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A student doing an internship, co-op, practicum
The Differences Between Co-op, Internship, and Practicum
A student doing an internship, co-op, practicum

The Differences Between Co-op, Internship, and Practicum

Internships have always been on every student’s checklist before graduation because it allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to reality with practical skills. Canadian universities offer students a variety of internship opportunities.  Besides internship, you must have heard of the other two terms, Co-Op and Practicum. Have you ever wondered what the differences between them were?


Co-op allows students to work in their interested fields with wages. The duration of each co-op term can range 2 to 12 months, depending on students’ performance.  One thing that international students need to keep in mind is that they need to have a co-op work permit, which can be applied when applying for study permit. 


  1. Students can obtain experience in their area of interest. For example, most majors allow students to work in different fields. Co-op will help them to specialize their career plan after they have hands-on experience in several positions. 
  2. Students can build connections with leaders in different companies. In most cases, students will be offered a full-time position after their co-op term. As they are familiar with their colleagues in the company, most employers are willing to offer a position to students after their graduation. 
  3. Most Co-ops are paid. If students are enrolled in the co-op programs, they will receive hourly wages. Their wages are usually minimum wage or similar to the market price.

How to participate in Co-op

First of all, students have to look at the availability of the Co-op opportunity for their major when they are applying for universities. Another way is to consult the advisor at the Co-op department at their schools for a Co-op term. In general, there will be different advisors responsible for Co-op projects for different majors.

For example, for engineering Co-op projects, a consultant teacher specializing in engineering corporation will be accountable for this type of work. Therefore, if you want to seek a Co-op project, you must find a corresponding advisor to obtain more Co-op information or to start a Co-op project.


What is Internship?

Each Canadian province has its regulations for paid and unpaid internships. Internships can generally be divided into two types. One is part of the graduation requirement. The latter is to apply for jobs after graduation. The first type is voluntary, which means students will not get paid. The latter is paid, but either way is generally short-term.

The Internship also allows students to gain experience relevant to their field of expertise, including the opportunity to meet potential future employers.

The difference between the two Internships:

Internships that come with majors are generally related to course projects and are offered in courses. In many cases, students work for a short period with organizations or companies in their respective fields to enhance the practical application of their professional knowledge. So this practicum course may count towards credit.

Usually, contract-based employment opportunities are obtained through post-employment applications after graduation. In other words, it’s a short-term contract job. Generally, this type of internship is a stepping stone for recent graduates seeking to work in the field. Because it is equivalent to a short-term contract worker, there is a salary.

The internship that comes with the major generally does not need to apply for a work permit. Still, the internship after graduation may need to apply for a work permit depending on the student visa.

How to get the opportunity of Internship:

No matter what kind of Internship, students can consult their academic advisors. The school generally assigns internships to consult their advisors if they have found an internship outside of school. However, the employers for internships are usually announced on the school’s career center bulletin board and some job search websites, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, and so on. 


What is Practicum?

Practicum is a mandatory internship, a prerequisite for completing a major. For students majoring in these majors, a certain number of internships must be completed before they graduate. Unlike Co-op, the practicum is voluntary, so students will not get paid.

Some specific majors require students to do practicum because they are skill-oriented. Those majors include tourism, education, nursing, and so on. Especially for professionals in medical and education fields, requiring students to be detail-orientated and able to multitask. Thus, students can take on responsibilities within a short time. 

Due to a great demand in society, students who demonstrate a capability of managing stress and relationships with children and patients could be offered a full-time position after graduation. 

How do I get the opportunity?

As mentioned in the previous section, practical-oriented majors often offer practicum to students. Furthermore, many websites give information about practicum in specific companies so that students will get the most accurate data from those websites.
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