The Waterloo experience: Exploring careers and building skills for your future

A group of Waterloo co-op students working on a project together

Naomi Written by Naomi (she/her), student

Coming to Waterloo is the start of a journey filled with opportunities for personal and professional growth. Discover all the ways you can explore careers and build skills at Waterloo to set yourself up for success.

There’s a reason Waterloo proudly holds the ranking as Canada’s top school for graduate employment rate. With all the exciting ways you can pick up essential skills and navigate future careers, it’s only natural that you’re well prepared for the workforce by the time you graduate. From Waterloo’s renowned co-op program to the versatile EDGE certificate, plus all the research positions and part-time jobs, there are so many unique routes to success so that you can invest in your future while funding your education along the way.

Waterloo's co-op advantage

What truly sets Waterloo apart is its co-op program, which equips students exceptionally well for the real world. I learned a lot about the workforce from my managers, and the advice they gave me was priceless.

Dhruv (he/him), Management Engineering student

Whether you’ve had your heart set on joining us since the beginning or you’ve recently learned about Waterloo, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard about the co-op program — it’s only the largest of its kind in North America. Co-operative education, or co-op, is Waterloo’s program that enables you to explore potential careers through work terms, meaning you graduate with up to two years of relevant, paid work experience. 

Second-year Engineering student, Dhruv, says that at his first co-op, he acquired a bunch of technical skills, improved his soft skills, and formed genuine relationships with his colleagues and managers. “The skills I gained will be a great asset in my future academic and work pursuits. I learned how to think independently and manage tasks efficiently,” says Dhruv. Co-op experiences are invaluable for discovering your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, and preparing you for the workforce, so you know what to expect when you graduate!
Let’s not forget about a key highlight: co-op can help you finance your education, with students earning between $45,000 to $85,000 CAD by the time they graduate.

Co-op earnings can go a long way in making your tuition bill more manageable and worthwhile. It helps with everyday expenses like rent and groceries and can really make a difference in your life.

Dhruv (he/him), Management Engineering student

You can check out the average earnings for co-op work terms to find out how much you could make based on your program of choice.

Two students writing on a whiteboard

Unlock personal and professional growth with EDGE

It’s not widely known that there are numerous ways to explore career options and gain valuable skills outside of co-op at Waterloo; EDGE is one program that will center you in the midst of countless opportunities. This experiential education certificate program is an invaluable opportunity available for students pursuing regular (non-co-op) programs. Through EDGE, you can hone your professional skills, delve into different career paths, and learn how to market yourself to potential employers.
Participating in EDGE involves completing a series of milestones, including workshops, a career development course, and acquiring hands-on experience through various work or volunteer engagement — all at your own pace. Oh, and did I mention it’s also free?

Research opportunities: Where education meets real-world exposure

Dreaming of a scenario where you can advance your academic journey while making money? Welcome to Waterloo, where there are a wide range of research projects awaiting you. These undergraduate research opportunities offer valuable direction in your academic and professional journey; you can apply what you’ve learned in class to real-world settings and earn hands-on experience in your fields of interest.

Two students working on a project

Research positions are also a great chance to contribute to meaningful projects while expanding your network and building relationships with professors. While working as a research assistant for Black and Free, a project founded by a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Communication Arts, I had the chance to connect with so many people: fellow undergrads, graduate and doctoral students, professors, and my boss, the Principal Investigator herself!  
Networking with people in your field is not only great for meeting others who share your interests but can also be incredibly beneficial for future career opportunities. The same goes for connecting with professors leading these research projects — they could provide you with specific guidance or be a reference for graduate school and other jobs down the line.

Working as a research assistant has made me feel extremely confident in my abilities and enhanced my passion for higher education and academia!

Hooriya (she/her), Communication Studies student and current research assistant

A great way to join research projects is by reaching out to a professor whose project aligns with your interests or by checking out various faculty websites to discover projects in Arts, Engineering, Environment, Health, Math, and Science.

A student reading a textbook

My former colleague from the Black and Free project, third-year Communication Studies student, Hooriya, says that her time on the project has enabled her to invest in herself and her future. “I’ve become a confident writer, problem solver, and designer. I’ve also gained experience exploring data in UX research to make social media more accessible on our Instagram page. Plus, the money I make goes into my savings for law school, and I also use it to buy textbooks and invest in Adobe Creative Cloud, a software used in design courses,” says Hooriya.

Part-time jobs: Earning while learning

Part-time jobs are the perfect way to fund your spending habits during your school terms while acquiring soft and hard skills. Finding a part-time job on campus is a great idea if you have the time for it! On-campus bosses are more flexible because they understand students' needs, which means campus jobs can be worked into your schedule more easily. Plus, learning how to manage your work and academic life is a valuable organizational skill, and it’s an impressive one to highlight in interviews.

Explore work-study positions

Work-study jobs are a great way to earn some cash during the school semester. These types of jobs allow you to earn up to $2,000 per term while expanding your expertise through relevant experience! The program provides part-time jobs for full-time students with financial need. This applies to OSAP-eligible students, or students outside of Ontario and international students who meet the financial need criteria. Roles found on the work-study site include blogger jobs, research positions, peer ambassadors and tutors, athletics-related jobs, and other roles tailored to various programs!

Work at home with Campus Housing

Campus Housing offers various job opportunities for students: residence life dons, front desk assistants, peer leaders, and residence ambassadors are just some of the positions available. The best part about a job with Campus Housing is that it’s essentially a work-from-home position, minus the isolation! You’d be getting paid while only a step away from the comfort of your own residence — and rushing to get to work would never be an issue. Depending on your position, you could enhance your administrative, leadership, and people skills through the diverse roles that are offered!

Students taking a picture with King Warrior

Spread the Waterloo spirit as an ambassador

For my extroverts, a student ambassador position might be the one for you. Tasks in this position include providing campus tours to future students and promoting Waterloo through various events, like open houses and the Ontario Universities' Fair. This is the perfect role for people that are passionate about their experiences and life at Waterloo. Being a student ambassador lets you show off your school spirit and help the people who are in your exact shoes right now — trying to find the right university and wondering if Waterloo is a good fit.

Engage your campus through WUSA jobs

The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) also lists various student jobs and opportunities for student-run services, like Imprint, the student newspaper, Glow, the centre for sexual and gender diversity, and Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equity (RAISE) a service addressing racism and xenophobia on campus. Jobs posted to the WUSA website allow you to develop skills like event planning and coordination, sociability, leadership, marketing and graphic design, photography, and more. Fourth-year Planning student, Matthew, worked for WUSA as a marketing representative, which meant he got to run booths around campus to promote various events and initiatives to students. Working for the undergraduate association is definitely a great way to connect with the student body around you and talk to more people!

Working part-time on campus can give you some pocket change and money to cover your textbooks. The experience also increases your chances of getting future on-campus jobs and allows you to secure a better co-op, which increases your ability to pay for school.

Matthew (he/him), Planning student and former WUSA employee

Your journey at Waterloo marks the beginning of a future brimming with success and abundant possibilities. No matter which opportunities you choose to delve into, just know that every step you take here is a step in the right direction toward enhancing your future. There's no single approach to acquiring valuable skills and exploring your career and at Waterloo, countless paths are within your reach.


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