Frequently Asked Questions
- What programs are considered Co-op at Saint Mary's University?
- What are the requirements to be accepted into the Co-operative Education Program?
- What happens once I am accepted into the Co-operative Education Program?
- Is there a fee for joining the Co-operative Education Program?
- How can I plan my work terms and academic schedule?
- What if I am transferring from another University or College?
Work Term Placements
- Will Co-op employers want to see my transcript?
- What if I get a job offer through the Co-op Program?
- What if I'm an International Student?
- What if I want to independently search for a job?
- How much will I get paid?
- Are jobs guaranteed?
- How do I apply for job postings?
- Do I have to apply to all approved positions for which I am qualified?
- How does the Co-op office know when I need help in finding a job?
- What happens if I cannot find a job?
- What happens if I get dismissed or leave a placement?
- What about moving/housing?
- What about working for the same employer back-to-back?
- Could I complete my work term outside of Nova Scotia?
Co-op Students and Scholarships
International Student FAQ
- What are the benefits of being in the Co-op program?
- Do I need a work permit to work as a Co-op student?
- Is there a fee for applying for my work permit?
- Besides a work permit are there any other documents I need as a Co-op student?
- Do all companies hire international students?
- I have no Canadian work experience; what is expected of employees in Canada?
- What if I am being treated poorly by my employer and/or a co-worker?
- I received my first pay cheque but the amount is not what I anticipated, why?
- Who do I contact if I have questions about my work term or the co-op program?
1. What degree programs offer Co-op at Saint Mary's University?
Go to our Co-op Degree Programs page for a listing of degree programs offering Co-op.
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2. What are the requirements to be accepted into the Co-operative Education Program?
- Must declare a major.
- Have completed 45 credit hours (students typically apply to the Co-op Program the first semester of their second year of study and are accepted into the program based on their December grades).
- Students in the Science Program must have at the time they apply, and maintain, a minimum 2.5 CGPA and a 3.0 GPA in their major courses.
- Students in the Commerce Program must have at the time they apply a minimum 2.5 CGPA, and maintain a 2.7 GPA throughout their studies.
- Students in the Arts Program must have at the time they apply a minimum 2.7 CGPA, and maintain a 2.7 GPA throughout their studies.
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3. What happens once I am accepted into the Co-operative Education Program?
Once you have gone through the application process and have received your acceptance letter from the Co-operative Education Department you will be assigned to an Work-Integrated Learning Advisor (WILA). The role of the WILA is to assist you with all aspects of the job search process. As well, there will be training you are expected to attend.
4. Is there a fee for joining the Co-operative Education Program?
No, there is no fee for joining the co-op program. However, there is a registration fee for each work term. This fee is paid when you secure a work term. Current co-op registration fees can be found at http://www.smu.ca/academics/undergraduate-tuition-and-fees.html
5. How can I plan my work terms and academic schedule?
Academic terms are alternated with Co-op work terms; your first work term would normally be in the summer after your second year and then academic terms and work terms are alternated until you complete the requirements of the Co-op program. Work terms are not guaranteed. In some cases students are required to meet with their Co-op Academic Advisor.
Most Co-op students spend an additional six months to one year to obtain their degree with Co-operative Education experience.
6. What if I am transferring from another University or College?
Students must complete one academic semester at Saint Mary’s University before they can be admitted to the Co-op Program. Application deadlines vary according to the semester during which you plan secure your first work term. It is possible to apply for the Co-op program before completing one academic semester however your application will only be processed after final grades for that semester are received.
Work Term Placements
1. Will Co-op Employers want to see my transcript?
An employer may request a copy of your unofficial transcript to be included with your application. Your application will then be sent to the company. You can use your Banner Self- Service transcript and just copy and paste it into your job application.
2. What if I get a job offer through the Co-op Program?
If you are not prepared to accept a work term offer, do not apply. You must sign a Learning Agreement with the Co-op office once you accept the work term, register the work term, and make a payment to Financial Services for the registration fee. Current fees are listed at http://www.smu.ca/academics/undergraduate-tuition-and-fees.html
3. What if I'm an International Student?
All International Students must apply to get a co-op work permit. Access to co-op jobs are not granted until students prove they have applied for the work permit. Once you are accepted into the program the co-op office will explain how to apply. All International Students should review our “International Student Frequently Asked Questions."
