FAQ for CO-OP Students
Everything You Need to Know About CO-OP
What is CO-OP?
Co-operative education at the University of Ottawa allows you to apply concepts learned in class during paid work terms. After about four years of study, you will have not only a diploma that indicates you participated in a CO-OP program but also approximately 16 months of experience in your field of study and a network of valuable contacts. All of these factors will contribute to helping you find a job more easily after graduation.
Why choose CO-OP?
- Gain valuable paid work experience in your field of study.
- Develop professional skills and gain a better understanding of the workplace.
- Discover the careers that best suit you by exploring different job opportunities.
- Meet key people in the job market who can be instrumental in you securing a position after you graduate.
- Travel and have unique experiences.
What’s the difference between a high school co-op program and one at university?
The University of Ottawa’s CO-OP Program differs in that:
- Your study sessions alternate with four-month work terms.
- You work in an area directly related to your field of study.
- You earn a salary during your work terms.
- You have to submit a report at the end of each placement.
What’s the difference between a CO-OP placement and an internship?
In co-operative education, the program is approved and implemented by a university and study sessions alternate with paid work terms. An internship, however, is a work placement that is not necessarily connected with or overseen by an educational institution.
How does CO-OP work?
At the University of Ottawa, the CO-OP option is available in the four-year undergraduate programs (honours with specialization, double major and major with minor) and in some master’s programs. In most cases at the undergraduate level, your first work term takes place during the summer after your second year. From then on, your placements and study sessions alternate until the end of your program.
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Where can I do a work term in my field?
You can do placements with a variety of employers, depending on your program. They can include private businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations Crown corporations, federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as high-tech companies. In addition, depending on your preference, you may complete your work term locally, nationally or even internationally.
Will I find employment more easily by completing the CO-OP Program?
Chances are very high that this will be the case. It’s much easier to find full-time employment when you’ve acquired experience and skills through CO-OP placements. In fact, sometimes our students find a full-time position even before they’ve graduated.
How many programs offer the CO-OP option?
In 2016-2017, the CO-OP option was available in more than 75 programs. It is offered in the four-year undergraduate programs at the faculties of Arts, Law, Engineering, Science and Social Sciences as well as the Telfer School of Management and certain master’s programs.
How many people are admitted to CO-OP each year?
Roughly 1,000 students are accepted each year.
Can I get into CO-OP if I’m doing a second university degree or if l already have university credits?
It depends on how many credits you need to complete once you’re granted equivalences for your prior studies and on whether you’ll be able to follow the required work-study sequence for your program. In addition to having the necessary grade point average, usually you’ll have to have completed a certain number of compulsory courses before doing a work term and have enough courses still to complete so that you retain full-time status in the remaining study sessions of the work-study sequence. Should you have any question regarding your courses, please contact your faculty.
What happens if I decide to change programs before I’m officially admitted to CO-OP?
If the change involves programs in the same faculty, usually there’s no problem. However, if the change involves different faculties, your first work term may be delayed. If you do decide to change programs, make sure you check the compulsory course and admission requirements of your new program very carefully.
Do I need to register in courses if I expect to be doing a placement? If not, do I have to register for anything in uoCampus?
No. You don’t have to register for anything in uoCampus if you’re going to be doing a placement. The CO-OP Office will register you in your placement course once you’re matched with an employer.
I have questions about my schedule or the classes I have to take, who should I contact?
Contact the Academic Advisor at your faculty.
Do I have to follow the study-work term sequence set by the CO-OP Office?
Do the credits I earn for my CO-OP work terms count as part of the credits I earn towards my degree?
The credits count only towards meeting the requirements needed to have the CO-OP mention on your diploma. They don’t take replace any of the academic credits you need to meet the requirements of your discipline program.
Does the grade I obtain for CO-OP work terms affect my overall grade average?
You will receive either a Pass or a Fail grade, which is determine based on the employer’s evaluation of your work and your faculty’s evaluation of your work term report. Your average won’t be affected if you receive a passing grade. However, if you receive a failing grade, your CGPA will be negatively affected.
What happens if I decide to change programs once I’ve started CO-OP?
You must contact the CO-OP Office and your faculty before you make any changes. Admission requirements and compulsory course requirements vary from one discipline to another.
