Canada’s Best Co-op Programs of 2023

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Last updated January 10, 2023

Imagine all college and university programs, from electrical engineering to English literature, gave students a chance to gain relevant job experience as part of their studies?

Co-operative education at the post-secondary level isn’t new, but in today’s economy of artificially intelligent machines and fast-changing job titles, co-ops are an effective way to prepare students for the future. They’re helping people transition into careers by uncovering their strengths and developing social and job skills, creativity, entrepreneurial thinking and cultural agility before they graduate. And they enable students to earn while they learn — sometimes more than $20 per hour in Canada for half the time they’re enrolled in their program.

For students looking to evaluate the best co-op options, there are many ways to figure out which schools and programs offer the best experience. Universities and colleges themselves are the first to boast co-op placement rates for graduates, which means there’s plenty of data you can drill into. Participation from strong local businesses as well as multinational corporations is another indicator of how highly a program is valued by potential employers. The same goes for average co-op salaries.

Co-ops have always been synonymous with community colleges, which pride themselves on building robust networks of local employers. There’s Humber College’s connection to advertising, fashion, film and media production; George Brown’s to the culinary industry; Conestoga’s to the skilled trades. And if you’re serious about getting into the wine business, attending Niagara College is a no brainer. But universities are no slouches either – the University of Waterloo has a strong reputation for meeting the needs of big technology players such as Google, Microsoft and OpenText, for example. Meanwhile, the University of Toronto is pushing co-ops globally across business, medical sciences and technology.

This year’s interactive guide to the 20 best co-op programs in Canada looks at both colleges and universities with an established track record of integrating academic studies with real-world training. The good news is that both understand the value of offering hands-on training in conjunction with in-class learning, and co-op education, sometimes referred to more broadly as “work-integrated learning” or “experiential learning,” is more widely available than ever.

CourseCompare’s annual school rankings are determined using a process that considers several core metrics and principles. Read more about our methodology here.

1.

University of Waterloo 5/5

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2.

Seneca College 3.55/5

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3.

Conestoga College 4.9/5

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4.

Humber College 5/5

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5.

University of Toronto 5/5

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6.

Wilfrid Laurier University Lazaridis School of Business and Economics 5/5

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7.

University of British Columbia 5/5

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8.

George Brown 3.55/5

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9.

Mohawk College 4.35/5

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10.

University of Victoria 4.35/5

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11.

British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) 4.65/5

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12.

Toronto Metropolitan University 5/5

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13.

Niagara College 4.8/5

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14.

University of Alberta 4.35/5

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15.

Algonquin College 2.75/5

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16.

Centennial College 3/5

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17.

Fanshawe College 4.65/5

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18.

Carleton University 4.65/5

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19.

University of Ottawa 4/5

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20.

Trent University 4/5

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1

University of Waterloo

uwaterloo-coop
$ $ $ $

This Ontario university is arguably the nation’s leader in co-operative education with the largest co-op program in North America – in some cases co-op is mandatory, including undergraduate engineering programs, as well as several arts and mathematics programs. Programs where co-op is mandatory report high levels of employment for graduates, with 98 percent from the school’s Accounting and Financial Management, Math/CPA, Biotech/CPA, and Master of Accounting programs reporting they had found employment within six months of graduation. Overall, 89 percent of co-op graduates are employed.

What Students Are Saying

Waterloo's co-op programs for CS (Computer Science) students is the best in Canada and one of the best in the world. The students are very smart and motivated. Work is part of the learning experience, with rotating semesters in class vs. on the job. I'm in my third year but can already see people in my year and the year ahead of me getting job offers from Microsoft, Google, Meta, etc. -- the big names -- in Canada and in the U.S. I can't speak for other co-ops, but you can't find better than the CS opportunities here IMO.

Chris Ward, Introduction to Java Programming

Co-op students at uWaterloo alternate study terms with work terms and graduate with up to two years of relevant, paid work experience – everything from applying your skills to real-life problems to navigating the hiring process.

The University of Waterloo is a member of Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada, which established the Accreditation Council to regulate post-secondary co-operative education programs in Canada. The university has more than 120 CEWIL Canada accredited co-op programs across six faculties.

