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What is co-op?

student leaning on fence

Co-operative education (co-op) lets you try out career options and gain valuable paid work experience. Fifty-six percent of UVic students take part in co-op terms and graduate with work experience in their field. More than half of students who take part in co-op land a job offer before they graduate.

Most UVic co-op programs are optional, which means you’ll apply at the start of your second year. Other programs have co-op built into the curriculum so you’ll automatically participate as part of your degree.

You'll earn 4.5 units of credit for each completed co-op work term. These credits go towards the co-op designation. You'll receive this on your diploma upon graduation.

You’ll have full-time student status during your co-op work term.

How co-op works

You'll alternate your terms in class with paid work terms in your field of study, and graduate with relevant work experience, amazing contacts and strong skills.

Co-op works a bit differently from program to program, but the main elements are similar. Work terms are usually 420 hours or 12 weeks long.

If your co-op program is optional, you can apply starting in your second undergraduate year. Explore our co-op programs to learn about application requirements for your academic area.

Types of co-op

Co-op offers a range of format options to help fit your schedule and situation. Depending on your program, you may have the following options:  

Traditional co-op (3 to 4 work terms)

You’ll alternate several four-month study terms with four-month full-time, paid work experience terms.

Once you complete your coursework and three or four work terms, you’ll graduate with a co-op designation on your diploma.

Work Experience Program (1 to 2 work terms)

The Work Experience Program (WEP) is a shorter, more flexible option than traditional co-op. For most programs, you can join the WEP at any point in your studies. You’ll complete one or two work terms depending on your program’s criteria.

Although your work terms get recorded on your transcript, you will not receive the co-op designation on your diploma.

The application process for the WEP is the same as for traditional co-op.

Work as a contractor for co-op credit

A prospective co-op employer may ask if you'd be willing to work as an independent contractor rather than a co-op employee. Before you answer, it's good to know the differences between these types of jobs and the implications in terms of your responsibility.  

Co-op internship (3 to 4 consecutive work terms) 

In a co-op internship, you’ll complete one 12- to 16-month work term between the third and fourth year of your academic studies. Application dates, admission criteria and graduation requirements are the same as for traditional co-op. This option is not available in all programs.

Post-study internship (1, 2 or 3 consecutive work terms) 

In this option, you’ll complete a four-, eight- or 12-month internship after you complete your academic coursework but before you graduate. Admission is at the discretion of individual co-op programs.

Parallel co-op (part-time work term)

In a parallel co-op work term, you’ll complete one work term over an eight-month period. Typically, you’ll complete part-time work and part-time study at the same time. Application dates, admission criteria and graduation requirements are the same as for traditional co-op.

Entrepreneurial co-op

This option is available in all programs, but is most common in business, engineering and computer science co-op. In an entrepreneurial co-op work term, you must do one of the following for a four-month period starting in September, January or May: 

  • work for clients on a self-employed or contract basis, 
  • develop a product of your own design or provide a service, or
  • develop a business venture.

Work term transfer

Have you completed a co-op work term at another post-secondary institution before attending UVic? You might be able to earn transfer credit for up to two work terms completed at another school. This option is not available in all programs. Contact your co-op program to see if this is available to you.

Work term challenge

Have you completed relevant work experience that you think could count as a co-op work term? You could apply for a work term challenge. Normally, you should make your work term challenge before starting your first co-op work term at UVic. This option is not available in all programs.

International co-op

As a co-op student, you can also participate in an international work term. You'll experience a new country, gain cultural intelligence skills, earn money while you travel and boost your employability. 

We'll support you with:

  • connecting with co-op employers abroad
  • a pre-departure course
  • funding opportunities
  • guidance with your visa/work permit application
  • 24/7 disaster monitoring and response
  • check-in visits during the work term and a debrief when you return

Learn more about international opportunities

Sample co-op schedule

Although co-op programs usually increase the length of your degree by about a year, you'll gain a year of work experience that will put you ahead. 

A typical undergraduate co-op schedule with four co-op work terms might look like the following table. This is just a sample—talk to your co-op office about a schedule that will work for you.

Year of study Fall term Spring term Summer term
1 Study term 1 Study term 2  Free term
2 Study term 3 Study term 4  Co-op term 1
3 Study term 5 Co-op term 2  Study term 6
4 Co-op term 3 Study term 7  Co-op term 4
5 Study term 8 Graduation  

Average salaries

You'll receive a salary from your employer during each co-op work term. Co-op salaries vary based on:

  • your previous work experience
  • the industry you're working in
  • the responsibilities of your co-op job

Average monthly co-op salaries (2021-22)

  • $3,076 for undergraduate students
  • $3,699 for graduate students

View salary estimates for all programs.

Co-op fees

You will pay a tuition fee for the co-op program, just like for your regular courses. Fees and fee deadlines vary by program (fees listed as effective May 1, 2022).

Undergraduate business and engineering students pay installments of the co-op tuition fee each term

  • $380.49 for domestic students
  • $707.34 for international students

Undergraduate students in optional co-op programs pay the co-op tuition fee after they secure a work term

  • $760.98 for domestic students
  • $1,414.67 for international students

Graduate students in all programs pay the co-op tuition fee for each co-op term

  • $760.98 for domestic students
  • $957.14 for international students

The fee for a co-op work term challenge is $380.49 for domestic students and $707.34 for international students. 

Funding

Several funding options may be available to support your co-op work terms.

Do you need to apply?

For required programs:

  • there is no need to apply; you'll be automatically enrolled as part of your academic program.

For optional programs: 

  • you can apply for co-op starting in your second year, although later entry may also be possible. Most co-op programs accept applications at the start of the Fall and Spring terms (September and January). Check your program for specific dates.

Student experiences

 Students from different program areas work for a wide range of employers. Learn about students' experiences.

You can also see photos from students' co-op work terms.

Need help?

Email us or call 250-721-7628.

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