The University of Waterloo was the first university to offer the co-op system of study. Today over 50 percent of our full-time undergraduate students participate.

Partnerships with business and industry are anchored in one of the world's largest collection of co-op programs, with connections to over 7,000 employers.

Whether you're in the co-op or regular system, you'll learn from the same dynamic professors and take the same required courses.

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In most Science majors, you can choose either a regular or co-op system of study, with a few exceptions:

  • Co-op only: Medicinal Chemistry and Biotechnology/Chartered Professional Accountancy.
  • Regular only: Honours Science, Biomedical Sciences, and Science and Aviation.


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Study from September to April each year.

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Graduate a year sooner than a co-op program.

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Plan your own summers to work, volunteer, or travel.

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Access over 1,200 on-campus, part-time job opportunities through Centre for Career Development (CCD).

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Focus on your academic, campus, and personal life.

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Develop your professional skills with EDGE certificate for non-co-op students.


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Graduate with up to 2 years of relevant and diverse work experience.

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Network and gain experience with different types of employers.

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Discover the range of available careers within your field.

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Develop a competitive career edge and valuable skills before you graduate.

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Earn a salary to help finance your education.

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Apply science concepts from the classroom in real-world settings.

Co-op work and study schedule

As a Science student, your first work term begins in the second term of second year. Students who participate in the co-op system of study will alternate 4-month terms at university with 4-month terms at work in business, industry, or government. Most majors have 5 work terms, with the first work term starting in second year, and take just under 5 years to complete.

When you're finished your degree, you'll have the same number of academic terms as a regular student, plus up to 2 years of work experience, depending on your major. Refer to the chart below for details about your specific Science major.

Co-op work and study terms

Year in major Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Term sequence F W Sp F W Sp F W Sp F W Sp F W Sp
Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, [Biotechnology/Economics], Earth Sciences,
Environmental Sciences, Science and Business
S S O S C S C S C S C C S S -
Biotechnology/Chartered Professional Accountancy S S O S C S S C S C S C S - -
Materials and Nanoscience S S O S C S C S C C S C S S -
Physics, Physics and Astronomy, Life Physics,
Mathematical Physics
S S O S C S C C S C S C S S -
Psychology (Fall 2021 start; for 2020 and earlier see program changes) S S O S S C S C S C S C C S -

F = Fall term (September - December)
W = Winter term (January - April)
Sp = Spring term (May - August)

S = Study
C = Co-op work term
O = Off

Waterloo's Professional Development program

The University of Waterloo’s Professional Development program (PD) offers a unique opportunity designed to equip University of Waterloo co-op students with the employability skills that are essential to becoming integral members of the workforce. In fact, according to a survey of 150 Canadian employers, the competencies covered in PD courses such as communication, problem solving, and teamwork rank as the most desired skills when hiring entry-level candidates.

PD courses were created with the recognition that students have many other commitments during their work terms. As a result, courses require approximately 20 hours over 10 weeks to finish, and are completed online, entirely outside of work hours. All PD courses are for academic credit, and after the first two courses, students can choose which others they wish to take, depending upon their areas of interest. As a result, students can further customize their education, helping them to foster the skills that will benefit them most in the future.

Co-op support for you

The Centre for Career Development will work with you to develop your resume, polish your interview skills, and help you with your job search. Before your first work term even begins, you will complete Co-op 101, a workshop designed to show you the ropes of the co-op system. Over the past 6 works terms, Science students have posted a 97%-100% employment rate, so your chances of securing employment are excellent.

Average salaries vary with your level of education and experience. Visit Co-operative Education to see average earnings for Waterloo co-op students from various programs and faculties.

For examples of co-op jobs in the Science major you're interested in, click through to your major from the programs page.

International visa students

As an international student you're eligible for Waterloo Science co-op programs. The only exception is Biotechnology/Chartered Professional Accountancy. You'll need to consider the following before arriving on campus as well as throughout your studies at Waterloo:

  • To study in Canada, you must apply for a study permit through a Canadian embassy, consulate, or high commission in your home country or country where you have been legally admitted.
  • If you are in a co-op program, you'll also have to apply for a co-op work permit which can be done along your study permit or once you've arrived at the University. The length of your co-op work permit is issued for the length of your study permit. To help you obtain your permits for your five years of study at Waterloo, we suggest that you renew your passport prior to coming to Waterloo. If your passport expires during your studies, you'll have to extend your permits while in Canada.
  • As an international student studying in Canada, you're required to secure appropriate health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay. The University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) is mandatory for all international students. You are automatically enrolled in UHIP when you enroll in courses.