Cooperative Education for Students

UNBC offers a co-operative education model that provides flexibility and strong academic linkages.

Co-operative education combines learning in the classroom with learning on the job. Students put their academic knowledge into action through relevant work experience of 4 or 8 month terms. Typical Co-op work terms are four months in length and the students must end their cop-op program on an academic term prior to graduating. The co-op education option is available to undergraduate students only. 

Benefits for students:

  • Contributes to your education costs with paid employment
  • Become more competitive in the job market
  • Provides opportunities to build valuable contacts with employers
  • Increases employment opportunities upon graduation

1. Program Overview

The Co-operative Education program is based on the principle of integrating a student's academic program with practical work experiences. This principle normally is achieved through an alternating sequence of 4 month work and study semesters. Recent introductions of parallel and internship co-op models have broadened student and employer opportunities with the possibility of longer work term experiences. This 'hands-on' approach to education extends the learning process beyond the limits of the classroom and into the working world. 

The Co-op Education program holds many advantages for students, employers and the University. Co-op students are likely to attain higher levels of satisfaction regarding their education, can apply classroom learning and develop employment skills and build valuable contacts with employers.  Co-op students become more competitive and have a much higher probability of securing relevant, permanent employment immediately after graduation. 

Necessary arrangements for integrating work semesters, securing potential employers, arranging interviews, and generally managing the employment process are the responsibility of the Student Career Centre Coordinator.  The number of jobs available for Co-op students will vary from semester to semester. Because of this, students cannot be guaranteed Co-op positions.

How Does the Co-operative Education Program Work?

Students in Co-op Education complete the normal academic curriculum while integrating 3 work terms into their program. Work terms and study sessions are full time and all students receive a salary while on a work term. Typical Co-op work terms are 4 month in length and the student must end their Co-op program on an academic term prior to graduating.  Co-op Education programs are designed to expose students to a realistic work environment.

Each Co-op Education work-term is evaluated as a suitable learning opportunity by the University and students continue to interact with the University for the duration of their employment. Each 4 month work term is registered as a Co-op Education course and a non-refundable 3 credit course fee applies. Courses are evaluated on a completed requirements/fail basis. Upon successful completion of all program criteria, the Co-op Education designation will appear on the student‟s academic transcript and degree parchment.

2. Admission to the Co-op Program

Intake into the Co-operative Education program occurs only once per year – during the month of October.  All students planning to enter into the Co-op program must attend one of the information sessions that are offered in October and apply by the deadline of October 31st.

To qualify and continue in the Co-operative Education option of their degree, a student must:

  • Participate in an information session and a meeting with the Student Career Centre Coordinator;
  • Be enrolled full time (9 credit hours);
  • Participate in pre-employment workshops;
  • Have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 with normally no grade lower than “D”;
  • Have completed 30 credit hours before beginning the first Co-op Education work term semester;
  • Students who are required to withdraw from Co-op due to their academic standing may re-apply for admission to the Co-op program based upon re-qualification.

Transfer students should complete a study semester before going out on a work term semester however, they are encouraged to apply to the program in the first available semester of their transfer.  Transfer students should contact the Career Centre Coordinator for discussion.  Students are required to successfully complete 3 work term semesters. Those students transferring from an approved Co-op program elsewhere and who have successfully completed a work term semester, may be exempt from their first work term semester at UNBC, (refer to Co-operative Education Transferable Work Terms below).

Students may experience their work term semesters in either the September, January or May semesters. Not all work semesters should be done only during summer semesters and the student should work at least one term in the September or January Semester.

