By Samantha Summers
“Work-integrated learning,” which is a fancy way of saying “learning on the job,” is something you’ll hear a lot at the Faculty of Information. No matter what program you’re in you will be encouraged to do some form of work-integrated learning. While this can take the form of a job in your field while you study, you can also choose to do a practicum course, a co-op, or an internship. Each of these choices has different demands and requirements, and will give you a different kind of experience. Bear in mind that none of these are mandatory, and you can have a successful and fulfilling Faculty of Information experience without completing them. However, if these experiences sound like something you’d enjoy, they’re worth checking out. Read more below!
Practicums are courses in which you team up with an organization or professor to complete hands-on learning relevant to your program. One of the nice things about practicums is that you are basically guaranteed a project. Potential hosts reach out to the faculty with projects and there is almost always a surplus, so as the student you pick a project and are good to go. Practicums are a relatively small time commitment, as they are meant to take up the same amount of time as a single course (three hours per week) and you earn those same credits for completing them. This means they’re a great way to try out a field which you’re considering without dedicating endless hours to it. On the other hand, you aren’t allowed to be paid for a practicum, which may influence your decision.
Practicums are only open to MI students, but you might be able to talk your way into a practicum if you can make the pitch to Student Services.
Co-ops are a great option if you have a very clear idea of what you want to do with your degree. These intensive work opportunities are paid, and require you to find work opportunities yourself, but the co-op opportunities provided are advertised exclusively for iSchool students—no external competition! In addition to the concrete work experience you will be able to put on your CV after your co-op, the co-op program also includes resume writing workshops, LinkedIn tutorials, and mock interviews to help students land a gig. Furthermore, the iSchool’s Careers Officer helps students find their perfect fit before they launch into their role. Students who wish to complete co-ops must apply first and then be accepted into the program, and students who participate also get credits. Only MI students can participate in the co-op program (note that Combined Degree Program students cannot).
Unlike the above two options, internships for credit are exclusive to MMSt students. These opportunities generally take place over the summer (though COVID has thrown that schedule out the window), and students are expected to find opportunities for themselves, though the Faculty job board is a great place to begin your search. Like co-ops, internships are a great way to dive into your potential future career and get some concrete, hands-on experience. Additionally, unlike the practicum or the co-op, you can do your internship anywhere across Canada or the world (when the world isn’t locked down by a global pandemic). Internships often aren’t paid, as that’s up to the discretion of the employer, but the Faculty often has a few options for unpaid students to apply for funding.
While all of these opportunities can be great for students, they aren’t for everyone. Take time to decide if work-integrated learning is for you before committing, and make sure to know the pre-requisites and other degree requirements for all of these options before you decide if they are for you. If you’re ever unsure of whether or not work-integrated learning is for you, speak with Sherry Lin (the iSchool’s registrar) or Julie Mikaelyan (the iSchool’s Careers Officer). They’re both available to you to discuss your options.