Everything You Wanted to Know About NSA’s Co-op Program

NSA’s Lindsay P. provides all the details on the Cooperative Education Program, which is accepting applications now through March 31.

March 6, 2020

Q: What is NSA’s Cooperative Education Program?
A: The Cooperative Education (Co-op) Program is an opportunity for qualified students to integrate real-world, hands-on work experience with their traditional studies in the classroom. Students rotate between a semester of full­-time college study and a semester of full-time work, including summer semesters, until graduation with their bachelor’s degrees. Students get a diverse range of work experience in offices across NSA, directly related to their intended majors. Upon completion of the program, students have accumulated a minimum of 52 weeks of relevant work experience and are fully prepared for permanent employment post-graduation.

Q: Does this mean I won't graduate in four years?
A: Participating in the Co-op Program typically delays graduation by a semester or two. However, students leave the program with more diverse and relevant work experience than the majority of their peers, making them extremely competitive in their career fields. In fact, most program participants finish their final work tour with a job offer from NSA in hand. That means no stressful job search during your senior year of college!

Q: Who is eligible?
A: College sophomores and second-semester freshmen majoring in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, a technical Cybersecurity degree program or a qualifying Language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Farsi or Korean) are welcome to apply. A minimum 3.0 GPA is preferred. We accept applications from both traditional four-year students, as well as community college students with the intent to transfer and complete their bachelor's degrees. Applicants must be U.S. citizens in order to be eligible to obtain the required security clearance.

Q: What are the advantages of being an NSA Co-op vs. a more traditional summer intern?
A: While the Co-op Program is a bigger commitment than an internship, as students return for multiple work tours with NSA, the rewards are greater! Co-op students are entitled to the same government benefits as full-time employees, to include time off, insurance and promotions. In addition, through the rotating assignments, Co-ops gain more experience and exposure to different areas of the agency, making them well-rounded and knowledgeable candidates for hire upon graduation. Through the diverse work and mentorship opportunities afforded by the Co-op Program, students will form an extensive professional network with leading experts and professionals in their fields. Co-ops have earned a respected reputation throughout the agency and are valued a great deal.

Q: Is this a paid position?
A: Yes! Co-op students are paid a competitive salary and receive promotions as they advance in credits toward their degrees. Students also receive tuition reimbursement benefits, with one technical course being reimbursed every semester the student is at school. Furthermore, students who attend school more than 75 miles from NSA Headquarters are eligible for travel reimbursement and housing assistance. All Co-ops receive paid time off, paid holidays and sick leave. Our Student Portal is a great resource for details on housing and benefits, as well as for tips on interviewing and the security clearance process.

Q: Am I guaranteed a job at the end of the program?
A: Permanent employment is not guaranteed; however, most of our students do come on board as full-time NSA employees after graduation. The diverse, relevant experience in addition to the extensive networks built by students throughout the Co-op Program are invaluable and nearly always result in a permanent job offer.

Q: How do I apply?
A: We accept applications twice a year, February 1 through March 31, and September 1 through October 31. Language majors should apply for Job ID 1142022 and all other majors should apply for Job ID 1142021. Students may begin the program in either the fall or spring semester, but the application and clearance process can be lengthy.