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Co-op education in Canada

Our Canada expert Anuj Jain explains what is co-op education all about and answers your common queries 

Co-operative education, or co-op education, is a program where you can work in an industry that is related to your field of study. It gives you real-world, program-related work experience while pursuing your education. It also helps you decide what kind of job you might want, helps you pay for your education and increases chances of acquiring a good job (with a higher salary) as a graduate. Most co-op programs are structured in an alternating pattern, i.e., one semester or term of schooling is alternated with one semester or term of work. 

As co-op students, students normally alternate between four months of school and four months as a full-time employee of the organisation they're working for. It's an amazing way to explore careers, gain relevant experience, and make money while still earning your bachelors’ degree. In Canada, almost all post-secondary institutions offer a co-op option with their academic programs. In fact, you’ll have a co-op teacher who will facilitate your entry into a workplace, which is not usually available to most other students. 

Benefits of co-op education

Remember, co-op programs are different from an internship. While co-ops are a joint venture between the university, employer and student, internships are between a student and their employers. Co-ops are built into a program structure so a student can be a full-time employee for the tenure decided, while in an internship, the student may/may not have to compromise on attending their semesters. Most importantly, co-ops are paid, while internships are often unpaid. Since not all employers will use these terms distinctively, and may use co-op and internship as interchangeable terms, ensure that you clarify this at the very onset of beginning your co-op/internship. 

To pursue a co-op program in Canada, you’d require a work permit. I would advise that you apply for the same in time to save any hassles at a later stage. Remember, your co-op should not be more than 50 per cent of your total program of study and your intended employment must be an essential part of the academic program. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 


Do we get paid in a co-op job?


 Yes. University and college students who are placed in companies or other organisations for their work terms get paid by their employers.


Can you explain a co-op term with an example?


You get placed in an industry relevant to your field of study. For instance, if you're opting for a co-op in your Computer engineering program, you’ll be referred to a software development company; if you are pursuing a degree in communications, you might be referred to a digital marketing firm or a public relations company where you get to learn the requisite skills required to be job-ready when you graduate. When you go for work, there would be a manager to supervise and analyse your performance like any regular employee.


How do students get their co-op jobs?


Institutions having co-op programs have specific departments that find available options. On the other hand, students may also search for suitable jobs on their own as well. So, if you find a place where you’d like to work at, your institution’s co-op department will decide if this job is suitable as per the co-op arrangements of your program or not.


After the co-op program, will I be guaranteed a job when I graduate?


If you work well, you may get absorbed by the organisation you worked at, but co-op programs do not come with a job guarantee. Working in a reputed organisation provides you with chance to network in the industry, and meet people who may be able to help in future. With hands-on experience, you may even get placed at a higher salary than your peers.


Do I need to pay extra for co-op programs?


Yes, co-op programs might be slightly more expensive than other programs, but they also come with extra perks like work experience, industry contacts, higher employability and industry know-how. The cost is nothing in comparison to the benefits you will enjoy.


What are the benefits for employers who hire a co-op student?


Employers who hire co-op students are able to bring in fresh talent in their company who can offer new ideas and perspectives. It helps them delegate their everyday work and train a potential future employee.

Updated on September 1, 2020

Stay updated

Watch these informative videos to understand more about co-op education opportunities in Canada.


Read more articles by our Canada experts

Studying Bachelors in Canada

Blended learning in Canada

New study permit guidelines by IRCC


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Anuj Jain

Anuj Jain is a part of IDP Education’s client relations team for Canada division at the South Asia headquarters in Gurgaon. An MBA by degree, he has an experience of over 10 years in the international education industry. He has spent a major part of his career in guiding students to pursue their dream of international education in Canada, and has delivered seminars on different aspects of studying in Canada at various platforms including social media.

He has also travelled to Canada to visit and interact with some of the most popular institutions to understand in depth the quality of education and infrastructure offered to international students, so he can guide them in making even better decisions; besides having attended multiple workshops to increase his knowledge and expertise on Canada as a destination.  

Top institutions that offer co-op programs in Canada

  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Alberta
  • Queens University
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • University of Toronto
  • Ryerson University
  • Centennial College
  • Georgian College
  • Fanshawe College
  • George Brown College
  • Conestoga College
  • Humber College and many more
.... and many more


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