PhD Co-op Program

What is Co-op?

The Arts Co-op Program offers students enriched educational experiences for personal and professional growth. The Program works with a diverse range of community partners and sectors to provide transformative workplace learning for co-op students.

Co-op is a high-impact educational program that allows students to alternate academic terms with paid, relevant work experience. The English PhD Co-op Program allows students to explore different career options, while gaining paid, professional work experience and a network of contacts. Co-op students get in-depth exposure to a particular workplace, as well as to a range of tasks related generally to their field of study. Students complete three work terms of 4 months each, over the two to three years after achieving candidacy.


Why the PhD Co-op in English

Program goals:

  • to extend secure graduate funding into the fifth and possibly sixth years of the PhD program;
  • to give graduate students well-paid, relevant work experience divided across their dissertation years (PhD co-op positions pay $20-$25/hour depending on the employer—a 14-week work term at 37.5 hours/week at $25 is $13,125);
  • to reduce the financial and academic strain often faced by students who run out of money after year four and have to work nearly full time, often substantially delaying completion of their degrees; and
  • to provide insight and experience into alt-ac careers for graduate students who may choose not to work in academia after graduation.

The English PhD Co-op Program gives students the opportunity to:

  • explore various career options and gain substantial, “alt-ac career” experience to put on their resumes
  • enrich academic learning with workplace experience
  • develop their professional skills and network
  • apply to positions that require students to be in a co-op program (such as federal government jobs and some positions in the cultural industries)
  • finance their degrees with relevant, paid work


History of the Co-op Program for English PhD Students

In 2013, the English Department Graduate Committee expressed an interest in exploring an optional PhD co-op program, to explore providing wider employment opportunities, or “alt-ac careers”, for their PhD students. The Arts Co-op Program piloted an English PhD Co-op Program with the support of the English Department and the Dean of Arts Office starting in Fall 2013.

Elizabeth Hodgson and Tiffany Potter, both faculty members in the English Department, worked closely with Julie Walchli, Director of the Arts Co-op Program, during the pilot years of the co-op program. English PhD student Paisley Mann was also hired to conduct research and prepare material for English PhD co-op students in the pilot, including customized training related to alt-ac careers.

The UBC Arts Co-op Program submitted a new program proposal for UBC’s first PhD co-op program, via the Faculty of Arts and Graduate Studies, to Senate to approve the UBC English PhD co-op program and courses. Approval was granted in May 2015.


Applying to Arts Co-op

PhD students can apply to the Arts Co-op Program once each year in October.

PhD students are eligible to apply to the UBC English PhD Co-op Program if they have achieved candidacy (or are expecting to achieve candidacy by the time they begin their co-op term, typically in January of their third year in the PhD program). Students also need to still have two years of PhD study left, in which to schedule three, 4-month work terms. Students cannot enrol in the Co-op Program without advancing to candidacy first: that is, Co-op students must be ABD.

Visit the Arts Co-op website for information about the application process, eligibility details, and information session dates.


Co-op Work Term Projects

Students complete short work term professional development projects for each co-op work term in addition to their job duties. These projects allow students to build their professional skills and network, as well as actively reflect on various aspects of their work terms.

During each co-op work term, students write a work plan and map out learning objectives, enabling them to maximize the opportunity to learn and develop during their co-op position. Students also create a professional profile, an informative brief on their co-op work term. In order to help them gather more information about possible career options, students also complete an informational interview with another professional in the field. Finally, students complete a presentation to faculty and graduate students in the English Department at the end of their work term.


Types of Work

Employers hire UBC English PhD co-op students based on their specialized skills and potential career interests. UBC English PhD students can expect to work in areas such as:

  • Academic Administration
  • Communications / Public Relations
  • Curriculum Development
  • Instruction and Training
  • Project Management
  • Research and Analysis
  • Web Design and Content Development
  • Writing and Editing 

Co-op Coordinators work closely with employers locally, nationally, and internationally, to develop challenging, career-related positions for co-op students in the non-profit, government (federal/ provincial/municipal), and private business sectors.

For a list of some of the types of work Arts Co-op students can expect, visit the Arts Co-op website.


What Students Have to Say About Co-op

“The breadth of experience [my co-op] position provided was extremely useful. As a PhD student I am used to working in areas of intense specificity and generalization. This position required me to think more generally, working as part of a team on a very diverse array of tasks and projects.”

– Jonathan Newell (the first UBC English PhD co-op student to complete a co-op work term)