Work-Integrated Learning & Co-operative Education (WIL Co-op)


Work-Integrated Learning is an academic endeavour defined as a subset of curricular experiential education that formally integrates a student’s program of study with work experiences.  These work term experiences take place with an approved employer or community partner within the setting of a workplace or professional practice. At a minimum, WIL experiences represent engaged partnerships between the academic institution, an employer or community partner, and a student. WIL experiences typically occur at program or course level and includes the development of student learning objectives and outcomes related to application of knowledge in the field of study; development of graduate attributes/skills &competencies; self-development and employability.
There are several forms of curricular WIL as outlined by CEWIL Canada.  The WIL Co-op Office’s mandate supports the following forms of curricular WIL at the program level for both undergraduate and graduate students:

WIL CO-OP Office's Mandate

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) and Co-operative Education (Co-op) are offered in the Faculties of Architecture and Planning; Science; Computer Science; Engineering as well as the College of Sustainability.  The Work-Integrated Learning & Co-operative Education (WIL Co-op) office works with students, employers, government, and the Dalhousie community to deliver work term experiences in the following programs:
    •    Architecture
    •    Planning
    •    Science
    •    Sustainability
    •    Computer Science
    •    Engineering

Co-operative Education

Co-operative Education or Co-op is an educational program that formally integrates academic study with relevant, paid work experience. The standard co-op program consists of periods of academic study combined with periods of work experience in appropriate employment fields. Co-op is based on the principle that an academic program combined with work experience in alternating terms, is relevant to and desirable for effective professional preparation and practice. Work term employment, which varies from sector to sector and location to location, enables students to acquire applied knowledge and direct experience in their areas of career interest, while academic terms are devoted primarily to fundamental and theoretical studies. These practical experiences and academic studies complement one another. There are two forms of Co-op programs depending on the length of the program of study:
    •    Co-op alternating consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms (typically offered in undergraduate programs).
    •    Co-op internship consists of several co-op work terms back-to-back
Although, the number of required work terms varies by program; the time spent in work terms must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study for programs over 2 years in length and 25% of time for programs 2 years and shorter in length. Dalhousie University’s WIL Co-op office delivers Co-op in accordance with the national standards promulgated by CEWIL Canada.
Co-op programs at Dalhousie must meet the following requirements:
    •    Students are engaged in work relevant to their academic studies
    •    Students are engaged in work rather than mere observation
    •    Students are remunerated for work performed
    •    Student progress on the job is monitored by the university
    •    Students produce work term assignments that are evaluated by the university
    •    Student performance on the job is supervised and evaluated by the employer
At Dalhousie University, students who successfully complete at least three co-op work terms are awarded a Co-operative Education degree designation upon graduation.


Internships typically offer a single discipline specific work experience (typically full-time) which is supervised, structured, paid and includes curriculum for academic credit. Internships may occur in the middle of an academic program or after all academic coursework has been completed prior to graduation. Internships can be of any length but are typically 8, 12 or 16 months in duration. 

Work Experience Program

Work Experience Program (WEP) is a model of WIL that intersperses one four-month work term into an academic program, where work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study and/or career goals.

Field Placements

Field Placements provide students with an intensive part-time/short term intensive hands-on practical experience in a setting relevant to their subject of study. Typically field placements are unpaid experiences consisting of 80 hours or more in duration conducted at least once per week. Field placements account for WIL experiences not encompassed by co-op, internship, or work experience programs.




Depending on the program of study, Co-op may be mandatory or optional and supplementary to academic requirements of the degree. Students who wish to be considered for Co-op will be selected on the basis of academic performance and preparedness for the work environment.   To enter and remain in Co-op, students must be:

  • In Good Standing academically;
  • Eligible for admission to and/or advancement in their specialization or program of study;
  • Meet minimum academic grade and course completion requirements for their program of study; and
  • Apply to Co-op by the posted deadlines which vary by program (See the WIL Co-op website for details).

Students admitted into the program must register in the appropriate Co-operative Education courses for each work term and will be required to pay the Co-operative education program fees which includes a course fee for each work term and a one-time Co-op orientation course fee.

The Study/Work Sequence

The WIL/Co-op system requires students to alternate periods of study with periods of employment. The period of employment is called a work term and is normally four months in length. Study/Work term sequences vary by program with most work terms beginning in second or third year. Some sequences contain one, eight-month work term. Students must be enrolled full-time during their study terms.  For further details about work/study schedules for programs of study can be found either below under the Faculty program details by Faculty or in the Programs section of the WIL Co-op website, where each program's work term schedule is available.

Change of Study/Work Term Sequence

Students are expected to follow the sequence to which they have been assigned or as prescribed for their program. Deviation from the prescribed sequence requires the submission of a formal request, and approval from the student’s Faculty and Co-operative Education. Schedule change requests must be submitted at least one month in advance of the proposed changes, and students must be in good academic and Co-op standing. The submitted plan must outline a clear path to graduation. Students are not permitted to end their academic plan with a work term.

Work Term Dates and Duration

Work terms usually begins on the Monday of the first month of the term and ends the last Friday of the fourth month of the term. Start and end dates may vary depending on the needs of the employer or community partner and work term dates should be confirmed with the employer before the start of the work term.  Co-op students must work for the entire term and may not shorten its length. Work terms shorter than the required weeks/hours of employment (13 or 14 weeks depending of the program of study) are approved by exception only in consultation with the Co-op office.