Can I withdraw from CO-OP at any time?
As with regular courses, there are specific but different CO-OP deadlines that must be met. For example, if you decide to participate in the placement process (interviews, etc.), you cannot withdraw until after you’ve completed your work term. This particular rule is in place so that we can honour our commitment to employers, without whom the CO-OP Program wouldn’t exist. To withdraw from CO-OP, please come by the CO-OP Office.
I’m doing a joint degree. Which of the two disciplines is CO-OP linked to?
It is linked with the first program that will appear on your diploma. If the disciplines are in two different faculties, CO-OP is linked to the program in the faculty you registered with.
Will it take me longer to finish my degree when in CO-OP?
In the regular honour’s programs, students finish in the spring of their fourth year. In most programs, students in the CO-OP option finish eight months later, that is, in December of their fifth year. At the master’s level, CO-OP adds one additional session to the program.
What if I want to go on to do my master’s degree?
It’s possible to do your master’s after doing CO-OP. Keep in mind, however, that the CO-OP Program delays your graduation from your undergraduate program, so you won’t be able to start your master’s until the following fall. That being said, some graduate programs require work experience as a prerequisite, something you would gain in the CO-OP Program.
What if I’m considering going to medical school?
It’s possible to go to medical school after doing CO-OP, but keep in mind that doing CO-OP will delay your graduation. In addition, some medical schools require uninterrupted studies; students in CO-OP, however, alternate between work and study terms. Be sure to check the admission requirements for each medical school you’re going to apply to.
Can I take any courses during a work term?
Yes. However, you can take only one evening course at a time as long as it doesn’t prevent you from following the required course sequence in the academic session after your work term (because you’re now further ahead in the sequence or because you don’t have enough courses left to remain full time). Any exceptions to this must be approved by the CO-OP Office.
Do I have to remain registered full time if I’m in CO-OP?
Yes. You must be registered in at least 12 credits per session (definition of full time). Be aware, too, that your last session in the CO-OP Program must be a full-time academic session, not a work term.
Are there any additional fees for the CO-OP Program? If so, what are they?
As a CO-OP student, you must first pay CO-OP fees during the term that precedes your first work placement. After that, CO-OP fees are due at the start of each placement. The amount is set each year by the Registrar’s Office. CO-OP fees help pay for the program’s management, services and placements.
CO-OP fees for 2018-2019 (fall, winter, summer) – Programs for which CO-OP is optional
- Canadian citizens or permanent residents: $770
- International students: $920
CO-OP fees for 2018-2019 (fall, winter, summer) – Programs for which CO-OP is mandatory
As a student in a mandatory CO-OP program, you also pay CO-OP fees (announced every year by the Registrar) during each study term.
- Canadian citizens or permanent residents: $577.50
- International students: $690
Why do we have to pay additional fees and what are they for?
CO-OP fees cover the entire cost of administering the CO-OP program, which includes the cost of managing and coordinating the program, running the admission and placement processes (coordinating job postings, setting up interviews, matching students with jobs, etc.), cultivating relations with employers and faculties, managing the facilities and spaces, and improving the program (implementing pilot projects, designing placement opportunities, creating new CO-OP options, conducting market studies, etc.).
As soon as you are admitted into CO-OP, you will benefit from a host of services. To prepare for your first CO-OP placement, you will participate in workshops run by career development specialists, along with online workshops and resources available through Virtual Campus, and in one-on-one meetings tailored to your needs. The complete training program covers how to craft a winning CV, how to proactively prepare for interviews, the placement process, the realities of the job market and how to prepare for your first placement.
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Services provided to students after their first placement
Throughout your time in the CO-OP program, you will continue to benefit from a variety of services to help you succeed. The CO-OP team will guide you before and during your placements. You will continue to have access to one-on-one counselling (CV reviews, assistance in finding a placement, mock interviews, etc.), as well as career fairs, information sessions and feedback on your placement’s mid-term evaluation. In short, the CO-OP office is committed to your professional development and career success.
If I find my own placement, do I still have to pay the CO-OP fees?
CO-OP fees are like membership dues and give you access to numerous services. These fees are mandatory regardless of how you go about finding a placement.
Do I have to pay the CO-OP fees if I don’t get a placement?
