Is a Co-Op Program Right For You?

By University of Waterloo Modified on September 17, 2021
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How co-op works at university, and what to consider when deciding your plans.

Is a Co-Op Program Right For You?

When choosing a program to study at university, you'll often have another choice: whether to include co-op work experience as part of your degree.

Co-op programs are different from internships as co-op typically includes multiple work terms which are paid while many internships are short term and unpaid.

With most majors at Waterloo, you'll get to pick between a co-op program or the regular system of study. Let's spend some time considering how the co-op program and regular system of study differ.

Co-op programs

Co-op programs usually alternate between four months in school and four months as a full-time employee of the company you're working for.

  • Gain up to 2 years of relevant experience as part of your degree
  • Earn money to help pay for school
  • Network with prospective employers
  • Explore different career paths
  • Learn to successfully navigate the job application and interview process

Regular system of study

In the regular system of study, you'll be in school between September and April each year and have your summers off.

  • A quicker route to graduation, finishing your degree in four years
  • Freedom to plan your summers
  • Focus on your classes and extracurriculars with eight consecutive months of school each year.
  • Don't have to potentially move between school and work every four months

You'll have the same number of school terms whether you're in co-op or regular. In co-op, you'll alternate between study and work terms so it usually takes 5 years to complete your degree. Also in co-op, you'll need balance the job application process along with going to classes.

Find or confirm your career goals through co-op

Co-op can be a great option if you have a career in mind. You can use your co-op terms to get experience to help achieve your dream job. If you're not sure of what you want to do after graduation, you can explore potential careers through co-op to see what you like or dislike.

With access to Waterloo's network of 7,100+ co-op employers, you'll have a huge range of jobs to apply to.

Learn to ace the interview process

You'll also gain lots of experience with the job application process which will be beneficial even after you graduate. Much like in the real world, you'll apply to jobs and interview with employers. You'll learn to tailor your résumé to the jobs you want, write persuasive cover letters, and market yourself during interviews.

Angie, a third-year Honours Arts and Business student says "through all my co-op positions, I've gained valuable skills that I can apply in any career. Having access to the Waterloo job database and co-op as a part of my program has let me find, apply, and work in positions that I wouldn't have found on my own."

One final consideration is the income you'll earn through co-op. At Waterloo, students earn $8,400 to $19,800 per four-month co-op work term in Canada, depending on their program. The money you make can go a long way to helping pay for your university education.

Learn where co-op students work and what they do during co-op terms.

Get more info on co-op at Waterloo

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