Co-operative (co-op) education allows you to put your in-class learning into action. This page will provide you with more information about the co-op option so you can decide if it’s right for you.
What is co-op education?
Co-op education is a structured way of learning that combines in-class learning with periods of actual work. This working experience is called a co-op placement. While on placement, you get to network with employers, gain valuable work experience in your chosen field, and earn academic credits that count toward your degree or diploma.
Benefits of co-op education
You get to put what you’ve learned into action.
Co-op placements give you the chance to apply the latest theories and approaches you’ve learned in the classroom, giving you real work experience in your particular discipline.
You can make money.
Co-op placements are usually paid positions, unless you’re doing a co-op through your high school. This paid work experience can be a really great opportunity to learn how to manage your money, not to mention pay for your school-related costs.
You could edge out the competition.
Co-op placements provide you with excellent work experience in your field of study, and this can give you an edge when you’re done school and competing for jobs. It shows employers that you not only have the academic training and knowledge, you can also do the job!
You can test-drive your career.
Co-op placements can give you a taste of real-life work experience to help you decide whether this is the right career path for you. They may also open you up to possibilities you wouldn’t have considered or known about otherwise.
Finding a co-op program
The Canadian Association for Co-operative Education allows you to search for co-op programs by institution or program type on its Web site.
You can also visit your school’s co-op placement office or Web site to obtain more information about co-op eligibility criteria and how to apply.
The Public Service Commission’s Post-secondary Co-op and Internship Program provides students with an opportunity to gain paid work experience with the Government of Canada.
Things you should know about co-ops
You need to enroll in a co-op program.
Co-op is considered an academic program, and it has specific eligibility requirements. You’ll have to apply directly to the co-op office once enrolled, or select the co-op program option when applying to post-secondary school.
You need to budget for extra costs.
Co-op programs usually have additional fees that are not included in normal tuition costs, so make sure you factor these fees into your budget.
You need to keep up your grades.
Many co-op programs require students to maintain a certain grade average to stay enrolled and continue to participate in co-op placements.
You need to be able to multi-task.
To participate in a co-op program, you usually need to be a full-time student. Sometimes this means you’ll have to write midterms and complete assignments while looking for jobs and having interviews. You’ll have to learn how to effectively manage your time.
You may need to do your own research.
Depending on the school you attend, you may need to find your own placement. Some companies advertise the co-op placements they offer, but you may need to dig a little harder to find others.
It may take longer to graduate.
A co-op program is completed during a normal academic program, so it will often extend your program length. Be sure to check a course calendar to know how much extra time you’ll be investing when participating in a co-op.