Programs for which CO-OP is optional
The CO-OP fees that precede the first placement are non-refundable; however, you are not required to pay CO-OP fees for a term for which you have not been matched with any employers.
Programs for which CO-OP is mandatory
CO-OP fees are linked to the program’s tuition fees and must be paid prior to every study term.
Can I do placements abroad?
Yes. Many CO-OP students have completed work terms outside Canada. These placements require extra planning but they’re worth it. See the Mobility section of our website for more information.
Can I do placements elsewhere in Canada?
Yes. Many CO-OP students have completed work term placements elsewhere in Canada. In fact, some programs lead to positions in job markets available only outside the Ottawa area. To get the most out of your CO-OP experience, be sure to look into placements in other cities and countries.
Am I eligible for international CO-OP placements?
You’re eligible for an international CO-OP placement if you’ve paid your CO-OP fees, met with a professional development specialist at the CO-OP Office and completed all necessary pre-departure activities.
Can I take part in an international study exchange while I’m in CO-OP?
Yes. However, you must get approval in advance from the CO-OP Office to be absent during a work term or the placement process. Generally speaking, if the exchange is approved by the University and counts towards meeting the requirements of your program, you’ll be given approval to do the exchange. Every case is evaluated individually and the approval depends on many different criteria. If you plan to participate in the international study exchange program, be sure to complete the CO-OP International Study Exchange Request Form to get approval from the CO-OP Office before applying for the exchange.
Do I need a work permit or a visa to complete an internship abroad?
Yes. Procedures for obtaining a work permit or visa vary for each country. You’re responsible for ensuring you have all the documents you need before leaving Canada.
What’s the difference between a visa and a work permit?
A visa is an official document authorizing a non-citizen to enter a country. A work permit or a visa allows a non-citizen to complete an internship in the country. For more information, visit the Government of Canada’s site on essential information for Canadian travellers.
How long does it take to get a passport, visa and work permit?
It can take 10 to 15 days (or longer) to get a passport (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/passport/index.asp). It can take up to several months to get a work permit or a visa depending on the country you’re going to. Start the application process as far ahead as possible to be sure you have all the travel documents you need in time to travel. Visit the website of the embassy for the country you’ll be travelling to get more information.
What is the likelihood of me being able to find an international placement?
While it can be a lot of work to find a placement abroad, it’s possible. There are many opportunities in the international job market and numerous resources and programs are available to help you find a placement abroad. Be sure to check recommended job sites and contact businesses or organizations that have been recommended to you as well as the CO-OP Office.
What costs are covered by my employer during an international placement?
It depends on the job. Students are usually responsible for their own airfare and health insurance. While some placements are unpaid, others may offer a salary, stipend and/or help with accommodations.
Who’s responsible for the cost of my visa, work permit, passport and health insurance?
Sometimes the student pays for the work permit and sometimes the employer pays. However, students are responsible for the cost of their visa, passport as well as health and life insurance. You can get more information on the Government of Canada’s travel information website.
Which countries offer the best chances of finding a job?
It can depend on a number of things, including your particular needs, your discipline, languages you speak, cultural aspects as well as how open you are to experiences and new settings.
Can I do a placement in a country of my choice?
Yes. However, if the Government of Canada has issued any travel advisories for a particular country or the CO-OP office considers travel to the country to be dangerous, a work term in that country will not be approved.
Do I have to plan well in advance to do a work term abroad?
Give yourself as much time as possible (a minimum of six to nine months). And remember that it’s never too early to start planning your work term abroad.
What happens if I get sick or injured during my work term?
We highly recommend you purchase travel insurance with adequate coverage for emergencies.
What happens if once I’m there I don’t like my placement and want to come back?
Your work term is a contract between you and the employer. The employer expects you to honour the agreement unless there are extenuating circumstances that necessitate a review of the situation. We recommend you keep in touch with the CO-OP Office and with other students working or living in the same area. We are available to provide support in the event you are faced with a difficult situation.
Is the hiring process for international placements competitive?
Yes. Just as with other employers, you’ll need to sell yourself. However, be aware that employers often prefer to hire local candidates.
Where can I find funding to pay for my trip?
You can apply for University of Ottawa scholarships and bursaries as well as those offered by federal and provincial governments and private organizations. Make sure to discuss funding possibilities with a professional development specialist, as they are familiar with funding opportunities for CO-OP students.