4. What if I want to independently search for a job?
Students can and should work to locate a work term but must co-ordinate such efforts with their WILA. All job descriptions must be approved.
5. How much will I get paid?
Employers set salaries. Typically your salary increases with each work term, but this is not guaranteed. Students are typically paid by the hour with average wages falling between $12 and $15 per hour.
6. Are jobs guaranteed?
No. Your WILA will assist you in locating possible work terms. He or she will work closely with you, provide resource and guidance and work with a myriad of employers to source work terms.
7. How do I apply for job postings?
Your Employment Development Officer will work "one-on-one" with you to help develop your resume and cover letter writing skills. Co-op jobs are all posted on the Career360 system. Only co-op students have access to co-op jobs. The job posting on Career360 will explain how students should apply. Typically students apply for jobs through Career360 but they might also have to apply on an employer’s website or by email.
8. Do I have to apply to all approved positions for which I am qualified?
The short answer is no, however, the more jobs to which you apply, the better your chances are of securing a work term. We stress that you not limit yourself or pre-screen yourself out of applying for positions. Keep your options open by applying to as many work terms as you can. Your WILA will advise.
9. How does the Co-op office know when I need help in finding a job?
We encourage students to arrange regular meetings with their WILA. We cannot help if we don't know what you need.
10. What happens if I cannot find a job?
Although our goal is to see you placed, if a work term is not secured you are not required to leave the program. We will continue to assist you and work with you in finding a work term at another date. This would be a good time to register and take your academic courses in order to "free up" another time to proceed on a co-op work term.
11. What happens if I get dismissed or leave a placement?
Call your WILA immediately if there is any danger of you being dismissed. The WILA may be able to help you to discuss outstanding issues with your employer and/or intervene. If you lose your job, and it is determined that you were at fault, you may be asked to leave the program.
Contact your WILA if you are considering quitting. If it is determined that you leave the Co-op Work Term without reasonable cause and/or did not take reasonable steps, including contacting your WILA in a timely manner, you may be asked to withdraw from the Co-op program.
12. What about moving/housing?
The Co-op program encourages students to re-locate if circumstances allow. All expenses are your responsibility. Sometimes employers may pay or assist with your moving expenses. Your WILA may be able to provide advice about housing options.
13. What about working for the same employer back-to-back?
An eight-month work term is allowed with permission from the Academic Co-operative Education Coordinator. Job descriptions for both work terms are required but the job description for the second half of the back to back must reflect opportunity for increased learning.
14. Could I complete my work term outside of Nova Scotia?
Yes, you can. The Co-op Office posts jobs located outside of Nova Scotia. If you would like to complete a work term at a specific location (either in Canada or internationally) you could do targeted job search with your WILA to secure a job there. Before accepting any position it must be sent to your WILA to be approved.
Co-op Students and Scholarships
1. How do scholarships work with Co-op Students?
Co-op students who are awarded scholarships based on the previous academic year of study will have the amount credited to their account whether they are on a work term or study term. Co-op fees will be deducted and students may request the balance.
While on a work term, students will not be eligible for further awards unless they receive grades for that term. The student will re-qualify for all awards upon resumption of the study term.
Students who are on a work term for one semester and a study term for another in any academic year should write to the Senate Scholarship Committee to be considered for Achievement Awards for one half of the normal amount. These students may apply for Named Undergraduate awards.
All Achievement Awards must be received prior to November 01, xxxx.
Students should visit the Financial Aid Office, located in the Service Centre (McNally Main, Room 108).
International Student FAQ
1. What are the benefits of being in the co-op program?
There are many benefits to being a co-op student; the most important being the hands-on, related work experience you gain with each work term. Saint Mary's co-op students graduate not only with their degree, but also with at least 12 months of relevant experience. This experience will help you secure a full-time job after graduation and help you develop contacts in your profession. Co-op is also a great opportunity to explore your career options; each work term will help to confirm you have chosen the right profession or give you the opportunity to explore other options.