2

Seneca College

co-op-programs
3.55/5
$ $ $ $

Co-ops are a central part of the Seneca College across many programs, starting at the top of the alphabet with accounting and financing, aviation operations, and aviation safety, all the way to tourism, with many between, including electronics engineering technology and environmental landscape management.

Students meeting all academic requirements may have the opportunity to complete an optional co-op work term(s) in a formal work environment, while co-op is mandatory for some of its degree programs, with most work term being completed between two academic semesters and a minimum requirement of 420 hours of work. Other programs, including Cannabis Regulation & Quality Assurance and Cybersecurity & Threat Management, include shorter optional work terms.

What Students Are Saying

Seneca is one of the best options for students looking for an accredited diploma program. I myself am studying animation, and cannot picture myself picking another school. The instructors are clear and willing to offer assistance, and may have worked on some recognizable titles, it’s always great to listen to their stories before or after class. Located in Toronto, the campus is easily accessible with tons to do in between classes, or places to go after hours with classmates or the cool profs. The animation program is actually one of the hardest to get into in Canada, but that leads to some of the biggest animation studios in the world looking to Seneca for potential employees when it’s time to graduate. Calling the program anything short of Oscar worthy isn’t enough, it deserves Best Picture.

Chris Arnold, Animation
3

Conestoga College

co-op-programs
4.9/5
$ $ $ $

Conestoga’s 70 co-op programs are aligned to meet the needs of the Greater Kitchener area, which is part of one Canada’s fastest-growing economic centres. As a community college with trades programs delivered at multiple campuses in the region meeting the needs of construction, motive power, industrial and service sectors, the school offers traditional apprenticeships, as well as pre-apprenticeships in collaboration with private sector companies.

Apprenticeships include automotive service technician, cabinet maker and general machinist, while co-op programs can be mandatory or optional, spanning a wide array of disciplines, including applied artificial intelligence and machine learning, culinary management, and public relations. Here’s where to explore co-op programs at Conestoga College.

What Students Are Saying

Lots of work-integrated (WIL) learning and amazing community feel to this program at Conestoga. Invaluable experience in a kindergarten classroom topped off excellent classroom training by first-rate professors in this bachelor's degree program. Highly recommended.

Kristen Chan, Bachelor of Early Learning Program Development (Honours)
4

Humber College

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Humber College’s co-op education is structured around offering unique work-integrated learning opportunities to prepare students for their future careers. Learning opportunities may include field placements, apprenticeships, practicums, clinical placements, co-operative education work terms, internships, or service learning. You can explore ongoing opportunities on the College’s webpage for co-op opportunities.

Humber College’s Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology offers work placements in Canada and abroad, as do other faculties, while hands on training can be experienced through its Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation, which builds on the college’s expertise in areas such as automation, robotics, systems integration, user experience testing, applied research and work-integrated learning. Its Digital Broadcast Centre is home to Humber TV and Radio Humber – the college is the only Toronto area college with a CRTC campus instructional license and fully operational radio station.

What Students Are Saying

Great program. Andrea Tavchar was my prof and she was amazing - a practitioner who also had a PhD in the field. That's the great thing about Humber, you get a strong academic background (theory) with loads of practice, practice, practice. Employers around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) also know Humber very well.

Timothy Welland, Social Media
5

University of Toronto

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

The University of Toronto (U of T) offers co-op opportunities primarily at its Scarborough campus, offering diverse academic specializations for students who are interested in building expert knowledge across various functional areas.

Co-op programs span the arts, sciences, and management. Arts and science co-op opportunities span computer science, mathematics, and statistics; psychology and mental health sciences; life sciences; physical and environmental sciences; and the liberal arts. Co-op employers include major corporations such as Apple, Deloitte, and Microsoft, as well as government agencies such as the federal Canada Revenue Agency and the provincial Ministry of Education.

6

Wilfrid Laurier University Lazaridis School of Business and Economics

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Wilfrid Laurier University offers co-op education across a wide range of faculties – in some cases, it’s mandatory. Students get paid to work for employers for 12-16 weeks on average, alternating between school and as many as four work terms throughout their program.

Admission for undergraduates is competitive based on n grades, work experience, volunteer and extracurricular activities, and an interview with the co-op office, while admission is automatic in some programs, including a Business and Computer Science double degree, Business and Financial Mathematics double degree, and Business Technology Management.