How does the interview process work?
Interviews take place Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 pm. You may have to miss classes to attend interviews. By choosing to participate in the placement process, you also agree to be available to attend all scheduled interviews. If they’re scheduled during one of your midterms or labs, the CO-OP Office will make an effort to change the time for you. Faculties are aware that some students may be absent or late as a result of CO-OP interviews. During the second round of interviews, you may need to attend interviews during reading week.
Where are interviews held?
First-round interviews take place either on the third floor of Desmarais (55 Laurier Avenue East) near the CO-OP Office or at 34 Stewart Street. Second-round interviews are sometimes held at the employer’s location, so be sure to confirm where each of your interviews will be held. You are responsible for transportation to second-round interviews.
What kind of an interview should I expect?
Interviews can be in person, by phone or via Skype. In some cases, you may be asked to do a test or provide different types of information.
Why doesn’t the CO-OP office schedule interviews so they don’t take place during mid-terms?
We make every effort to do so. However, we also have to schedule our interviews so we’re as competitive as possible with other universities that offer CO-OP programs.
Can I find my own placement instead of going through the CO-OP interview process? If so, do I still have to pay the CO-OP fees?
You can find your own placement. Our team can also help you with a job-search strategy meeting. You must pay the CO-OP fees regardless of how you go about finding your own placement. These fees are like membership dues and give you access to numerous services. Be sure to indicate you’re going to be finding your own placement on the placement intention form in COOP Navigator.
What is IndEX?
IndEX is a platform exclusively managed by the CO-OP Office at the University of Ottawa that complements the current COOP Navigator job searching system.
In some cases, employers use their own websites to post their placements or have their own recruitment procedures that must be followed. As a result, we’ve developed this new platform to create an inventory of these positions.
How can I access IndEX?
You can access it through the COOP Navigator homepage. Note: Only University of Ottawa CO-OP students have access to IndEX.
How often are CO-OP jobs posted on IndEX?
We invite students to check IndEX regularly because we update the job postings every week.
How do I navigate IndEX?
IndEX has two sections:
1. Other jobs:
This section includes other high-quality jobs that aren’t posted in COOP Navigator. To see the details of the job posting or to apply for a position, visit the employer’s system or webpage by clicking on the provided link.
2. Other employers:
This section includes other employers that offer positions through a variety of programs. The application deadline, length of the work term and work location of each position varies. To see the details of a position with a particular employer or to apply for a position, click on the employer’s name.
Why should I apply for jobs using IndEX?
This platform is an excellent way to find placements elsewhere in Canada or abroad, and is a useful tool for students organizing their own employment searches. IndEX also posts many jobs in the private sector.
IndEX gives you access to a larger number of job opportunities than the traditional placement process alone, so use it as more than just a last resource.
Do I have to create a new resumé and cover letter for every job I apply for on IndEX?
Create a resumé based on the information you provided through COOP Navigator but make it “professional,” for a non-CO-OP job search. As well, adapt your cover letter to the job you are applying for.
For questions regarding resumés and cover letters, book an appointment with a professional development specialist by calling 613-562-5741 or emailing coop@uOttawa.ca.
Can I participate in the CO-OP placement and apply for jobs on IndEX?
Yes, but pay attention to the deadlines. For example, if you agree to participate in the placement process, you must attend all scheduled interviews during the first round of interviews, even if you’re waiting for a response from an employer you found on IndEX. If you wish to accept a job from an employer you found on IndEX and have not yet been matched to a job through the COOP Navigator, you must inform the CO-OP office before the deadline for the ranking process.
How many CO-OP placements do I need to complete throughout my degree program?
You need to complete all the work terms required by your program unless the CO-OP Office grants you an exception. There are four placements in most programs, except accounting, civil law, translation and master’s programs.
If my program requires me to do four placements but I am only able to secure three by the time I finish my degree, will I still be eligible to graduate?
Only under exceptional circumstances approved by the CO-OP Office. Exceptions are evaluated in the following cases:
- Despite your sustained efforts during the placement process, you do not obtain a placement.
- You were granted equivalences when admitted to the CO-OP program.
- You were exempt from a placement because you participated in an international exchange.
- You were absent for medical reasons.
