Cooperative Education and Internships


Contact Information

Faculty Coordinator/Instructor of Record

Prof. Mark Cabrinha, 
Fall 2023 Term: Andrew Goodwin,
Winter 2024/Spring 2024 Term: TBA  

Staff Coordinator
Arlene Gomez,


Co-operative education (co-op) is a type of field experience. Students doing a co-op receive academic credit while acquiring professional skills and earning an income. A co-op, however, is more than a job; it is a workplace-based learning opportunity that is supported by student observation and reflection. For Cal Poly purposes, the terms co-op and internship are used interchangeably.

Finding a Co-op/Internship

Co-ops and internships have traditionally been self-initiated opportunities, with students approaching employers directly.

Architecture students can find opportunities at the following locations:

  • Online at MustangJOBS, available through the student Cal Poly Portal
  • Private websites, for example: 

Not surprisingly, Architecture students usually do co-ops and internships with architects, but this is not always the case. The department recognizes that work experience with other design and construction professionals — building departments, city planners, construction managers, architectural/structural engineers, and landscape architects — may contribute to a professional education. Students may propose co-ops with such professionals, subject to approval by the faculty coordinator.

In alignment with our professional organizations (namely, the AIA, AIAS, and NCARB), students enrolling in for-credit co-op's and internships must be paid at least the prevailing minimum wage for the location where the practice is located.  Payment can be made to the student as wages or a stipend.

Steps to Enroll for a Co-op/Internship for Academic Credit

  1. Students proposing to do a co-op or internship should start by reviewed the co-op requirements posted online and select a co-op/internship firm. The resources above can assist students in finding a firm.  If you need further assistance, you are welcome to contact the co-op advisors above.
  2. Once the firm has been determined, students complete the Cooperative Education/Internship Application (download and save this form to your computer prior to completing).
  3. Students must download the Experience Areas & Tasks form and review it with their firm supervisor, checking off the boxes that correspond to the categories, areas and tasks that they can expect to address in their co-op/internship. This outline must be attached to their application. Students will be asked to review the outline in their final end-of-quarter reflection.
  4. Download, complete and sign the CP Release of Liability form.
  5. Download the Site Self Assessment Form, have firm supervisor complete, sign; Student signs; Return back to Arlene Gomez - who will obtain Faculty Department signature.
  6. Submit all forms to the staff coordinator, Arlene Gomez (; students will receive an email confirmation. If the faculty coordinator approves, then the student will receive registration instructions.
  7. International students: Please review the Cal Poly International Center's website for student employment guidelines:

To receive credit for a co-op/internship, students must be enrolled in the appropriate course at Cal Poly while working. Students have until the add/drop deadline to enroll, but they must join the co-op course Canvas shell by the first day of class.

Co-op/internship courses are considered professional electives. Because the BARCH curriculum includes only 18 units of such electives, co-op/internship courses are effectively limited to 18 units.

Students may repeat the course but the catalog limits total credit to 24 units with no more than 12 units in any one quarter.

Credit for ARCH 451/452/453

Students may apply to receive credit for ARCH 451/452/453. Students can do this for one quarter only.

Students register for ARCH 485 (5 units) and may add additional ARCH 485 units for professional elective credits.

  • To receive Studio Credit for the designated term, a Petition for Major or Support Course Substitution/Exception-Undergraduate (E-Form) will need to be completed for the Arch 485, 5 units.
  • The form is located in the Registrar's website under Registrar-Student forms.
  • It is recommended to submit form prior to end of term.
  • You do not need to submit form for professional elective credit. 

Students electing this option must explain in their application how they will be engaged in significant and responsible work on at least one project under the direction of their co-op/internship supervisor. They must complete all the requirements of the normal co-op/internship (see below). Because they are receiving a letter grade for ARCH 451/452/453, their work is held to a higher standard than students electing to do a co-op option alone.

Co-op/Internship Assignments

Arch 485 is a graded course. To receive credit, students must complete all of the following assignments and post them on CP Canvas: a daily forum, several in-progress memos and online web conferences, an end-of-quarter reflection, a resume, a portfolio of work completed during the co-op/internship, a supervisor’s evaluation, and a self-evaluation.  The course CP Canvas site has the most current course requirements and deadlines.

Students should post all their submittals according to the schedule. The faculty coordinator assigns a grade based on the quality of these submittals and the students’ participation in the two group meetings.

If students need additional time to complete their submittals, or if for some legitimate reason they cannot attend the meetings, the faculty coordinator may record a temporary RP grade until all the requirements of the courses have been met.

The number of hours you work determines the number of units you can earn: 30 hours of work equals one(1) unit. So, for example, if you work 32 hours per week for ten weeks, you will have a total of 320 hours. Dividing the total by 30 leaves 10.66, which means you could earn up to ten (10) units during that quarter (we would round down).

  • You may not earn more than 12 units per quarter, even if you work more than 360 hours (360 divided by 30 = 20).
  • The maximum number of units you can earn is based on the rate listed above, but this does not require you to sign up for all the units possible using that rate. In other words, if you want to work 360 hours over the course of the quarter, you do not need to sign up for 12 units.

Architectural Experience Program

Students who are participating in a co-ops or internships may have the opportunity to apply their work experience by establishing a record with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) towards Architectural Experience Program (AXP) credit. Students can do this for a nominal fee. See the AXP Guidelines at

For more information about the AXP program, contact Professor Greg Wynn, the department’s AXP advisor, and see NCARB’s AXP webpage


Updated 09.10.2023

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