Cooperative Education and Internship Guidelines

Beginning with the 2001-2003 catalog, Graphic Communication students must complete a Co-op (GrC 485 or 495) or University Graphic Systems (UGS) training (GrC 472 or 473) as part of the Bachelor of Science degree in Graphic Communication. Additionally, many students on earlier catalogs may choose to participate in Co-ops to provide work experience prior to graduation. This FAQ page will provide you with information about the process of completing Co-ops and internships in GrC.

What is a Co-op and how does it differ from an internship?

A Co-op is work experience that supplements your classroom-learning environment. It is directly related to your field of study and will provide you the opportunity to apply concepts and skills you've learned in the classroom. Further, it will help you focus your career interests. Historically, internships and Co-ops have had different requirements and different results. In recent years, the differences have blurred. At Cal Poly, we consider Co-ops and internships as the same thing. If there is academic value in a work experience, you may receive Co-op credit.

What is the difference between GrC 471, 472, 473, 474, 485, and 495?

GrC 472 (formerly 474) and GrC 473 (formerly 471) are courses related to University Graphics Systems, Cal Poly's student-run printing and publishing company. These courses give students an opportunity to develop skills in both production and management while working on campus.

  • GrC 472 (formerly GrC 474) is a 2-unit course for students new to UGS and is designed to be taken for two consecutive quarters. Students receive production training for those interested in fulfilling their internship requirement on campus. Many students go on to become paid UGS employees or UGS managers.
  • GrC 473 (formerly GrC 471) is a course for UGS managers. This 2-unit course is available for students who have been appointed managers in University Graphics Systems.
  • GrC 485 is a 6-unit course for students completing a Co-op off campus. It is often taken for two consecutive quarters but this is not a requirement. Co-ops usually require students to work full-time and in most cases, students must move out of the San Luis Obispo area. Students not requiring full-time status typically enroll in GrC 485. Students must work a minimum of 20 hours per week during the Co-op period if enrolled in GrC 485.
  • GrC 495 is a 12-unit course for students completing a Co-op off campus. It is often taken for two consecutive quarters but this is not a requirement. Co-ops usually require students to work full-time and in most cases, students must move out of the San Luis Obispo area. Students needing full-time status typically enroll in GrC 495. Students must work fulltime (i.e. 40 hours/week) during the Co-op period if enrolled in GrC 495.

How do I find out more information about UGS and taking GrC 472?

Stop by the UGS office for more information about taking GrC 472 or speak to Professor Macro.

When am I able to take GrC 485 or 495 and complete an off-campus Co-op?

You are able to complete an off-campus Co-op when you have applied and secured a GrC position and have met the following criteria:

  • Completion of at least one quarter at Cal Poly and 12 units in Graphic Communication (including transfer credit)
  • Minimum sophomore standing (completion of all 100 level major courses); although most Co-ops are publicized for students at the Junior/Senior/Graduate level
  • Minimum 2.0 GPA (current, cumulative and overall), and not on academic probation
  • At least one quarter remaining at Cal Poly following the Co-op assignment
  • Had your Co-op approved through the GrC department office

Why does the GrC department have to approve my Co-op?

Because you are receiving academic credit, the Co-op must be directly related to GrC and must be of academic and career benefit to you. The GrC Co-op committee will assess Co-ops and approve those that meet these criteria.

What is the process for securing and completing a Co-op?

Co-ops must be directly related to Graphic Communication to be approved for academic credit. You are welcome to obtain non-GrC work experiences but these will not be approved for GrC 485/495 credit. Before proceeding too far with the process, be certain to get approval through the GrC department office. Following these steps will ensure a smooth Co-op:

Co-op with EFI
Hannah Giorgi and Katie Pedersen spent their summer
at EFI (Electronics for Imaging) headquarters
in Fremont California.
They both interned
with the Marketing team. (September 2015)

  1. Visit Career Services: Report your Co-op placement to Career Services (Student Employment, Bldg. 124, room 113). Fill out a Student Agreement Form including employer information.
  2. Notify GrC Department Office: Take the Student Agreement Form (original copy) to the GrC department office for faculty approval. You will be assigned a Co-op Faculty Adviser and receive all required registration information including course number, number of units, permission number for registration. Make sure you understand all Co-op academic requirements before you leave campus.
  3. Pay Registration Fees and register for the class: Pay your registration fees and register just as you would for any other Cal Poly course. This is required for each Co-op quarter (including Summer Quarter).
  4. Submit Work Information Form: Prior to starting, you should submit the Work Information Form to your Co-op faculty adviser. You may receive this form from
  5. Begin Co-op and complete all additional work for Co-op credit: There are several components to receiving Co-op credit including submitting progress reports and evaluations. See for a list of assignments, a calendar for completion, and the actual forms to submit. It is the student's responsibility to complete all necessary Co-op requirements in a timely manner.

May I receive Co-op credit for my previous job?

Co-op credit is only available during the quarter that you are working at the Co-op job site. You may not get academic credit retroactively. You will interact periodically with your Co-op faculty adviser during the Co-op experience.

How do I find a Co-op?

It is your responsibility to find a Co-op job. Part of the academic value includes the job searching experience. Resources are available from faculty members and through career services, where Co-ops are listed on their interactive on-line system called Mustang Jobs. Through Mustang Jobs, you will be able to:

  • Sign up for Resume Collections for employers who do not hold on-campus interviews. Mustang Jobs allows you to customize your application by uploading up to four versions of your resume and attaching cover letters addressed to specific employers.
  • Sign up for On-Campus Interviews. Co-op employers hold both Open Interviews (first-come/first-served basis) or Pre-Select Interviews (where employers select students based on resumes submitted through Mustang Jobs).
  • Keep informed about GrC Career Days.

Where should I go if I need more information?

Begin by visiting the Career Services web site. Additionally, you may want to speak to your faculty adviser or stop by the department office.

A guide for approval of Co-ops

There are many kinds of co-ops offering a variety of experiences. The Graphic Communication Co-op Committee is charged with the responsibility of approving co-ops and overseeing their implementation.

What makes a quality co-op experience?

Six components comprise a good co-op:

  • Directly related to Graphic Communication
  • Supervised work with mentoring from one or more professionals in the field
  • New experiences, not simply an extension of an existing work experience
  • Exposure to a variety of skills and experiences, providing breadth
  • Advanced experiences with complex problems or situations, providing depth
  • "Soak time" ample time on the job to learn not only a set of skills but also about the work culture itself

The co-op approval process

The co-op committee will scrutinize each co-op application on these six criteria and approve those that provide substantial evidence that the co-op experience will be high quality. The process is initiated when a student completes a co-op application in the GrC department office.

What about "project-based" co-ops?

Project-based co-ops, for example doing a web site for a club, will not be approved except in rare circumstances where it is completed for an established and recognized GrC company and includes additional relevant activities that enhance the co-op experience. Self-directed projects will not be approved.

Local co-ops vs. moving away

There is no rule that states that the student must leave town to complete a co-op. However, there are usually more abundant opportunities in larger metropolitan areas. Local companies do periodically offer co-ops. Telecommuting or freelance work will not be allowed for co-op credit since supervision is typically insufficient. The co-op should take place in a traditional work setting (complete with office politics, dress codes, and time clocks, all realities of modern workplaces).


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