Professional Work Experiences

In today’s job market experience is the key to career success and is the competitive edge needed to succeed once you graduate. At Purdue University Calumet the Professional Work Experience Program for non credit helps create educational and training partnerships that provide a bridge between theoretical classroom learning and real-world experiential learning. According to learning theory, meaningful learn¬ing involves moving from a practical experience through a process of reflection and contemplation, to the development of a theo-retical understanding of that experience, to actively testing our understanding in real-life situations.  School is great for developing abstract or theoretical understanding and facilitating reflection and contemplation, but the testing of those theories can best be done in internships and other forms of experiential learning. Structured learning opportunities for credit can help the student begin to understand what they are actually going to do after they graduate.

Non-credit Professional Work Experience Comes in Many Forms:

  • Internships – Internships are work or service learning experiences combined with reflective academic study. They provide students with practical, professional work experience in a field related to their major. Most internships are exploratory in nature, allowing the student to test theories, develop skills, receive feedback and counsel, and begin to create a profes¬sional network. Internships may be job or project based, paid or unpaid, for credit or just for experience, full or part-time. They are generally designed on a semester-by-semester basis.
  • Cooperative Education (Co-op) – A co-op is a formal, structured plan of education in which students alternate periods of full-time classroom study with periods of paid, supervised, and progressively responsible training related to their academic major. A co-op helps students integrate theory and practice, confirm career choices, investigate potential job opportunities, and become better prepared for employment. It allows students to combine work experience and schooling to earn money and help finance their education. A co-op tends to be more formal and structured than an internship. Most co-op programs involve academic credit.
  • Volunteer Work, Service Learning, and Field Experience – Volunteerism, service learning, and field experience programs provide students the opportunity for professional work experience, while contributing recently acquired knowledge to the community. These learning opportunities are often found in the human services or nonprofit sector and provide opportunities for career exploration and career networking. They are generally unpaid or involve small stipends, run parallel to the student’s regular class schedule, and may offer academic credit.
  • Externship and Shadow Programs – Externships and shadow programs are professional learning experi¬ences that allow students to spend between a day and a few weeks observing a professional on the job. These real-world observations provide students the opportunity to gain an overview of various career fields, to experience actual working environments, and to begin career networking.

Do These Types of Professional Work Experiences Help Me Meet My Experiential Learning Requirement?

Experiential learning is a graduation requirement for Purdue University Calumet students. Students will enroll in two experiential learning courses while completing their degree. While the majority of Purdue University Calumet students hold jobs and many will continue to pursue “traditional” internships as well, experiential learning courses must meet a set of measurable guidelines to fulfill the graduation requirement.

Why Invest in Experiential Learning for Credit?

  • Designing computer models for a leading electrical company’s Web site and marketing materials.
  • Developing a business plan for a horse farm.
  • Providing nursing care for women at a health clinic. At Purdue University Calumet, we call this Experiential Learning. To students, it means gaining real-world experience in the disciplines that they’re considering for their careers.

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