Internships and Co-Ops at Caltech

I am a senior in high school and have Caltech on my list as a potential school to apply to. Currently, I intend to major in mechanical engineering and probably a minor in aerospace engineering.

I know that Caltech has plenty of research opportunities with college professors and such. However, I am interested in gaining industry experience during college, so my question is: how available are (paid and unpaid) internships and co-ops with companies (specifically engineering/aerospace related)? I know that JPL is a big thing at Caltech, but besides that, I can’t seem to find as much information on internships and co-ops, which makes me believe it’s not very big at the school?

I have another question about their academics. Is most of what students do at Caltech theoretical and abstract? On their website it says abstract math is the foundation to much of what you learn at Caltech. I do love STEM in almost every way, but solving abstract math is definitely something that I do not find as much joy in. I am more of a person that likes to learn about things that are practical and more applicable to a future career (in aerospace engineering specifically). With that in mind, would Caltech still be a good school to apply to for me?

Caltech website used to list the companies that sponsor internships (they range from tech firms to financial firms). However, that information seems to have disappeared with the redesign of its websites since COVID. Now everything is virtual, including job fairs.

Where on their website does it say abstract math is the foundation? I don’t think that’s the case. Math, rather than abstract math, is the foundation to all sciences. Abstract math is required if you’re a math major, or a physics major with theoretical leaning, or some parts of it may be beneficial for some CS and chemistry majors to learn, but it isn’t a requirement (certainly not for any engineering major).

If industry experience is important, you may want to consider schools with well established coop programs to add to your list. My D is at Purdue (coop optional but very well supported) and is having an amazing experience. Georgia Tech also has a great career readiness program. Northeastern, coop required, is another. If you are a CalTech level applicant, U of Cincinnati would make a great safety.


But before COVID, Caltech had those internship options, correct?

Quoted from here: “Mathematics is the bedrock of all coursework at Caltech. The mathematics foundation and starting point for incoming students is rigorously proof-based, abstract math”. Do you feel that there is a good mix between theoretical and application-based studies at CalTech?

Yep Purdue and Georgia Tech are at the top of my list. I haven’t really looked into U of Cincinnati, but Northeastern didn’t really have an aero program which is something that is important to me.

Yes and I assume these opportunities still exist (even though they might be virtual during this pandemic).

All math courses at Caltech, starting with calculus, are proof-based. Most of those courses aren’t, technically, abstract math (all abstract math courses are proof-based but the converse isn’t true). Caltech does emphasize theoretical foundation in every subject it teaches so its students can fully understand the subject and perhaps take it to another level, but it doesn’t ignore applications of these theories. As in any college, it’s always important to select the right courses based on your interest and the path you’re on.