When is my first work term?
In most programs, the first work term takes place in the summer after your second year, but exact start dates vary from one program to the next. Programs for which you apply by September 30 of your second year usually require you to complete your first work term in the summer following your second year.
Programs for which you apply by March 1 usually require you to do your first work term in the fall or winter of your third year.
Graduate programs for which you apply by September 30 of your first year usually require you to do your first work term in the summer following your first year.
How long are the work terms?
Full-time work term placements usually run for 16 weeks (four months). However, shorter work terms may be possible in special circumstances.
How do I find a placement?
There are three ways to obtain a placement:
- You can do a placement organized by the CO-OP Office.
- The CO-OP Office posts all job offers and arranges interviews on campus. The CO-OP Program coordinators make every effort to find you placements in your field of study.
- You can find your own placement.
- You must have the job description approved by the CO-OP Office. The employer must provide written confirmation they would like to hire you. In order for the placement to be admissible, it must be a paid position, be related to your field of study and involve a minimum of 16 weeks of full-time employment.
- You can do another placement with a previous employer.
Can I take part in the placement process and look for my own placement at the same time?
Yes. However, your priority must remain with the placement process. If you’re interested in looking for your own placement, contact the CO-OP Office before you start your job search.
What is the average salary for a CO-OP position?
Your wages depend on the salary range of the employer. Generally, they vary from $450 to $750 per week, depending on the employer and the field.
Can I take time off when I’m in the CO-OP Program or while doing a placement?
No. Time off is permitted only in the case of illness. Because CO-OP is a full-time program, taking time off (to travel, etc.) is not permitted. During your placement, you must work for your employer full time, from the beginning to the end of the placement.
How is my placement graded?
Your grade is based on the employer’s evaluation of your work and on your faculty’s evaluation of your work term report. You will receive either a Pass or a Fail grade at the end of each placement.
Do I have to submit a report after each placement even if I do another placement with the same employer?
Yes. Each report is tied to a specific work term, similar to the final exam for a course.
Does the CO-OP Office provide any kind of assistance during placements?
Yes. We schedule mid-term evaluations halfway through the session to meet with you and your employer. We also follow up to make sure the goals you and your employer set are being achieved.
Do I have to attend all mandatory workshops?
Yes. Workshops are part of all accredited CO-OP programs. They are critical to your success, and you must take part in all of them.
What if something comes up at the last minute that prevents me from attending a mandatory workshop?
Workshops are offered multiple times, so you’ll be able to attend the workshop another time.
When should I update my resumé?
You are responsible for updating your resume after each placement.
Work Term Report
Do I have to write work term reports?
Work term reports are required in order to “pass” your CO-OP placements. Think of it as your final exam.
How do I submit my work term reports?
In the COOP Navigator, under the “My Evaluations” tab, you will see a “Work Term Report” link next to your work term. Just click on the link and follow the on-screen instructions. Please, make sure to complete your evaluations online. The system will allow you to change or submit your report right up until the deadline for submission, and professors will be able to submit their comments and attach a corrected copy of your report online.
See your program's guidelines for work term reports for more information and exceptions*.
Are you an international student?
Am I eligible for CO-OP?
Yes. As an international student, you can enroll in the CO-OP option if you meet the admission requirements.
Do I need a work permit to do a CO-OP placement?
Yes. You will need a work permit in addition to your study permit. You can apply for this permit only after you’ve been officially accepted into the CO-OP Program.
How do I obtain a work permit for my CO-OP placement?
Visit the Student guide page of Citizen and Immigration Canada for all the necessary information and application forms. Be sure to apply as soon as possible and submit all required documentations.
How do I obtain a letter stating my intended employment is an essential part of my program?
Prior to each placement period, our office will send you this letter by email. Apply for your permit as soon as you receive this letter.
Can the CO-OP Office help me with my application for a work permit?
Only employees of Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) are legally allowed to assist you with your application. Visit the CIC Call Centre website for helpful information. You can also call the CIC Call Centre from within Canada at 1-888-242-2100 for information, in French or English, about CIC programs and services or about the status of your application. If you prefer, you can email your questions to the CIC call centre.You can also get help from a consultant if you go through the International Office.
As an international student, am I eligible for all work positions offered in the CO-OP program?
