Partway through your undergraduate degree, you will have the option to participate in the Professional Experience Year (PEY) Program, the largest paid internship program in the country. Now in its 36th year, PEY is more than a co-op. It is a full-time engineering job that lasts 12 to 16 months. Each year, more than 300 employers register to hire our students. PEY goes far beyond a traditional student work experience program, where placements usually last four months — just about the length of a summer job and barely enough time to learn the ropes.
Top 10 Reasons to Choose PEY
Download our 10 Reasons to Choose PEY factsheet (PDF) to learn more.
1. IT’S MORE THAN JUST A FOOT IN THE DOOR
You’ll work for 12 to 16 months, giving you enough time to gain extensive experience applying your engineering skills to real industry challenges. As an intern, you are considered a full-time member of your employer’s team. PEY interns sometimes train co-op students from other universities who are working at the same company for a shorter period of time.
2. IT’S OPTIONAL
Most eligible engineering students — about 70 per cent — intern through the PEY program each year. You’ll have the flexibility to pursue PEY after your second or third year of study. Those who choose not to participate often gain experience in other ways, through summer internships and research positions, or they shorten their time to graduation so they can pursue further graduate school, law or medicine.
3. PEY FITS SEAMLESSLY INTO YOUR ACADEMIC JOURNEY
In the years leading up to your internship, you’ll gain a better sense of your strengths and interests through courses, clubs and more — all of which will shape your PEY preferences. During your internship, you’ll focus on your employer for 12 to 16 months and return to school with a fresh perspective on your future. For the remainder of your degree, you’ll have ample time to explore your interests further, positioning you perfectly for whatever journey comes after graduation. This model allows you to focus on your studies, then focus on your professional experience, without juggling both at regular intervals.
4. YOU WILL GAIN PROFESSIONAL CONFIDENCE BEFORE STARTING YOUR INTERNSHIP
To give you the best shot at landing, and succeeding in, your dream internship, the PEY Office will work with you to ensure your resume and interview skills showcase your strengths. Career counselling and professional skills development are all important parts of the PEY process. Daily workshops and guidance on everything from telling your best story and building your network to negotiating salary will serve you well as you apply for PEY positions and well beyond graduation.
5. YOU WILL HAVE THE MATURITY AND EXPERIENCE TO LEVERAGE PEY TO THE FULLEST
When you start PEY, you will have studied for at least two years at Canada’s premier engineering school. Through your coursework and a range of co-curricular opportunities, you will have worked on successful teams, researched in world-class facilities, written reports and presented your ideas. This means you’ll have an arsenal of engineering design skills, knowledge and experience to draw on — and build upon — during your internship.
6. YOU’LL HAVE A FULL RANGE OF OPPORTUNITIES TO CHOOSE FROM IN CANADA AND ABROAD
PEY employers range from local startups to large international companies across every sector. Last year, over 1,000 PEY students secured internships with more than 1,800 opportunities to choose from, many of which were outside of Canada. You will apply and interview for the positions you’re most interested in, and accept the job offer that best aligns with your goals.
7. PEY CAN HELP YOU GRADUATE DEBT-FREE
While on PEY, you are treated as a full-time employee with a starting salary to match. You can expect to earn an average annual salary of $47,000. The highest salary in 2015 was $84,000. Every PEY position is paid.
8. TOP EMPLOYERS AND RECRUITERS COME TO YOU
The PEY program is nearly 40 years old and the most highly regarded optional paid internship program in the country. Some employers only hire interns through PEY because it’s their best return on investment. PEY is also an excellent way for employers to preview and recruit future talent: more than 70 per cent of returning PEY students receive a confirmed or tentative job offer before they graduate.
9. YOU’LL HAVE AN ADVANTAGE IN SALARY NEGOTIATIONS
Graduating with PEY experience puts you in a position to negotiate a starting salary that is — on average — 15 per cent higher than graduates without PEY experience.
10. YOU’LL GRADUATE ONE STEP CLOSER TO BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER
You can apply your time as a PEY intern toward acquiring your P.Eng. designation from Professional Engineers Ontario. Your P.Eng. is your license to practice as a professional engineer.
More than an Engineering Co-op
PEY helps you understand the practical side of your studies, gives you insight into your own interests and helps you develop your skills as an engineer. You’ll be treated as a professional, responsible for managing diverse teams and spearheading key projects. The U of T Engineering brand carries a lot of weight with employers. Organizations like Messier-Dowty Inc., Ontario Power Generation, Procter & Gamble, Environment Canada, Apple, and CIBC routinely hire PEY students, as do start-ups, small to medium size companies, and public sector employers. Notably, amongst the start-up community are Uken Games, Colibri Technologies Inc., and Wattpad. Your PEY experience can also take you abroad, with approximately 70-80 international internships taking place each year at companies like the Agfa-Gevaert Group in Belgium, Microsemi Corporation in the United States, Orbis Investment Management Limited in Bermuda, and ALSTOM Power in Switzerland.