Laurier is home to Canada’s largest business degree co-op program – 98.3 percent of its Business and Economics co-op students had jobs in 2020/21.

7

University of British Columbia

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

With multiple campuses in the Vancouver area and Kelowna, the University of British Columbia (UBC) offers a diverse range of co-op opportunities across the arts, humanities social sciences, business and management, engineering, forestry, human kinetics, land and food systems, and a strong focus on the sciences. Students alternate between academic terms and paid work terms with university partner employers that can range from private business to the public sector or non-profit organizations.

UBC reports that its co-op graduates earn 15 percent higher starting salaries than non-co-op grads, and its co-op students are more likely to land more prestigious, better paying jobs than their non co-op peers. Graduates from co-op programs report better job-education match, with 80% of employers surveyed stating that co-op and internship students are a source of new talent and potential future employees.

8

George Brown

co-op-programs
3.55/5
$ $ $ $

Like many colleges, George Brown College is focused on creating learning experiences that align to opportunities in the community, working with employer and community partners to make sure its programs reflect the latest trends, techniques and technology used in the field. These industry players inform program development and curriculum to ensure students learn the skills employers want.

George Brown co-op programs enable students to work with industry professionals on applied research projects, field placements and on-campus incubators. Its Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts is well known for providing real-world experience at its downtown Toronto restaurant, The Chefs’ House, and aid in student learning for programs such as the college’s Culinary Management Honours Bachelor Degree.

What Students Are Saying

This program gave me the practical skills and experience I didn't get during my undergraduate degree. Classes are taught by industry professionals and the co-op experience was a great way to give my education context. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a bridge between university and the digital marketing industry.

Bethany Flynn, Digital Media Marketing Program (Postgraduate)
9

Mohawk College

mohawk-co-op-programs
4.35/5
$ $ $ $

Students who study through a co-op program at Mohawk College can expect to develop a wide and diverse network of contacts in their field and other fields related to their line of work that will improve their job prospects upon graduation. Co-op education at the college is primarily business, engineering and technology focused, with programs such as Business Administration – Marketing, Civil Engineering Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology Mohawk’s co-op opportunities also extend to various aspects of law enforcement, including Police Foundations, and Community and Justice Services.

10

University of Victoria

uvic-co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

The University of Victoria (UVic), located on Vancouver Island, trumpets itself as home to the largest graduate co-op program in Canada. Most UVic co-op programs for undergraduates are optional, although some are mandatory, which means students automatically participate as part of their degree. (For example, engineering co-op is mandatory for undergraduate students studying Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Software Engineering).

Co-op is available to graduate students in most program areas. Students earn units of credit for each co-op work term completed, which go towards the co-op designation. UVic offers also offers a shorter work experience program. The university says one third of its co-op students find permanent positions with their former co-op employers after graduation.

11

British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT)

co=op-programs
4.65/5
$ $ $ $

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) runs many co-op programs through its Center for Workplace Education developed with industry recommendations. Most of them prepare students for jobs that very hands-on, such as CNC machinists, and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. In the latter case, there are three 22-week work terms that run longer than the three technical terms.

Co-op placements can be found through BCIT’s job postings or independently by the student. BCIT says its co-op education has been shown to increase employment rates of its graduates, while student engagement with external communities enriches campus culture.

What Students Are Saying

Well recognized college in western Canada. I studied applied data analytics and really enjoyed it. I had to fill in some gaps in theory by studying on my own but BCIT gave me the job skills I needed to switch careers when I was in my early thirties. Haven't looked back.

Charles, Applied Data Analytics
12

Toronto Metropolitan University

tmu-co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Since its founding under another name, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) has had a focus on career-focused education. Its co-op program opportunities span the arts, community services, engineering and architectural sciences, and science faculties, as well as the Ted Rogers School of Management.

Through its Career & Co-op Centre, TMU users a hub-and-spoke model of service delivery connect to employer partners with its diverse student body and network of alumni. Rather than being placed, co-op students apply for positions as with any job search, with each work term running 35-40 hours a week for 16 weeks. A work term can even be extended to 8, 12 or 16 months of continuous employment.