Some positions, such as those with the Canadian government, require security clearances. It’s difficult, however, for international students to obtain these clearances. In addition, the Canadian government usually hires Canadian citizens in CO-OP positions. As an international student, you would instead do your placements with a private sector employer or the University of Ottawa.
Are there jobs in the private sector for all programs?
There are many private-sector opportunities for students in certain faculties—Engineering and Science, as well some programs at the Telfer School of Management. Note that these opportunities may be at the national or international level. In faculties such as Arts and Social Sciences, most employment opportunities are with the federal government.
Can I do a placement in my own country?
Yes. However, be aware that if the Canadian government advises against travel in your country, we cannot approve a placement there (consult the federal government travel advisories by country).
If I have a high average, am I guaranteed a placement or one related to my field of study?
We cannot fully guarantee any placement. Having a high average may help when you’re looking for a placement, but it isn’t always the deciding factor. See the next question for information on skills employers look for.
What skills are most employers looking for when hiring CO-OP students?
Employers attach great importance to skills such as fluency in both official languages, good time management skills, ability to be a team player, good interpersonal skills, ability to use technology tools and Microsoft software as well as good problem-solving skills. Students who have these skills will have a higher chance of success.
What services does the CO-OP Office offer to help me find a placement?
The CO-OP Office offers resumé critiques, mock interviews and sessions to help you develop job-search strategies. By taking advantage of these services from our team of professional development specialists, you’ll gain a competitive edge.
What can I do to set myself apart as I begin my first year at university?
The University offers a number of resources that can help you really make a difference during your time at university. For example, you can gain valuable volunteer experience through the Centre for Global and Community Engagement, improve your English and French with courses at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) or get career counselling at the Career Development Centre.
Do CO-OP students have to pay for a universal bus pass (U-Pass)?
Yes. All CO-OP students are billed for the U-Pass in the fall. However, depending on your situation, you may request a full or partial credit.
Are there any exemptions to the U-Pass program?
- Yes, if you’re participating in a national or international work placement outside of Ottawa/Gatineau, you may be exempted from the U-Pass program for that semester.
- Please visit the U-Pass program’s website for all exemption options and required documentations.
How can I ask for a U-pass fee exemption?
If your CO-OP placement is outside the National Capital Region, you may be exempt from the U-Pass fee. The process for a fee exemption is as follows:
- Complete and submit the required form to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) before you leave for your placement. Forms are available at the SFUO office (room 07 in the lower level of the University Centre). Be sure to check the SFUO deadline for requesting a credit.
- SFUO will confirm you’re working outside the region (a list of students working outside the region is provided to SFUO).
- A credit will be issued to your student account if you qualify.
- For CO-OP placements taking place over the Winter session, be sure to return your U-Pass at the end of the Fall session to receive a credit for the Winter session.
I’m a CO-OP student but not enrolled full time for the Winter term. What should I do?
- Complete and submit the exemption form to the SFUO office in the University Centre, Room 07 (Level 1).
- Return your U-Pass at the end of the Fall term to receive a credit for the Winter term.
- Contact University of Ottawa Financial Services to receive a refund by cheque.
If I’m a CO-OP student, will I receive a U-Pass for the summer?
- You will automatically be charged for a U-Pass as long as you are enrolled as a full time student for one of the Spring-Summer terms. If you are not enrolled for one Spring-Summer term but are enrolled full time for the other, you will still be charged the full cost of a U-Pass.
- If you are participating in a Summer work term, you will also be charged for a U-Pass as part of your ancillary fees. If you require an exemption, contact the U-Pass coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a way to opt-in to receive a U-Pass?
- If you have not been automatically included in the U-Pass program, please visit the U-Pass website to see if you are eligible to Opt-in.
For more information about the U-Pass, visit the U-Pass website.
Can I use the University fitness centres for free during my work terms?
No. During the sessions you’re doing your work terms, you don’t pay ancillary fees (which include fitness membership fees). As a result, you would need to purchase a membership (available at a reduced cost).
Where do I get my T4 for a placement I’ve completed?
You should get a T4 after each work term. Often, you’ll receive your T4 by mail without even requesting it (usually the case for federal government positions). If you don’t receive a T4 or if you want to find out how to get one, speak directly to your supervisor or the employer’s human resources department.