Final exams have come and gone, students are packing up their dorm rooms, and you’re preparing for your summer job back home. Sounds pretty decent, right? But what if we told you that you could spend your summer living (almost) anywhere across the country doing something that will skyrocket your career before you even graduate?

No, it’s not just any summer job—we’re talking about co-ops! If you’re new to the idea of internships and co-ops, keep reading ‘cause we’ve got you covered.

That does sound cool, but what exactly is a co-op?

A co-op is like an internship… kind of. While both are advantageous, there are some differences.


  • are often done by first year students (any major) for one summer
  • can be on campus, in a nearby business and occasionally out of state
  • take place during summer breaks so you can focus on the experience—not classes
  • are typically “exploratory” positions meant to give you a general idea of what a specific field or industry might be like


  • a two-semester work experience at the same company/location
  • chemical engineering majors usually complete a rotation of summer/spring or fall/summer work experiences
  • all other engineering majors co-op for two summers
  • are most definitely paid!
  • can be with any company in any state (we have co-op jobs with over 30 companies in 50 locations across the country)
  • allow you to explore a specific job position and manufacturing facility in depth
  • work on value-added projects to improve the company’s product quality, operational efficiency and/or environmental impact
  • prepare the student to hit the ground running as a full-time engineer immediately following graduation

Internships can get your foot in the door of an industry, while co-ops give you the full, in-depth experience of an employed position within a company and industry.

So which should I do, an internship or co-op?

As we mentioned before, we think both internships and co-ops are incredibly beneficial to you as a college student. Choosing an internship or a co-op totally depends on your coursework, where you are in your undergrad career, and what you’re looking to gain from the experience. Don’t worry—we’re here to help you navigate the details.

Where are the co-op positions?

All over the state and the country! We have co-op opportunities with 30 companies in over 50 locations across the United States. We’ve had UMPPF students co-op down the East Coast, in the Midwest, and beyond.

Taking a co-op position in a new state gives you the ability to travel and see new places while still enrolled in college. Cool, right?

On the flip side, some UMPPF students have stayed in Maine and had equally amazing experiences at our local facilities.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have had three opportunities with three different companies during my undergraduate summers…My most rewarding moment from that summer came on the last day when each of the crew members thanked ME for the work that I had done. That moment taught me about having pride in delivering a quality product on anything that has your name attached to it. All three of these co-op experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today.– Zach Nash, Class of 2021

Why should I do a co-op?

Our co-op program is nationally recognized and can help make your resume stand out.

Accepting a co-op as a UMPPF engineering student gives you hands-on experience in a mill or manufacturing site that will expand on your labs and courses here on campus. This experience can help catch the eyes of recruiters, hiring managers, and company members looking for engineers. What’s more, you have the opportunity to apply for co-op positions in a number of different areas of the industry—manufacturing, sales, research—you name it!

“…Getting those internships early, in your freshman or sophomore year, is key. By the time you become a senior, your resume almost looks like you’re a professional engineer. I was able to get a decent job right after graduation and travel the world. I owe a lot of that to the Foundation.” – Logan Pelletier, Class of 2011


“They make it really simple for you to interview at any company you have a desire to work at. I never thought there was a struggle to find an internship because they made sure to present us with any possible opportunity we wanted.” – Parker Shaw, Class of 2023

Okay, I’m in! How do I get a co-op or internship position?

UMPPF students interview with our company members in October of each academic year. You as the student have the flexibility of choosing which positions and which companies you’d like to interview for your co-op.

It’s in the very DNA of the Foundation to help you find, interview for, and be accepted to any co-op position that you might be interested in. We want you to have a successful experience each summer!

Whether you’re a current UMPPF student or not, all you need to do is connect with Carrie and Jen in the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation office about the co-op program. They will be so thrilled to talk to you about it.

Hear more from current students and alumni about their UMPPF co-op experiences:

“I was a Project Engineer Co-op (mechanical engineering major) for the Packaging Corporation of America in Filer City, Michigan. I was given projects to work on in order to make the mill more efficient and safer overall for anyone that uses it. I was terrified that I would not know enough about the job. The best thing to do going into an experience like this is to be as open minded and positive as possible. There are going to be things that you do not know and that is okay. A co-op/internship opportunity is there to help you learn about processes and how to go about working on projects in the real world. It is designed to help you learn and grow. Plus, you get paid!” – Meagan Dube, Class of 2022


“My two co-op terms were at WestRock in West Point, Virginia. It was a big change to go halfway across the East Coast alone to work, but I had an amazing time. I had a blast and I went all over the state—Charlottesville, Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Raleigh and many more places that I would have never seen otherwise.”


“My first term was in the paper mill and my second term was in the power and recovery department. All the folks at the mill were so open and they gave me all the information I needed to succeed. The work was always challenging and there was a new problem every single day. I absolutely loved the atmosphere that surrounds a paper mill. The managers at the mill liked my work so much they offered me a full-time job after I graduated. This was truly a life changing decision.” – Austin Gilboe, Class of 2021


“Being able to have these experiences at internships and facilities and large manufacturing facilities has taught me that I can take a problem or be given a problem and I can find a solution for it. And I can make a difference in these companies, whether that’s financially or safety-wise and it’s allowed me to realize my true potential.” – Alia Parsons, Class of 2023

If this topic inspires you, we’d love to hear from you! Learn more about how we help engineering students here.