- Canada’s largest undergraduate paid internship program
- Longer placements (12-16 months) provide more insight into workplace operations and allow students to make more substantial contributions
- Intensive career development program through self-discovery, reflection, and connecting with the marketplace
- Placements provide project-based professional environments and provide real world work experience
- Employers typically use the PEY program as a recruitment tool for employment opportunities after graduation; consequently, PEY interns often have the opportunity to consider full-time offers after they return to school.
- On average, new grads with PEY experience can negotiate a starting salary at their first full-time job that is 15% higher than those without PEY experience
- In 2015, PEY students earned an average annual salary of $47,000 and the highest PEY salary was $104,000
What Our Students Have to Say About PEY:
Priya Anandakumaran (EngSci 1T3 + PEY, IBBME MASc Candidate)
In addition to work in industry or commerce, many PEY placements offer students the chance to advance scientific research in emerging fields. For Priya Anandakumaran (EngSci 1T3 + PEY, IBBME MASc Candidate), it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Before PEY, I was sitting in a classroom reading scientific papers about various concepts in biomedical engineering,” she said. “Six months later, I was doing the same kind of experiments that I was reading about, at the very institutions were many of these concepts were first discovered.”
Anandakumaran spent her PEY year in Professor Jeffrey Karp’s advanced biomaterials and stem cell-based therapeutics laboratory at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology. Her research focused on exploring the therapeutic properties of stem cells, which could help grow new tissues to treat heart disease, bone defects and other conditions.
Outside of the lab, Anandakumaran enjoyed the opportunity to explore a new city. “Boston is a beautiful city that has discovered a fine balance between nature, rich history, and modern architecture,” she explained. “Boston’s spirit and livelihood is also very contagious—after three months I was slowly turning into a Red Sox fan!”
Anandakumaran now works with U of T Engineering professor Molly Shoichet (ChemE, IBBME), conducting research in stem cells and tissue engineering. She credits her time in the Karp Lab with influencing her career path. “Working in the Karp Lab was an unforgettable experience. It was the first time I envisioned myself doing research long-term,” she said. “Most importantly it made me really excited for my future in biomedical engineering.”
Gordon Dri (Year 3 CivE + PEY)
“The PEY program interested me because it offered me a real-life experience of what I have learned in school for the past three years,” said Gordon Dri (Year 3 CivE + PEY). For Dri, who is enrolled in the Engineering Business minor, that means applying engineering techniques like data analysis to make corporate operations more efficient.
Dri is currently interning at Cadillac Fairview Corporation, Ltd., which owns, manages and operates commercial real estate across Canada. Working in the Operations department, he tracks various building metrics: everything from the average temperature and energy usage to the number of service calls.
He then synthesizes this data into reports that are used to make decisions around property management. For example, an increase in energy usage might indicate that certain equipment should be replaced, while a low number of service calls might be a selling point for potential tenants.
Dri aims to continue this type of work after graduation. “My future career plans are to work in analytics, leveraging big data to propel companies forward,” he said. “In any industry or discipline, there are always problems to be solved. This is what engineering teaches you.”
What employers are saying about PEY:
“An intern that is available for up to 16 months is very attractive to us. In most cases, it can take up to 3 months for a new hire to be fully trained and to feel productive. Having them on the team for longer allows them to get more out of the experience and to add more value to the team and to the business.”
– Natalie Murray, Technical Recruiter, Demonware, Inc.
“I first learned about the PEY program as an Engineering Science student many years ago. PEY students contribute like full-time engineers and are treated that way. We also get to “try before you buy” a number of outstanding engineers. We are very pleased that so many have returned to join us full-time after graduation.”
– Terry Borer, Manager, Altera Corporation
“Our organization has benefitted dramatically from our PEY experience. We’ve been lucky enough to get students with a fresh eye on our business model who contribute new ideas from day one. With every new skillset acquired, we’ve received insight into at least one new technology or approach. We’ve also found that the students that we’ve hired bring an energy and enthusiasm that is unparalleled in the job market today. It’s something you just can’t find in external internships or even new external hires.”
– Adil Sardar, Lead Developer, WaveDNA, creator of Liquid Loops software