with an assistantship or other on-campus employment.
    • Co-op engagements in the summer may start after May 9 (standard assistantship contract end date) or the official end of the semester, whichever comes later, and must end by Aug 9 for those who will have a fall assistantship (standard assistantship contract start date is Aug 10), unless the assistantship department agrees to a delayed start.
  • International students who accumulate 12-months (365 days) of full-time Co-op (CPT) will forfeit the Optional Practical Training (OPT) benefit.

Employers must:

  • Provide an employment offer letter (on company letterhead) with the following information:
    • The student’s full name
    • The full name of the company
    • The title of the student position
    • The student’s supervisor
    • The supervisor’s contact information
    • Confirmation that the internship/co-op is fulltime
    • Whether the position is paid or unpaid.  If it is paid, specify the salary
    • The beginning and end dates of the employment
    • A job description
  • Provide the student with a challenging work experience in an area related to the student’s academic field of study.  Any subsequent assignment should include work that is progressive in nature.
  • Complete and retain I-9 form when the student begins work. The I-9 form must be updated if the period of employment is extended through a subsequent approval.
  • Employ the student only within the authorized Curricular Practical Training period stipulated on page 2 of the I-20 form.
  • Send W-2 form to the student so that they may file a tax return. F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for fewer than 5 years usually are exempt from Social Security (FICA) taxes.  However, student earnings are subject to applicable federal, state and local taxes.
  • Evaluate the student at the end of each semester or summer term and return the evaluation to the IGSS office (an evaluation form will be provided)
  • Contact prospective employers and discuss the suitability of a job offer with your academic advisor. 
  • Gather the necessary documents for application:
    • Academic Advisor's Recommendation form
    • Employment offer letter (see Employer responsibilities for requirements)
    • Copy of the plan of study that includes the co-op course GRAD 5944 or GRAD 7944,  or required course for the practicum, approved by the department if the plan has not yet been submitted to the Graduate School
  • When ready to apply, 
    • F-1 students submit the application by logging in to IntlHokies and selecting F-1 Curricular Practical Training Request . You will need to upload the above supporting documents.
    • US citizen and permanent resident students submit the advisor recommendation, employment offer letter, and plan of study, if applicable, to Graduate Student Services.
  • Fall or Spring Semester:
    Monday, one week before classes begin  
  • Summer term:
    Applications will be accepted until June 30.
  • Submit applications at least 3 weeks before the proposed start date to allow sufficient time for processing.

Cancelling the co-op

  • The co-op can be canceled before the start date of the employment.  You will need to submit letters from the employer and your faculty advisor approving/acknowledging the cancellation.
  • Cancelling a co-op after the employment has begun is a serious matter.  Contact an immigration advisor for more guidance.

Extending Co-op

  • Extensions to an approved co-op: Contact an immigration advisor.  You will need to provide letters with the new end date from your faculty advisor and your employer.
  • Extensions for another semester or term: Submit a new application with new support documents.
  • International students will be issued a new I-20 with Curricular Practical Training (CPT) approval.
  • The Graduate School will add the co-op course (GRAD 5944 or GRAD 7944) to your transcript, which will designate you as a full-time student while on your co-op assignment.
  • You will be billed for the one-credit co-op course and you must pay the associated tuition.
  • You will be issued an evaluation form to be completed by your co-op supervisor at the end of your employment. Give the evaluation letter to the employer to be completed and returned to the Graduate School after the end of your co-op employment.
  • Report a change of address in Hokie Spa within 10 days of relocation, as required by immigration regulations.
  • Your department may request a waiver of your comprehensive fees if you work beyond a 50 mile radius of Blacksburg. View guidelines and deadlines for submission