Want to gain real world work experience while pursuing your undergraduate degree? Then consider heading to Canada, and opting for a co-op.
Co-ops are programs that alternate periods of academic study with periods of work experience in business, industry, government, social services, and the professions. Think of a co-op as a paid, substantive internship you complete during your degree studies. How cool is that? Very!
It’s true that many American universities make internship opportunities available to undergraduates. Some, such as Northeastern University, are even quite committed to the co-op model. But few U.S. schools can match their Canadian counterparts as to just how seamlessly co-ops are integrated into the heart of the bachelor degree experience. More than 50 Canadian universities, and over 20 colleges, provide co-op opportunities to their students.
The University of Waterloo is a Canadian leader in co-op education. UW operates the largest co-op program in the world, with nearly 20,000 of its students participating annually
Here are the defining features of the co-op experience, according to the Canadian Association For Co-Operative Education (CAFCE)
- Each work term is developed in partnership with the employer and approved by the co-operative education program as a suitable learning environment
- The student is engaged in productive work for which the student receives remuneration
- The co-op curriculum supports student learning goals, personal evaluation and reflection
- The student’s performance in the workplace is supervised and evaluated by the student’s employer
- The student’s progress during their work term is monitored by the co-operative education program
- Both work and academic terms are full-time and follow a formalized sequence. The total amount of co-op work experience is normally at least 30% of the time spent in academic study. For programs of two years or less the total amount may be a minimum of 25%. A work term is defined as a minimum of 12 weeks and/or 420 hours full-time paid experience
- Co-op Programs begin and end on an academic term
- The student completing multiple work terms is normally exposed to the work environment during more than one season of the year.
Co-op allows you to get up to two years of relevant work experience while an undergraduate. Taking part in a co-op will extend the length of your bachelor’s degree program. But because most co-ops are paid, students who take part consider it a sound investment, both educationally and financially. Weekly earnings vary by placement and field, and can range from $400 to $2,000 Canadian Dollars.
For more information check out the useful Co-op Directory maintained by CAFCE, which allows you to search accredited programs by university.