Guidelines for unpaid co-op work terms

Unpaid or underpaid opportunities must meet these unpaid/ underpaid guidelines to be considered for credit. These opportunities will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If your unpaid or underpaid opportunity does not meet these guidelines, it will not be considered for credit. 
Jobs are considered ‘underpaid’ when a student is not paid at least ‘minimum wage’ for the work location.  Jobs are considered ‘unpaid’ when student receive alternative remuneration such as stipends,  honorarium, company equity etc.

The following will not be approved: 

  • Positions that require students to pay an application or participation fee at any work location.
  • Positions having full or partial commission as the only monetary remuneration at any work location.
  • Work settings where unpaid students will work side-by-side with paid students, in Canada, the USA and at UWaterloo. 
  • Any co-op position at a for-profit employer, not specifically noted as an exception below

The guidelines are broken down based on the work location - there are unique guidelines for Canada/USA, non-USA international and UWaterloo.


Considerations for jobs located in Canada/USA

If your opportunity located in Canada/USA meets the following considerations, provide details of alternative remuneration when completing the arranged own job form. 

  • Clinical and medical settings where it is not the industry practice to pay students
    • In USA, student must ensure the employer can host a co-op intern before accepting a job.  Contact the International Employment Specialist at 
  • Start-ups and new entrepreneurial ventures
    • In USA, student must ensure the employer can host a co-op intern before accepting a job.  Contact the International Employment Specialist at 
  • Charitable organizations, NGOs, not-for-profits, or humanitarian organizations
  • Under-paid academic research positions
    • Positions at schools other than UWaterloo require a minimum cash stipend of CDN$3000.  

    • Additional alternative remuneration (besides cash), must be in addition to the cash amount.

    • Wholly unpaid positions will not be approved.

  • Professional Sports Organizations
    • AHS students only may consider these roles

Considerations for University of Waterloo opportunities

Your unpaid or underpaid University of Waterloo opportunity must meet the one of the following considerations to be eligible for credit. 

  • Research jobs with UWaterloo faculty*

    * Members of the Faculty of Science cannot employ unpaid or underpaid co-op students from any faculty.

    • Considered for approval starting the first week of the work term.  

    • Students are expected to search for other paid employment until this time. 

  • Entrepreneurial ventures:

    • Students starting their own business under a CE approved UW program
    • Examples, E-Coop through Conrad Centre, Velocity or Greenhouse
  • Competitive Team Member: 
    • Part of a formalized competitive team sponsored by and/or endorsed by a Waterloo faculty

    • Examples are Midnight Sun Team, UWAFT

    • Considered for approval starting the first week of the work term  

    • Once approved, students must complete a Student Team Expectations form which requires signatures from the team lead and faculty sponsor. 

    • Students are limited to one such unpaid work term during their co-op sequence/

  • First Work Term Waterloo programs:

    • Special programs (BETs, Greenhouse co-op) involving employing first work term students at Waterloo for a series of short work experiences

    • Other special programs as they develop

    • Posted towards the end of the main continuous round in WaterlooWorks

    • Students are limited to one such work term during their co-op sequence. 

  • Unpaid co-op positions may be approved for special research and administrative positions arranged between a Waterloo faculty or staff member and students with demonstrated exceptional or special needs as detailed by the AccessAbility Office.

Considerations for international jobs (outside of Canada/ USA)

If your opportunity located internationally meets the following considerations, complete an arranged own job form and a risk management form. 

Important: students must review the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) advisory policy and the Co-operative Education travel advisory guidelines before arranging a non-USA international work term (

  • Rate of pay: all international positions should be compensated according to local market guidelines.  Unpaid jobs will be considered when it is not the practice to pay students in that geographic area or industry. These jobs MUST have some remuneration.  
    • Canadian and US multinational companies MUST compensate students working internationally as per the local country guidelines.
    • Students should negotiate for some form of compensation for work, including salary and/or some alternative remuneration such as permit fees, subsidized flights, accommodation, meals, local travel etc.
  • Timing: AOJs can be considered at any time, but note that employment authorization processes can be lengthy, and must be completed before travelling to a work term.
  • Pay to employer’ jobs: A student can pay the employer for room and board if the room and board are requirement for the job.  However, the student should be free to arrange alternative room and board if they desire. 
  • Paid and Unpaid Students: local labour laws may result in paid and unpaid students working in the same organization. For example, citizens may be paid, but other students may be restricted to other compensation due to visa requirements.  Various exceptions exist and will be at the discretion of the international account manager.