SDS Co-op Program

The University of Waterloo has the largest undergradauate co-op program in the world and is connected to over 4500 employers worldwide. Co-op provides students in an Honours academic plan the ability to combine paid work experiences with academic learning. Students can pursue co-op with an SDS major in either the Honours Arts Co-op plan or Honours Arts and Business plan. 

Please see the Co-op Website to learn more information on co-op at the University of Waterloo.

Co-op not your thing? That’s ok! There are many other opportunities available on and off-campus that can provide hands-on learning.

Is co-op right for me?

When deciding on if co-op is right for you, consider its requirements, pros/cons, and your personal circumstances. 

Everyone’s experience is unique - you may find balancing work and academics suits you perfectly, or focusing on just academic terms works best for you. Explore the information on this page as a starting point, contact your SDS Advisor to discuss more if needed, and review the Co-op Website for details on expectations and responsibilities. 

Co-op could be an appropriate plan to pursue if you're in an Honours plan and easily maintain high grades each term, can afford a full-time course load and additional co-op costs (e.g. fees, potential moves, transportation, etc.), are able to multi-task effectively, like to try new things and adaptable to change, are willing to relocate for work terms outside of the KW region, and want to gain experience in a wide variety of roles/companies. 

Co-op might not be as helpful or feasible to pursue if any of the items above are not possible, you're an online-only student and/or a transfer student with a high number of transferred credits, have conflicting external demands that limits academic/work flexibility, and are only seeking work in very specific fields. 

Note: Many graduate schools require a minimum of an Honours degree for application. You can also pursue Honours without participating in co-op.

Advantanges and Disadvantages of Co-op

Advantages of Co-op

  • Use WaterlooWorks and gain access to dozens of placement opportunities
  • Gain valuable personal insight into strengths, weaknesses, preferences, passions and goals
  • Learn what workplace values, cultures, content and leadership styles you enjoy
  • Earn money to help fund your academic work terms (+ life in general!)
  • Learn how to network and potentially secure strong references for future work or education requirements
  • Get feedback from professionals to help improve your skills and competitiveness in the job market
  • Alternating academic and work terms might be a good fit for your goals
  • Potential for travel
  • Meet new friends and try out potential careers before committing
  • Build resilience by tackling competing deadlines and managing a higher workload
  • Graduate with a solid resume and the chance to secure post-grad employment early 

Challenges of Co-op

  • No guarantee of finding work or interest-relevant jobs, particularly for your first work term 
  • Added stress of applying and interviewing within an academic term (i.e. front-loaded process at the start of term, deadlines may conflict, etc.)
  • Increased tuition (e.g. full-time academic load, co-op fee, etc.)
  • Potential need to relocate or commute to work + associated costs
  • Adding an extra year to your degree
  • May limit ability to participate in other activities (e.g. exchange, volunteering, research thesis, etc.)
  • If an academic term falls in spring, there are fewer options available (many are online) 
  • Can normally only take 1 course on a work term
  • Difficult to manage extra academic plans (e.g. double-major, minors, etc.)
  • Limited to full-time, on-campus students

Co-op requirements

All co-op students must:

  • Maintain a full-time load during each academic term.
  • Maintain Honours standing for their major (e.g. SDS average > 70%, Arts average > 65%, overall average > 60%)
  • Complete 4 work-terms (5th is optional).
  • Pay a co-op fee each term according to their sequence (included in tuition).
  • Complete 4 Professional Development (PD) courses offered through the Centre for Work-Integrated Learning (effective Fall 2022).
    • These courses help you increase your employability and assist you with seeing connections between workplace experience and what you learn in the classroom.
      • PD 1: Career Fundamentals = academic term before first work-term
      • PD 12: Critical Reflection for Growth in the Workplace = during first work-term 
      • Two elective PDs of your choice, one per work term


There are three OUAC admission pathways that provide co-op access as an SDS student. Some automatically register students in the co-op program but without a major, or they may start in SDS and need to add co-op manually later.