2. Do I need a work permit to work as a co-op student?
Yes, if you are not a Canadian citizen or Landed Immigrant, you must apply for a work permit to work in Canada. Once you have been accepted into the Co-op program, your Work-Integrated Learning Advisor (WILA) will provide you with the appropriate application form to apply for a work permit. This should be completed as soon as you are accepted into the program. Once the application is completed, it can take up to 12 weeks or longer to get a work permit and you will not be permitted to accept a job until the work permit is in your possession.
3. Is there a fee for applying for my work permit?
No, there is no cost associated with the work permit required for Co-op students, however, there are restrictions. Your Co-op work permit only allows you to work in Co-op approved positions. You cannot work off campus unless the job relates to what you are studying in school, meets co-op requirements and is registered. All Co-op jobs must be 13-16 weeks in length for at least 32.5 hours of work per week and students must be paid.
4. Besides a work permit are there any other documents I need as a Co-op student?
If you are working in Canada you require a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Your SIN number is a nine-digit number used in the administration of various Canadian government programs. SIN numbers can be obtained through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), a Federal Government department dedicated to helping people secure work in Canada. They have offices in most communities; visit their website for the locations: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/. Once you enter the site, click on the “Our Offices” link in the menu at the top of the page. In addition, you may be required to complete additional company-specific documentation prior to starting your work term.
5. Do all companies hire international students?
Most companies hire both international and Canadian students however, some Federal Government Departments may give preference to Canadian citizens. Preference is given to Canadians because each department is required by law to do so. Also, most departments have to complete security clearances on new employees. This involves getting documentation from an employee's country of origin. There have been problems with co-operation among certain countries and as a result the Canadian government is sometimes unable to complete security clearances for some non-Canadians.
6. I have no Canadian work experience, what is expected of employees in Canada?
Most Canadian work environments are relatively informal however there are expectations placed on new employees. You will be expected to dress appropriately. Prior to starting your work term ask about the dress code. Most offices are business casual which means dress pants and a dress shirt for men and dress pants or skirts along with blouses or similar tops for women. Jeans are usually not permitted, unless on a designated casual day. Also, many Canadian work environments are scent-free. This means that you are not permitted to wear colognes, perfumes or fragrant hair-styling products to work. Some co-workers or clients may be sensitive to certain scents and may even have allergic reactions so it is important to take these policies seriously.
Along with wearing appropriate clothing and eliminating scents, it is also important to be punctual. Arrive at least 5 to 10 minutes prior to the beginning of your work day. Reliability is also important to Canadian employers. Understand what the company sick leave policy is and if you are sick, make sure you report it appropriately. Also, Co-op work terms are only 4 months in length and so you will not normally be eligible for vacation time or days off.
7. What if I am being treated poorly by my employer and/or a co-worker?
If things are not going well on your work term, contact your Work-Integrated Learning Advisor (WILA) immediately. Your WILA will coach you on how to approach your supervisor and talk with them. Your WILA can step in and speak with your supervisor if necessary.
8. I received my first pay cheque but the amount is not what I anticipated, why?
In Canada employers deduct money from your pay cheque to pay for the following.
Income Tax: All Canadian residents who are eligible to work must file an income tax return each year, whether they earned money or not; it is the law. If you are working for an employer, a percentage of your pay cheque will be deducted and sent to the federal government to cover the income tax that you owe.
Canada Pension Plan: A small part of your pay cheque goes to into this plan. When Canadians retire, they will receive a monthly pension from the federal government.
Employment Insurance: When you are working, a small percentage of your pay cheque will be deducted each month to go into the Employment Insurance Account. Employment Insurance gives money to eligible, unemployed Canadian residents for a short time, while they look for a new job or take some training to learn new skills.
9. Who do I contact if I have questions about my work term or the Co-op program?
Your WILA was assigned to you to help you prepare for your work terms and they are also available throughout your work term to answer any questions you may have. It is very important to keep in touch with them throughout your participation in the program, whether you are looking for a work term, have secured a work term or are taking a trip back home.
By keeping in touch with your WILA and keeping the above-mentioned information in mind, you will be more likely to succeed while working in Canada as a Co-op student.