13

Niagara College

co-op-programs
4.8/5
$ $ $ $

With its roots in the heart of Ontario wine country, Niagara College offers more than 20 co-op programs that allow students to get paid so they can earn while they learn. Its Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) provides food, wine and beer education and training for students, employers, and consumers. The institute specializes in Canadian regional cuisine with a focus on culinary arts and science, wine and beer sciences, food technology, and research.

Otherwise, the college’s co-op opportunities span many different industries, including horticulture, engineering, culinary, carpentry, business, automotive, programming, office administration, and more. A Niagara College Co-op Study released in January 2020 found that 85 percent of participants said their co-op increase their confidence in job prospects after graduation, while 92 percent felt co-op helped them to better understand their career interests.

14

University of Alberta

co-op-program
4.35/5
$ $ $ $

The University of Alberta (U of A) offers co-op education across many different schools, including arts, business and engineering. Its Alberta School of Business offers a co-op option for Bachelor of Commerce program students that allows them alternate periods of study with periods of paid, discipline-related work experience in cooperating employer organizations. U of A’s engineering co-op program was established in 1981, allowing students to do as much as 20 months of hands-on training and practical experience prior to graduation.

15

Algonquin College

co-op-program
2.75/5
$ $ $ $

Based in the nation’s capital, Algonquin College serves Ottawa and outlying areas of Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, and Upstate New. Algonquin has been ranked among the Top 50 Research Colleges in Canada and has long focused on aligning its curriculum with the needs of the local business community with a strong emphasis on applied theory and practical experience. The college offers 18 apprenticeship programs, 40 co-op programs, and 6 collaborative degree programs, some in partnership with Carleton University and University of Ottawa.

Co-op programs include a wide area of subjects, including applied nuclear science and radiation safety, a Bachelor of Engineering with a focus on automation and robotics, agriculture, digital marketing communications, cybersecurity analysis, and horticulture. Students can even dedicate their co-op work-term to developing and even perhaps launching their business idea with the support and expertise of its Entrepreneurship Centre, which supports students through weekly workshops, and bi-monthly meetings with their dedicated mentor.

16

Centennial College

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Centennial College’s co-op offerings are part of its career-focused curriculum of full-time, market-driven programs. Among those with a co-op are its Bachelor of Information Technology (Computer and Communication Networks) Honours applied degree and more than a dozen graduate certificates in its Business School, as well as many opportunities in its School of Transportation and its School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science. You can explore more co-op opportunities at the College’s dedicated co-op page.

17

Fanshawe College

co-op-programs
4.65/5
$ $ $ $

One of the leaders in the development of co-operative education at the college level in Canada, Fanshawe College has more than 66 co-op programs as part of its focus on offering a career-focused curriculum.

Work semesters are spaced out through the academic program, running four months in duration with a pay rate of those of entry level workers at the participating employer company.

Co-op students do a pre-employment training program that includes information about careers related to their program, business/industry requirements and standards, and workplace adaptation. Work semesters are scheduled so that students are available to work busy periods in companies related to their field of studies.

18

Carleton University

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Carleton differentiates its co-op program offerings through its proximity to government agencies, several renowned research agencies, and high-tech companies in the nation’s capital along with longer work terms to provide students with more in-depth experience. Carleton co-op students are able to do their placements across the country and around the world. Both undergrad and graduate programs include co-op opportunities, including architectural studies, cognitive science, information technology, media production and design, political science, and public policy and administration. Here is where you can explore co-op programs at Carleton University.

19

University of Ottawa

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Co-op programs at the University of Ottawa have been running for more than 30 years and are available in 82 undergraduate and graduate programs. In uOttawa is now the second largest university co-op program in Ontario and the fifth-largest in Canada, with participating employers from private businesses, federal government departments, municipal and provincial government offices, not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions, Crown corporations, NGOs and high-tech companies. uOttawa co-op placement opportunities can take place locally in the nation’s capital, across Canada or abroad.

20

Trent University

co-op-programs
$ $ $ $

Peterborough, Ontario’s university describes its co-op programs as competitive, offering students an opportunity to graduate with a degree and 12 months of paid work in less than four years – Trent’s co-op streams are designed so students can complete their degree and work terms in the same time as they would doing a degree alone. It offers more than 20 co-op streams across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Diverse subjects with a co-op option include ancient Greek and Roman Studies, business administration, conservation biology, cultural studies, media studies, and philosophy. Here’s where you can explore co-op programs at Trent University.

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