If you're admitted to one of Waterloo's co-op programs, you'll complete four to six paid work terms (normally four months in length) over the course of your degree.
It's a good idea to start your preparations for co-op early! Navigating the co-op process on top of school work can be challenging your first time around, but there are steps you can take to prepare for what’s ahead.
Think about your skills
Before you start applying to co-op jobs, it’s helpful to think about your skills and interests. What are your strengths? What do you like doing? What kind of jobs or industries interest you?
Draft a résumé
Start by writing your skills and experience down. Volunteer work, school clubs, and class projects can count, too! Check out our tips on creating a résumé before university.
Get a part-time job
A great introduction to the workplace, part-time jobs can provide skills (like teamwork and time management) that are transferable across all jobs.
Volunteering is a perfect way to learn about a possible career or gain experience in a field you’re already passionate about. Tip: it also looks GREAT on a résumé.
Learn a new skill
Whether it’s coding, photography, or first aid, show employers you're a self-starter by learning something new on your own time.
Build a job network
You already have job contacts: family friends, neighbours, and parents' colleagues. Maybe their organizations hire co-op students.
Once you're on campus
Before your first work term, you'll learn about the co-op process and connect with a career advisor. As well, the Centre for Career Development offers workshops and personal appointments to help you navigate co-op and make career decisions.
You’ll learn to create an effective résumé, practise your interview skills, and fine-tune your work search skills – all valuable skills for your career.
My co-op terms have been extremely meaningful for my professional growth as I have not only had the opportunity to network with various individuals, I have been able to diversify my knowledge and gain transferable skills.
Waterloo's co-op process
In the school term prior to your first co-op work term, you'll
- take an online professional development course that will walk you through the co-op process and help you prepare your résumé and interview skills,
- review co-op job descriptions and apply to the jobs and employers that interest you,
- interview with employers who select you based on your résumé and academic record,
- be ranked by the employers who interviewed you, and
- rank the interviews you had in order of preference and a matching system will then attempt to match you with a job.
If you’re matched with a job, you'll stop applying to jobs and finish the rest of your school term before starting your work term. If you're not matched with a job, you'll continue the application and interview process.
Your work term (normally four months) will start once you've finished your school term and exams. You'll be a full-time employee of the company or organization that hired you. Once you complete your work term, you'll return to Waterloo for another school term.
You'll alternate school and work terms and will complete four to six work terms by the time you graduate. This means you'll graduate with up to two years of work experience on your résumé!
When is your first work term?
It depends on your program. Many students start their work terms in second year, although there are some Engineering and Mathematics programs that start in first year. See the co-op study/work sequences.