Experience: Co-op or regular

Will it be the co-op or the regular system of study?

Academically, co-op and regular are the same

Most programs in Waterloo's Faculty of Mathematics are offered in both the co-op and regular systems of study. Academically, co-op and regular are the same–that is, students from both systems take their courses together and follow the same academic programs. The only difference is that co-op students take a break from their studies every four months to go on four-month work terms, in jobs located primarily in Ontario, with a smaller selection found across Canada and abroad.

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The regular system provides continuity

The regular system of education, the more traditional approach than the co-op system, is a desirable option for a significant portion of our students. The regular system involves eight months of study from September through April. The academic year (two four-month school terms) is then followed by a four-month break during which students normally work.

Students choose the regular system over co-op because a regular degree takes less time to complete than a co-op degree does. With fewer breaks from school than co-op, a regular program degree takes only three-two/third years to complete. Some students are in the fortunate position of having good job contacts before coming to university and don't need the co-op system for employment experience or future contacts. And others just don't like the idea of moving every four months, preferring the continuity that the regular system provides (for friendships, sports, part-time jobs, etc.). And you can bet these students also appreciate the opportunity to return home for the summer months if they so desire.

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Co-op provides on-the-job experience

With opportunities to connect classroom theory with actual applications in a wide range of employment settings, co-op is attractive to a large percentage of mathematical and computer science students. During your co-op work terms, you undertake a variety of job responsibilities, pick up new work-related skills, and earn competitive salaries, depending on the job level and your experience. While co-op takes one year longer to complete than a more traditional program – for a total of four-two/third years – you gain up to two years of valuable work experience and make important career contacts.

The Department of Co-operative Education & Career Action (CECA) will work with you to find co-op jobs. Consistently, between 95 and 100 percent of mathematical and computer science students find co-op employment. For examples of the kinds of co-op jobs that Faculty of Mathematics students obtain, visit the undergraduate programs page and follow the links to the programs you're interested in.

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Getting your first job

In first year, co-op students participate in a number of workshops designed to help you create a winning résumé, hone your interview skills, and understand the co-op process. You apply to jobs you're interested in by either searching the various job boards located on campus, or using the electronic database, ACCESS, and dropping your résumés off in the Co-op department. This application process generally lasts two-three weeks and is followed by the interview phase. During this period of time, employers come to campus to spend 20-30 minutes with students they've selected to interview. Employers then rank the students they've interviewed and students rank the jobs for which they were interviewed. Following a computer-aided optimization process, students and employers are matched.

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Co-op-only programs

The following programs in the Faculty of Mathematics are co-op only:

  • Business Administration (Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU)) and Computer Science (UWaterloo) Double Degree
  • Business Administration (WLU) and Mathematics (UWaterloo) Double Degree
  • Computing and Financial Management
  • Mathematics/Chartered Professional Accountancy
  • Mathematics/Teaching
  • Pure Mathematics/Teaching
  • Software Engineering

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Apply to co-op on the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC) form

You select your system of study — co-op or regular — when you apply. If you're applying to the co-op system of study, you must check the co-op box on the OUAC application form. If you're considering co-op, keep in mind that your chance for admission to co-op is higher if you apply when you're entering your first year (on the OUAC application form) rather than applying during your first year.

International students on student visas may also apply for admission to co-op programs. Please note that space in co-op programs is limited.

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If you apply to co-op but are not admitted

If you apply to co-op but are not admitted, you'll automatically be considered for the regular system of study. You don't have to use more than one spot on your application form.

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Professional Development courses in the Faculty of Mathematics

While on your work terms, as part of your degree requirement, you'll complete a series of professional development courses to enrich your experience and to enable you to become a more effective employee. These self-directed courses will help you to expand your skills and knowledge in areas such as project management, critical analysis, problem solving, conflict resolution, and communications, using everyday situations from your work-term environment. These courses will be completed online during your work term, and you'll receive academic credit for these courses.

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Regular studies compared with the co-op study/work term sequences

The study/work term sequences is outlined on the Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar website.

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Co-op employment rate averages

The Faculty of Mathematics students enjoy high co-op employment rates: between 95 and 100 percent of the students find employment each term.

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Average co-op earnings

Co-op students in the Faculty of Mathematics earn competitive salaries. Information on co-op earnings, and a breakdown of hourly and weekly salaries are available from the Co-operative Education website. These earnings play a significant role in covering degree program costs.

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Co-op student profiles


Ameesha Isaac

3A Bioinformatics, Co-op

Favourite Co-op Job:
Software development engineer intern, Amazon, Seattle

Brampton, ON

UWaterloo Hip Hop executive, residence life don, orientation leader and group leader, Science Society (SciSoc) member, and coordinator and participant for “5 Days for the Homeless”.

Favourite thing about co-op:

I absolutely love to try different work environments and sort of experiment with different technologies and what I can do in this field, and co-op gives me that opportunity. I also love to travel, so I have travelled for most of my co-op jobs, and I plan to continue that with my remaining future co-ops! Getting paid is also a bonus, along with getting a good break from school every four months. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet people from around the world while on co-op, so that’s been amazing.

Read Ameesha's full profile.


Chrissy Schreiner

3A Applied Mathematics,
Biology Option, Co-op

Favourite co-op job:
Computer science course developer, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, Waterloo

Kingston, ON

UWaterloo Hip Hop club, intramural handball and volleyball, and co-editor for Conrad Grebal residence newspaper.

Favourite thing about co-op:

My favourite thing about co-op is the new people that you meet. First off it's great for networking and finding future jobs, maybe future co-op terms or maybe even after university. It's also really good for learning different work methods, different skills, and how to apply them to the knowledge you learn in the classroom. I find (especially being in Mathematics), that sometimes it's hard to relate what you're doing in lectures to what you will be doing in your career in the real world. But co-op is an introduction to how to apply all of these skills to the work force and to new experiences. 

Read Chrissy's full profile.


Flora Zhang

4A Mathematics/Chartered Professional Accountants (Math/CPA), Co-op

Favourite co-op job:
Staff Accountant, Ernst & Young, Toronto

Wuhan, China

Co-president of Waterloo DECA, Accounting and Finance Student Association (AFSA), residence council, badminton club, archery club, Mathematics Endowment Fund (MEF), and orientation leader for Math and Accounting.

Favourite thing about co-op:

My favourite thing about co-op is getting to meet new people and see how different organizations and teams work. Even within the same company, everyone you meet can come from different educational and career backgrounds so there is always something to learn from them. Co-op also gives you so many opportunities to try new things. As an auditor, I got to learn about different companies’ operating structures and financial processes, and as a reporting analyst, I got to analyze the performance data of various internal team so that was really cool. There has also been a large co-op community at the companies I’ve worked for, so there have been a lot of other students to connect with. I also loved it when my employers gave me the opportunity to volunteer within the community.

Read Flora's full profile.

View more undergraduate student profiles.