Caitlin McClure with a plant bug

A co-op term as an entomology guide at the Victoria Bug Zoo provided Caitlin McClure with great work experience.

Oyster sampling

Oyster sampling.

Vegetation plot recording

Vegetation plot recording.

Plankton oyster farm

As an environmental studies co-op student, you can complement your academic terms with co-op terms working for a range of employers.

Recording bird songs

Recording bird songs.

Salmon smolts sampling

Salmon smolts sampling.

Connecting Environmental Studies (ES) to work outside the classroom

You can enhance your ES skills and knowledge through Environmental Student co-operative education programs (Co-op). Co-op provides students with an opportunity to combine academic studies with four 4-month periods of paid employment in the public, private or non-profit sectors. These learning opportunities are in a wide range of areas from ecological restoration to research and from public outreach and education to project management.  Students who complete three co-op terms will earn a co-op degree.  Students who complete one or two completed co-op through the Work Experience Program.

Since 2008, ES Co-op Students have worked and learned with:

  • Parks Canada restoring ecosystems by removing invasive species, planting native species, monitoring progress, and educating the public
  • Caliope Consulting presenting environmental and cultural heritage information of the Salish Sea to passengers on board BC Ferries through the Coastal Naturalist Program
  • Galiano Conservancy Association building and maintaining a forest garden, including propagating native plants, removing invasive vegetation, and monitoring ecological responses to various restoration activities
  • National Defence and the Canadian Forces researching and analysing waste streams to recommend ways that the organization can become more efficient and effective in its usage and disposal of material
  • BC Ministry of Environment, BC Parks & Conservation researching parks management practices and assessing the effectiveness conservation policies within British Columbia
  • Gorge Waterway Action Society operating the Gorge Waterway Nature House while educating guests about local watersheds and assisting in restoration related tasks.

Why ES Co-op?

Challenging learning experiences - Co-op terms complement theoretical concepts with practical experience. Co-op terms can also give you the chance to learn things not covered in classes.

Orientation to career possibilities - It is extremely useful to try different jobs before making career decisions. You may be surprised to discover what you like or don't like!

A special degree - Completing three co-op terms earns you a co-op designation. This makes a statement not only about your education experience but also about your hard-working ethos.

Better job opportunities - With relevant work experience, you can benefit from employment references, a network of contacts, and a portfolio of professional accomplishments. Many find permanent work through co-op experiences.

More workplace skills & confidence – As a co-op student, you can become savvy in job search activities. You also increase workplace confidence and dealing with practical problems.

Great services & resources – The Social Sciences Co-op team provides support and instruction in planning and securing work. Our information system, learninginmotion, displays many co-op opportunities and houses the self-reflective tool on competency development.

Income & full-time status - Students normally receive competitive wages during co-op terms...what other course pays you to learn?! During co-op terms, you can enjoy the benefits of still being a full-time student.

Admission & program requirements

Entry into the Environmental Studies Co-op Programs (Co-op degree and Work Experience) is open to full-time students (those taking 6 or more units per term) who are proceeding to an ES major. Students normally require a minimum cumulative GPA of 5.0.

Students typically apply to Co-op in their second or third year of studies but are also eligible to apply in their third year. Applications are available online by logging into LIM and clicking on Co-op on the left-hand column. Click on the activated link during the application period. From September 1st to the 20th for the Fall admissions period and in January 1st to the 20th for the Spring admissions period.

Before competing for co-op placements, students must complete the Introduction to Professional Practice (IPP) curriculum, which includes online content and in-person workshops.  IPP covers co-op program processes, reflective learning, and job search skills. Coordinators also provide support and feedback throughout participation in cooperative education.

For more information, the Co-op Coordinator at or 250-721-7358. You can also visit the Social Sciences Co-op & Career Office in person at DTB A204 or online.

CharlotteCharlotte Houston holds a pair of binoculars and records wildlife sightings on a Trimble in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.  She worked as a Resource Conservation Action on the Ground Assistant with Parks Canada in the Summer of 2013, a position she found on her own.

Most jobs in the ‘real world’ are not posted on job sites.  Co-op Ed. helps students develop professional job search skills, expand their professional networks, understand the work involved in various sectors and perhaps most importantly, helps students gain the confidence to progress their careers in the ways they want.


Andrew Denhoff (2013 ES Student of the Year) has completed two co-op terms: one with the City of Calgary and the other with Cenovus Energy.  In both placements, he was involved in environmental sustainability initiatives within the organization’s operations.   In this photo, Andrew is helping in the field with Cenovus hawk-banding.  Andrew comments that, “By completing a co-op term in environmental studies, I was exposed first hand to the complex and dynamic ways in which theory meets practice, and where critique meets solutions.  I have found that since completing the co-op, I have been able to provide more grounded insight when discussing course concepts, especially in the seminar setting.” 

JackieJackie Boruch completed two co-op terms with Innergex Renewable Energy Inc in 2013.  Her work to create a tracking system to store, organize and track the multitude of provincial and federal commitments with various deadlines and stakeholders was invaluable to her professional development and her understanding of the 3 pillars of ES.  She saw how ecological restoration is a key aspect of renewable energy operations; learned about the complex relationships between social, economic, legal, and environmental (political ecology) and how understanding indigenous perspectives can inform operational decision-making. 

RichardRichard Buchan combined ES with Geography to pursue a career in Urban Planning.  His co-op ed. journey has led him to co-op placements in local governments across the Island:  from Port Hardy to North Cowichan and ending in Campbell River.  He has learned the ins and outs of the realities planners face, and has developed on his professional competencies.  He describes this photo as “A typical day in the office, papers everywhere, phone ringing off the hook, multiple computers running and residents coming in to ask questions. Never boring.”