  • Honours Arts Co-op (add SDS as a major at the end of first year)
  • Honours Arts and Business Co-op (add SDS as a major at the end of first year)
  • Honours Social Development Studies (add co-op plan at the end of first year)

Key points

  • Due to the structured nature of co-op sequencing and expectation of balancing academics with work terms, co-op is only available to students in Honours academic plans.
  • Co-op follows a designated sequence alternating academic/study and work terms. Associated responsibilities and experiences (e.g. co-op fees, recruitment terms, PD courses) start in second year.
  • Students must complete full-time course loads during assigned academic/study terms (at least 3 courses, often up to 5). Before the fall of second year (2A term) they must have at least 8 courses complete, but no more than 13. This may impact eligibility to add co-op if a transfer student.
  • Students must maintain an SDS major average above 70% at the end of their first year to add co-op (if Honours SDS) or add the major (if Honours co-op or ARBUS). 70% is the minimum SDS average needed throughout the degree or there's risk of having co-op removed.
  • Students seeking to complete a BA in the Faculty of Arts as a second degree (having already completed a bachelor's degree in any discipline at the University of Waterloo or elsewhere) are not eligible for admission to a co-op plan.


Please visit the Arts Co-op Website to see examples of different sequences. If you began your degree in a spring or winter term and are interested in Honours Arts Co-op, please connect with your SDS advisor to discuss feasibility. 

Sequence Changes 

Sometimes situations arise where co-op students need to change their co-op sequence. This may be due to being offered an 8-month job, illness/delay in academic requirements, need time away from studies, etc. Administrative approval is required to deviate from a standard sequence.

Students must sign and date the co-op sequence change form prior to submitting it to their academic advisor. The advisor will approve the sequence and/or connect with you if the proposed change significantly impacts your academic plan. Final approval of the change is done by each Faculty’s co-op representative. Be sure to review the 2nd page of the sequence form for additional details.

Course recommendations

  • SDS is a flexible degree plan with minimal required courses and lots of space to pursue individual interests.
    • Some courses are prerequisites to others in the same discipline and best to complete earlier. Others may not have any prerequisites, be flexible on when they can be taken, etc.
      • Work with your SDS Advisor to determine the best fit for you.
  • To be set-up for success in upper-years, SDS majors are encouraged to take core courses in the four SDS disciplines (SDS, SOCWK, PSYCH, SOC) before the end of their 1B term/first year. These may include:
    • PSYCH 101 or 101R
    • SOC 101 or 101R
    • SOCWK 120R
    • PSYCH 253 or 253R (prerequisite: PSYCH 101/101R)
    • SDS 131R
    • SDS 150R
  • Note: ARBUS students have additional courses required in first year (e.g. ARBUS codes, ECON 101, etc.), meaning less room for SDS major courses. Contact your ARBUS advisor for more information.
  • Co-op recruitment terms start in 2A (ARBUS) or 2B (HAC). During these terms students are expected to take a full-time course lead (at least 3 courses) + PD 1 + apply/interview/secure a job for the subsequent work term.
    • Recommended 2nd year courses: SDS 250R, SDS 251R, any of the 6 above not yet complete. If a student has decided to pursue an additional plan (e.g. second major, minor, etc.), those core courses may need to be prioritized.

Example co-op jobs

Some examples of co-op positions SDS major students have held since 2018:

  • Operations Assistant - RBC Bank
  • Program Support Staff - Wyndham House

  • Educational Assistant - Goodwin Learning Centre

  • Technical Account Coordinator - Bell Media

  • Research Administrative Assistant - St. Michael's Hospital

  • Coordinator, Learning & Leadership Development - Shoppers Drug Mart

  • International Student Experience Assistant - University of Waterloo

  • Graphic Designer - PointClickCare

  • Test Analyst, IT Services - Toronto Transit Commission

  • Camp Coordinator - Family and Children's Services Niagara 

  • Child and Youth Worker - Stratford Children's Services

  • Residential Assistant - L'Arche Canada

  • Community Development Worker - Sustainable Community Aid Network

  • Policy and Research Assistant - Treasury Board Secretariat

  • Social Media and Web Associate - University of Waterloo

  • Research Assistant, Digital Innovation & Design - National University of Singapore

See more examples of co-op positions on the Arts Co-op Website. For more information on expectations across standard and flexible work terms, please visit the Co-op Roles and Responsibilities website.