3. Co-op Work Terms

All co-op work terms mirror the academic semester:

  • January - April
  • May - August
  • September - December
Transferable Work Terms

Co-operative Education Work Terms successfully completed at a British Columbia postsecondary institution will be eligible for transfer credit, on an individual basis, if they meet the following requirements:

  • The student must be accepted into the UNBC Co-op Education program and apply, in writing, to receive transfer of work terms.
  • The program in which the work term(s) was undertaken is provincially approved under the criteria of the Accountability Council of Co-operative Education of BC, or is nationally approved under the criteria of the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education. 
  • The work term(s) is officially recognized, i.e., noted on the transcript, by the institution where the work term originated. 
  • The credit for the work term(s) was granted for work experience typical of the same discipline into which the student is transferring.
Work Term Credit Challenge

UNBC Co-op Education allows students to challenge a Work Term on the basis of prior, relevant and satisfactory work experience. Students should discuss any potential challenge with the Student Career Centre. Work Term Challenges are subject to the following:

  • To begin a Work Term Challenge, an Application for Course Challenge form must be initiated with the Student Career Centre Coordinator by December 1 in the September term that the student applies to the Co-operative Education option of their program.
  • The UNBC Course Challenge fee will be assessed with the initiation of the Work Term Challenge forms. Current course challenge fees are listed in the UNBC calendar.
  • The Career Centre Coordinator will assess the Work Term Challenge application and provide recommendations to the Director.
  • Applicants will be advised of the decision within two weeks of the submission.
  • Work Term credit by challenge is limited to the first Work Term course within the major.
  • Assessment of the Work Term Challenge will be carried out by the Student Career Centre based on the following:
    • An aggregate of 560 hours (minimum) relevant paid work experience not previously counted toward Work Term credit, practicum, internship and similar options.                 
    • Verification required of employment and evaluation of performance from the employer.
    • Job descriptions outlining prior work experience, providing evidence that the student has acquired professional and personal knowledge and skills appropriate to the discipline or interdisciplinary field.
    • A portfolio appropriate to the discipline or interdisciplinary field which meets UNBC Co-op Education Work Term guidelines.

Once the challenge is approved, the result will be entered on the student's academic record on a pass or fail basis.

Parallel Co-op Work Terms

A parallel work term is a model which allows students to complete a work term by working 15 to 20 hours per week for a period not to exceed 8 months. For example, a student works half-time for eight months rather than full-time for 4 months. Students are expected to be enrolled in a minimum of 2 courses for each semester of a parallel work term.

Self-Developed Work Terms

Some students find work placements as a result of their own contacts and networks. Students who wish to discuss whether a particular work term should be declared self-developed should talk to the Student Career Centre Coordinator before beginning that work term.  The Coordinator will ensure that the work term meets Co-operative Education criteria and that the student will be registered in the work term.

4. Applying for Co-op Positions

Once a student is accepted to the Co-op program, he or she has the opportunity of applying for positions with employers. Students are able to choose appropriate employers from posted job descriptions. The interview system is designed to provide maximum freedom for both employers and students.  Employers are advised to contact the Student Career Centre prior to the interview process to verify a student's participation in the Co-op program.

Co-op education is available for the following academic programs:

Bachelor of Arts

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • English
  • Environmental Studies
  • First Nations Studies
  • General Arts
  • Geography
  • History
  • International Studies
  • Northern Studies
  • Political Science
  • Resource-Based Tourism
  • Women's Studies

Bachelor of Commerce

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • General Business
  • Human Resource Management
  • International Business
  • Marketing

Bachelor of Health Sciences

  • Biomedical Studies
  • Community & Population Health
    • Aboriginal & Rural Health
    • Environmental Health

Bachelor of Science

  • Biology
  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Environmental Planning
  • Environmental Science
  • General Science
  • Geography
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Natural Resource Management

  • Forestry
  • Resource Recreation
  • Wildlife & Fisheries

Bachelor of Planning

  • First Nations Planning
  • Natural Resource Planning
  • Northern & Rural Community Planning

5. Canadian Association for Co-operative Education

UNBC is a member of the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE). A co-operative education program is a program that formally integrates a student's academic studies with work experience in co-operative employer organizations. The usual plan is for the student to alternate periods of experience in appropriate fields of business, industry, government, social services and the professions according to the following criteria.

  • Each work situation is developed and/or approved by the co-operative educational institution as a suitable learning situation.
  • The co-operative education student is engaged in productive work rather than merely observing.
  • The co-operative education student received renumeration for the work performed.
  • The co-operative education student's progress on the job is monitored by the cooperative education institution.
  • The co-operative education student's performance on the job is supervised and evaluated by the student's employer.
  • The time spent in periods of work experience must be at least thirty percent of the time spent in academic study.