According to a study led by University of Waterloo researchers, university co-op students earn higher salaries and are able to land more prestigious jobs after graduation.
The study analyzed 11,383 students using data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey which tracked both co-op and non co-op students from high school to their entrance into the labour market.
After investigating family background and academic achievement at secondary and post-secondary levels, co-op students were found to be at an advantage during the school-to-work transition. Researchers found that graduates of co-op programs are making 15% more per year than non co-op students.
A recent grad’s perspective on the benefits of co-op in job satisfaction
Nicholas Bong, a recent graduate of the honours economics co-op program at the University of Waterloo, says he feels strongly that his co-op experience allowed him to land a more prestigious job upon graduation. “Without co-op, there would be no chance that I would have the experience and networking abilities that helped me get my current job.”
“Not only do you get to gain work experience through real work, but you also get to network with people that are looking to hire fresh grads,” he says.
In addition, he says he believes that his co-op experience helped him to find a more satisfying work position upon graduation.
“Many people get stuck with first jobs that they hate because they don’t know the reality of that particular job and go into it based on what they hear from their peers. With co-op you can actually get a first-hand look at what that job is like and whether you would like it in the long run or not,” he explains.
Hands-on experience make for a better in-class experience
According to the study, co-op graduates believe that they have better problem-solving, mathematical and computing skills than their non co-op peers.
“Co-op helped me to see the theory [taught in class] in terms of a ‘bigger picture’ and to take theory and assumptions with a grain of salt. [Co-op] helped me to understand that in a practical sense, the world is quite different from what is taught in theory,” Bong says.
Co-op students who achieve higher grades than non co-op students are likely to do so because of a transfer of learning factor in which theory and hands-on practice allow co-op students to better succeed in the classroom.
Not in co-op? Extra-curricular activities may have similar benefits
If you are not a co-op, you may be regretting your decision to enter a program that does not offer co-op work terms.
Another phase of the study conducted at the at University of Waterloo is currently analyzing data that will be used to “see if co-op has an added benefit or is the same as all other [volunteer, part-time on and off-campus work] experiences,” stated Maureen Drysdale, a co-investigator on this study and research associate at Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education.
Photo credit: 335/365 – February 17, 2009 by meddygarnet on Flickr