Co-operative Education


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 four 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. For example, Co-op students are likely to attain higher levels of satisfaction regarding their education, and have a much higher probability of securing relevant, permanent employment immediately after graduation. Employers benefit from hiring bright, capable, highly motivated students who can fill temporary job openings, complete projects, free permanent staff for other tasks, ease the load during a busy season, and potentially fill permanent positions after graduation.
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.

Admission to the Program

Intake into the Co-operative Education program occurs once throughout the academic year. Students planning to enter the Co-op program should contact the Student Career Centre and attend information sessions in the month of October.

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

  • be enrolled full time (9 credit hours)

  • have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.50 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 that semester. Students are normally required to successfully complete three 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 and second work term semesters at UNBC (refer to Co-operative Education Transferable Work Terms below). Students who complete the required work term semesters will receive a Co-op designation on their degree.

Students may experience their work term semesters in either the September, January or May semesters. Not all work semesters may be done in the Summer Semester with normally at least one in the September Semester and one in the January Semester. Students must end the Co-operative Education program on an academic term prior to graduation.

Co-operative Education Transferable Work Terms

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

  1. The student must be accepted into the UNBC Co-op Education program and apply, in writing, to receive transfer of work terms.

  2. 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 Co-operative Education.

  3. The work term(s) is officially recognized, i.e., noted on the transcript, by the institution where the work term originated.

  4. The credit for the work term(s) was granted for work experience typical of the same discipline into which the student is transferring.

Co-operative Education 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 appropriate Co-ordinator for their major. Work Term Challenges are subject to the following:

  1. To begin a Work Term Challenge, an Application for Course Challenge form must be initiated with the student's Co-ordinator by December 1 in the September term that the student applies to the Co-operative Education option of their program.

  2. 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.

  3. The Co-ordinator will assess the Work Term Challenge application and provide recommendations to the Director.

  4. Applicants will be advised of the decision within two weeks of the submission.

  5. Work Term credit by challenge is limited to the first two Work Term courses within the major.

  6. 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(s).

    • 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.

  7. 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 mode which allows students to complete a work term by working 15 to 20 hours per week for a period not to exceed eight months.  For example, a student can now work half-time for eight months rather than full-time for four months.  Students are expected to be enrolled in a minimum of two courses for each semester of a parallel work term.

Self-Developed Work Terms

The purpose of the new policy on self-developed work terms is to recognize that some students find some 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 their coordinator before beginning that work term, and consult the co-op student handbook for the criteria used to define a self-developed work term.

The Co-op Process

Once a student is registered in 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.

Students submit their résumés directly to employer(s) who choose a number of student applicants to interview. Once the interview process is complete, employers will make an offer to the successful applicant. Co-op students are expected to be flexible and responsive to appropriate work opportunities through BC and elsewhere.  Course descriptions for the Co-op option can be found in the UNBC course finder under the prefix COOP.

Canadian Association for Co-operative Education

Definition of 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 remuneration for the work performed. 

  • The co-operative education student's progress on the job is monitored by the co-operative 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. 

For additional information, please visit the Student Career Centre web site at