Studying abroad is a great opportunity to gain a unique experience of student life in a country that interests you. At the same time, you might want to make the most of your study abroad by gaining international work experience whilst you study. Canadian universities offer co-op programs for international students to gain relevant work experience throughout their degree, which can boost your resume and give you an edge for graduate roles. Here, we’ll go through what opportunities Canadian co-op programs can provide, and how to go about landing a co-op placement.
What Are Co-op Programs in Canada?
A Co-op is a period of work experience which students can apply to during their degree. Co-op courses in Canada integrate relevant work experience within a university courses curriculum, where you can study and work at the same time. Co-op courses are paid roles provided by Canadian companies which partner with universities. Each university’s co-op process is different, some of the programs involve matching you with a job that reflects your educational and career goals, focusing on the skills you want to build. These co-op programs are available to international students as well, making them a great study abroad opportunity.
Are Co-op Courses and Internships the Same?
Although it sounds like an internship, co-op work placements are slightly different. Co-op positions are paid competitive salaries which reflect the industry they are working in, whereas some internships are either unpaid or pay less than regular full-time staff. A co-op position is also longer than a typical internship, as universities have set ‘work terms’ for their co-op students to work, and many courses require more than one work term to be completed. As Canadian co-op programs are organized through a close collaboration between universities and companies, co-op work is likely to be more supervised, structured and challenging than an internship sourced independently.
Why Choose a Co-op Program in Canada?
Aside from the work experience gained while studying, doing a co-op program in Canada can provide you with many other advantages, such as:
Career Building Skills
Having industry relevant experience whilst studying provides you with a unique insight into professional skills required to succeed in your dream job, such as resume writing, communicating with teams and networking with like-minded professionals.
Paid employment is one of the most enticing parts of a co-op course in Canada, as you can finance your school fees and living expenses while you study. However, since co-op programs pay industry standard rates, you will know your worth when discussing salaries with future employers, such as for graduate roles.
As some co-ops allow you to work for different employers in every work term, you can explore career options, which many graduate programs and internships do not offer. This gives you a competitive edge when applying for graduate roles, as you gain confidence in the areas you want to work in.
Feedback and Collaboration
Co-op programs in Canada are assigned to companies who have partnered with the university. This means that co-op roles will be assessed as a part of your degree, and you have the unique experience of receiving feedback, reflecting on your skills and collaborating with professionals in a way that is not offered through an independently sourced internship. The guidance provided through a co-op role is invaluable, and can help you reflect on your professional and career goals.
How Can I Do a Canadian Co-op Program?
Many Canadian universities offer co-op programs throughout undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, meaning you can apply for a co-op program after you are admitted to a Canadian university. Depending on your major, the requirements for each program differ slightly, but usually you apply through your department’s co-op website. From there, you will receive advice on which roles apply to your career goals.
To study a co-op program in Canada, you need a co-op work permit. The process for Canadian co-op work permits is straightforward if you have a study permit, and you just need to apply online.
Where Can I Do a Co-op Program in Canada?
Many Canadian institutions offer a co-op program for most of their majors. However, if you are new to exploring co-op programs in Canada, our advisory team at Intake has made some suggestions for you:
University of Waterloo
Offering both undergraduate and postgraduate co-op programs, in disciplines such as engineering, business, humanities and health. Work terms are 4 months, and students can do up to 6 work terms and are partnered with many companies, research institutions and healthcare centers.
University of British Columbia
With co-op programs in all undergraduate disciplines, and select postgraduate programs, UBC co-op programs alternate between academic and work terms to provide a unique experience of work and study. UBC is partnered with many businesses and non-profit organizations, and employers collaborate with the student to set goals for their work terms.
University of Victoria
Co-op is available for most undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at UVic, and focuses on skill development through learning objectives. You can do short or long term co-op, ranging from 1 to 4 work terms, which can be completed throughout your degree. You can apply for a co-op integrated degree, or choose to enroll in a co-op program after starting your degree.
Study and Work in Canada With Intake
If you want to study a co-op program in Canada, or have your own ideas for studying abroad, consider talking with an Intake advisor. Our advisory team can give you personalized recommendations for co-op programs, or other ways to work and study in Canada, based on your interests and goals. Reach out to an Intake advisor today!