Co-op/WIL Preparation Course

The mandatory Co-op preparation course leads students through resources and activities to provide them with the tools to be competitive in their employment search and prepare them for a successful work term. This helps students understand the Co-op employment process and how it fits with their career development and emplopyability. Upon successful completion of the course, students will have the skills to:

  • Identify where to find key information about WIL and Co-op at Dalhousie University
  • Prepare effective cover letters and resumes to compete for Co-op jobs
  • Interview effectively
  • Succeed on their first work term
  • Use myCareer in their job search to:
  • Review and apply for posted jobs
  • Check for interviews
  • Respond to the Rank and Offer system
  • Complete the Job Approval process for self-developed jobs/work terms


The employment process is highly competitive and factors such as academic performance, skills, motivation, maturity, attitude, professional conduct, flexibility, and performance potential determine whether an employer offers a student employment.
Job Search.  The Co-op Office builds and uses its extensive network to find a sufficient number of work term positions for the students enrolled in a program. Still, the openly competitive nature of the hiring process, and the fact that job offers come from employers, means that no guarantee of employment can be made.
If a student does not, for reasons beyond his/her control (e.g. shortage of employment in particular sectors, unexpected cancellation of posted jobs), secure employment through an interview process administered by Co-operative Education, every effort will be made to support that student's attempt to find a suitable work experience from alternative sources. Students are expected to work closely and remain in regular contact with Co-operative Education, especially while searching for Co-op employment.
A student who neglects to apply to a suitable quantity and variety of jobs, or who impairs an interview opportunity through unprofessional conduct, will be removed from the employment process and will not be given assistance by Co-operative Education in finding employment for the next scheduled work term.
Work term employment agreements are between the student and the employer. The Dalhousie University is not a party to these agreements and assumes no financial or legal responsibility with regard to events or actions by either party that affect the employment situation for any Co-op student (e.g. layoffs, intellectual property issues, confidentiality agreements, strikes). Students are encouraged to seek whatever professional advice and/or guidance about their agreements they feel is necessary.
The University monitors work terms and records the employer’s evaluation of the student’s performance. Every Co-op student must receive a grade for every work term and may not opt out of recording, or having submitted, an evaluation of his/her work term performance.
Responsibilities of Work-Integrated Learning and Co-operative Education, Employers, and Students are detailed on the Co-op Office’s website Responsibilities section. 

Harassment, Discrimination, and Safety

Dalhousie University is committed to safeguarding students (and employees) against all forms of prohibited discrimination, racism, sexualized violence, workplace violence and harassment in the course of study , work or participation in University-sponsored organizations, activities and programs.  This includes the responsibility to assure environmental, health (physical and mental) and safety, including psychological safety, for our students. This is directly applicable work terms and work-integrated learning experiences for which Dalhousie University’s WIL Co-op office takes a student-centred view of our duty of care with staff trained to respond if needed.  Employers and community partners engaged in Dalhousie’s Co-op and WIL programs have an obligation to provide a safe and respectful work environments for all Co-op and WIL students. The WIL Co-op program has explicit expectations on employers regarding their responsibilities.  If a student experiences harassment, racism, discrimination, sexual violence or an unsafe work environment in a Co-op or WIL workplace, the student should contact a coordinator at the WIL Co-op Office and/or the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.  Similarly, issues of safety or expectations to engage in any behaviour that may pose an environmental, health or safety risk to a student’s well-being should be brought to the attention of a coordinator immediately.

Co-op Status, Discipline and Appeals

Disciplinary action is at the discretion of Co-operative Education and/or the Faculty in which the student is enrolled. An appeal process for students provides that disciplinary decisions made by Co-operative Education, either alone or in consultation with the student’s appropriate Examinations/Standings and Promotions Committee or Faculty Associate Dean, may be reviewed or appealed at the request of the student.

Co-operative Education Degree Designation

Graduates completing the Co-op Program requirements will receive a "Co-operative" degree designation. Co-op Program registration and work term requirements are detailed in the requisite work term course outline and syllabus. Work term reports, also a requirement of a Co-operative degree designation, are administered by your faculty.

Quality Standards for WIL and Co-op

Dalhousie University is a member of Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) which is our national professional association in the domain of WIL.  As an active member, Dalhousie University’s WIL and Co-op programs adhere to CEWIL Canada’s national quality standards.  National Quality Standards for Co-op include:

  • Each work term is developed in partnership with the employer and approved by the co-operative education program as a suitable learning environment;
  • The student is engaged in productive work for which the student receives remuneration;
  • The co-op curriculum supports student learning goals, personal evaluation, and reflection;
  • The student's performance in the workplace is supervised and evaluated by the student's employer;
  • The student's progress during their work term is monitored by the co-operative education program;
  • Both work and academic terms are full-time and follow a formalized sequence. The total amount of co-op work experience is normally at least 30% of the time spent in academic study. For programs of two years or less the total amount may be a minimum of 25%. A work term is defined as a minimum of 12 weeks and/or 420 hours full-time paid experience;
  • Co-op Programs begin and end on an academic term;
  • The student completing multiple work terms is normally exposed to the work environment during more than one season of the year.


The WIL Co-op Office

Our team has several locations to provide support located at at either Moren House (Sexton Campus), LSC 200 (Studley Campus) or the satelite office located in the Goldberg Building.  In addition to co-op job postings, the Co-op Office offers Co-op preparation and work term courses, individual advising appointments for résumé/cover letter/critiques, career exploration and decision making, job search, and practice interviews. Appointments are supported in-person and video calls.
For more information, visit us at:

  • One of our locations on campus
  • Virtual/on-line at:
    • for students
    • for employers and community partners
  • Mailing Address: Work-Integrated Learning & Co-operative Education, Dalhousie University, 1459 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada  B3H 4R2