Honours Arts and Business student looking over paperwork with his boss while working in a craft brewery for his co-op.

How it works

In the co-op system, you alternate school terms with paid work terms. Waterloo co-op programs take a year longer to complete than regular (non-co-op) programs and give you up to two years of paid work experience – something that looks great on your résumé when you complete university!

What's best for me: regular or co-op?

Academically, the programs are identical for regular and co-op. You will learn from the same professors, take the same required courses, and learn with the same group of students in your program. The difference comes down to what you want to do outside of the standard school terms.

Considerations for co-op

  • as much as two years of paid work experience
  • a chance to apply classroom theory to real-world job situations
  • career contacts and connections
  • employment earnings to help finance your education
  • opportunity to explore different career options

Considerations for regular

  • continuity in studies, social life, and living arrangements
  • opportunity for more active involvement in campus and community
  • freedom to plan summer employment, travel, and other projects
  • a quicker path to graduation, the workforce, graduate studies, teacher's college, or professional schools
  • you’ll graduate sooner, especially if you fast-track summer courses
  • The EDGE experiential education certificate is available to students in the regular stream of study

Co-op sequences

You will need to complete a minimum of four work terms in your sequence. The sequence you follow is determined by when you start your studies, as well as, your program and major. If you’re unsure of which sequence to follow, consult with your academic advisor. 

Requests for sequence change

You may request consideration for a change in your academic/work term sequence. Please consult the Co-operative Education request for academic/work term sequence change page for further information on this process.

Reasons a change may be approved:

  • To accommodate an academic exchange
  • To accommodate academic course requirements (e.g. courses only offered during a specific term for major)
  • If an 8-month work term is secured
  • To extend work term with a current employer
  • To return to a previous co-op employer for a specific term
  • Personal/extenuating circumstances (to be discussed with academic advisor)

Reasons a change request is normally not approved:

  • Unemployment for the first work term. If you don’t find a co-op job for the first work term, you must take the term off or study on a part-time basis only (two courses maximum). You would then complete the remaining, scheduled four work terms.
  • Switching from Honours Arts and Business Co-op (ARBUSC) to Honours Arts Co-op (HAC), prior to completing any work terms. And, if you’re on the ARBUSC sequence and don’t find employment for your first winter work term, you cannot change your first work term to spring to follow the HAC sequence.
  • If you’re not able to fit the required courses on your requested sequence, the request may be denied.

Co-op fees

Co-op at Waterloo is predominantly funded by a student-paid co-op fee. Similar to tuition, this fee is associated with being enrolled in a co-op program and is paid in instalments throughout your time at Waterloo. To learn more about these fees and what they cover, visit the Co-operative Education’s fee page.


As a co-op student, you have a team of co-op advising support. Learn how to connect with your team. 

Navigating the co-op process on top of school work and other life demands can be challenging. We are here to further support co-op students with wellness counselling and resources