An Introduction to Co-op Education

A brief intro to university and college co-ops, what they are and how they can benefit you.


What does co-op mean?

Co-op education, or co-operative education, is a program where students get the chance to work in an industry related to their field. Most co-op programs are structured so that each term or semester of schooling is alternated with a term or semester of work. The period of work outside the school is often called a work term.

Do you get paid in a co-op job?

Yes, university and college students who are placed at companies or other organizations for their work terms are paid for their work.

What would be an example of a co-op term?

If you're taking a co-op program in computer programming, a work term might involve a software development company. Much like a regular employee, you would be supervised by a manager. You might test or even write code for the company, or assist a full-time employee. If you're in business, you might fulfill the role of assistant to a company manager or supervisor.

At the end of the work term, employers are asked to fill out a form evaluating the performance of the co-op student.

How do students get their co-op jobs?

Schools with co-op programs have departments or services that look for opportunities. It's not uncommon for students to search out a suitable place of employment on their own as well. If you've found a place you'd like to work, the placement service or co-op department at your school may have to determine if the job is suitable for the co-op.

If I do a co-op program, will I be guaranteed a job when I graduate?

You will not be guaranteed a job, but doing a co-op placement will give you the chance to network in your industry and meet like-minded people who may be able to help. A co-op program also eliminates that nasty catch-22 that recent graduates encounter when they're told that they lack the practical or industry experience to get their first job.

Do co-op programs cost more than regular programs?

In some cases, co-op programs are slightly more expensive than other programs, but this is usually true of programs with extra services. The benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.

What do employers get out of hiring a co-op student?

There are several benefits to hiring co-op students. Employers get the chance to bring in someone full of new and fresh ideas and with the latest training. They also get the chance to have someone take up slack during busy periods and to groom and possibly recruit future employees.

Where can I find more information about co-ops?

The advanced program search on will give you a listing of co-op programs.

The Web site for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning has a massive directory of co-op programs.

If you'd like to learn more about work-integrated learning, check out this piece on

Modified on August 23, 2019

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