Reasons to consider a Co-op Career


Unique in (at least) four ways

More and more often nowadays it’s said that young adults starting out in life are searching for a purposeful career. If you’re conducting that kind of search, there’s a real chance you might need look no further than your local electric cooperative.

Those aren’t just words or wishes. Working toward a greater purpose is at the heart of the co-op business model.
Electric co-ops are community-focused organizations that deliver affordable energy, safely and reliably, to their consumer-members. This is an exciting time to be part of the energy industry. Technology is continuously advancing, and consumers want more say in the way they manage their energy use. That means electric co-ops need a variety of skillsets to develop new technologies and infrastructure, keep the electric grid secure, and power the lives and economies of our local communities.

Here are four reasons why electric cooperative careers offer a unique opportunity to make a difference:

1. Member-Led

Because consumer-members own and lead the organization, co-op employees can take comfort knowing their employer’s loyalty is to those served by the cooperative.

“If you work for an investor-owned business, you might be helping people in your community, but more likely you’re helping stockholders who could live anywhere in the world,” says Adam Schwartz, founder of the consulting firm The Cooperative Way. “Co-ops, with the services they provide, can have a great impact on the quality of life in the local community.”

2. Locally Owned

The best thing about an electric utility owned by its consumer-members is that it cares above all about its local community. And that makes a difference to an employee, says Michelle Rinn, senior vice president of human resources at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“People want to feel like they’re doing work that matters, like they’re contributing to the world at large,” she says. “For co-ops, that comes from a connection to the community and the fact that the folks you’re taking care of really are your neighbors, the people you go to church with or you see at the grocery store every day.”

Rinn says when it comes to a job that provides electricity, “That’s work that matters. Especially when there’s a storm and the lights go out.”

Both Rinn and Schwartz agree that electric co-ops also achieve a larger employment goal by providing jobs in the smaller communities where they’re typically located. As long as people will need electricity, electric co-ops will help the local economy with a strong, stable business.

3. Variety of Jobs

The more than 900 electric co-ops in 47 states require lots of different skillsets to keep the lights on. Thus potential employment seekers could find work in construction, electrical equipment operation, engineering, customer service, communications and public relations, employee benefits coordination, software analysis, and vehicle maintenance, to name a few.

Schwartz says another high-tech career is emerging as local economic development activity turns to electric co-ops for help in providing high-speed broadband service.

Rinn sees different advantages for employees depending on their co-op’s size. In larger cooperatives, a variety of professions is available. At smaller cooperatives, employees have the opportunity to flex multiple professional muscles in a single role.

“At a really small co-op, people have to wear multiple hats,” she says. “You don’t come in and you’re just the accountant, or you’re just the receptionist, or you’re just the executive assistant. There’s the opportunity to work on a lot of different things and build a broad range of skills.”

4. Guided by Co-op Principles

Formed in 1844, the first modern co-op developed a set of principles that still guides co-ops today. They include voluntary, open membership; democratic control by the membership; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education and training; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

America’s electric cooperatives are looking for individuals to apply those principles in meeting our nation’s energy needs. Together, we can create a brighter future for all.

To learn more about electric co-op opportunities, visit

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.