Best Programs at the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is one of Canada’s most famous and prestigious post-secondary institutions, and while the university has many great programs, there are a few for which it is known. Here is the list of the top programs (in terms of reputation, competition, and finding jobs post-graduation) at the University of Waterloo.

1. ENGINEERING

You cannot talk about the University of Waterloo without talking about its diverse engineering programs. Waterloo is Canada’s largest engineering school, with almost 11,000 students enrolled in 2020. The following are the 14 engineering disciplines offered by the University of Waterloo:

  1. Architectural Engineering
  2. Biomedical Engineering
  3. Chemical Engineering
  4. Civil Engineering
  5. Computer Engineering
  6. Electrical Engineering
  7. Environmental Engineering
  8. Geological Engineering
  9. Management Engineering
  10. Mechanical Engineering
  11. Mechatronics Engineering
  12. Nanotechnology Engineering
  13. Software Engineering
  14. Systems Design Engineering

While all engineering programs at Waterloo are relatively competitive, Software Engineering and Biomedical Engineering are by far the two most competitive engineering programs offered at the University. Waterloo Engineering is known for its unique co-op program, experiential learning opportunities, edge-cutting technology and immense entrepreneurial spirit. There are always plenty of competitions and grants being offered to students who think they have the next big idea. Waterloo Engineering graduates are extremely hireable, with 86% of graduates being employed within 6 months of graduation. That being said, Waterloo Engineering is not a walk in the park. Being one of the most well-known engineering schools in the continent, it definitely challenges its students to a high degree, and for some, it’s not worth it. So if you decide to enroll in Waterloo Engineering, make sure to have impeccable time management skills, as they’ll definitely come in handy. For more details on each program’s admissions, visit our article on your chances of getting into Waterloo here (hyperlink that article).  

2. COMPUTER SCIENCE

Offered by Waterloo’s faculty of mathematics, the computer science program is unique for its computational rigour. Students start their first year by being introduced to courses such as calculus, algebra and programming, then explore more detailed disciplines in their upper years such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms and much more. Perhaps one of the program’s best features is the ability to customize your degree in the paper years, with over 70 computer science courses to choose from. However, if you’re planning on applying to this program, you’ll have to do some work during high school since it is encouraged by the school that you participate in some of Waterloo’s international computer science and mathematics competitions. Let’s be real here; “encouraged” practically means you gotta do it to be a valuable candidate. These competitions include, but are not limited to the Canadian Senior Mathematics Contest and the Euclid Mathematics Contest.

3. ARCHITECTURE

Although Waterloo’s program is part of the faculty of engineering, it’s really a world of its own. Waterloo Architecture students have their own riverside Campus in Cambridge, Ontario. Receiving thousands of applicants and only accepting around 80 students every year, Waterloo Architecture is one of the most competitive undergraduate architecture programs in the country, and for good reason. At Waterloo Architecture, students become the centre of a very relevant curriculum covering design, visual and digital media, cultural history and theory, technology and environment, and urbanism and landscape, leaving them with a good balance between conceptual design and technical knowledge. In addition, the school has been rated the greenest architecture curriculum in Canada, educating its students a great deal on sustainability and how architecture can react to the climate crisis.

At Waterloo Architecture, you will be at an accredited program, meaning you’re on your way to earning your architecture license in Canada. You will also have your own studio desk for the entire semester where you will be able to experiment, try out different designs, create models and meet with professors for one-on-one critiques. After our first semester of second year, you will begin to alternate between school and co-op, gaining up to 2 years of paid co-op, which will drastically help you stand out in the competitive world of design. One of the biggest appeals to Waterloo Architecture is the ability to study in Rome in the final year of your degree. With a permanent facility in Rome, Italy, the Waterloo School of Architecture takes its students to see one of the greatest sites of the entire built environment. 

4. PHARMACY

In case you haven’t guessed it, what sets Waterloo’s Pharmacy school apart from others is its co-operative education. The University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in Canada with an integrated co-op program, offering its students three co-op terms and three clinical rotations. The School of Pharmacy is located in the downtown kitchener campus, a centre for all things science innovation and new research. Since this program is a graduate program, you don’t have to attend Waterloo at the undergraduate level to be enrolled. And while it’s possible to be admitted into the school of pharmacy after two years of undergraduate science education, it’s quite rare!

That being said, if you know you want pharmacy straight from high school, you can create yourself a shortcut by applying to Waterloo’s Conditional Admission to Pharmacy (CAP) proram. CAP is a program that allows approximately 25 students each year to be pre-admitted to the University of Waterloo’s school of pharmacy after two years of undergraduate science education at the University of Waterloo. Being accepted into CAP does not guarantee you a spot in the school of pharmacy but it holds a place for you should you satisfy the conditions of the offer. If you are successful, you will begin your pharmacy education in your third year of studies and will not have to go through the application process in your third or fourth year of undergrad, like many other students. So if a pharmacy education is calling your name, CAP is one heck of an option. If you’re not admitted, don’t worry! You can always apply to Waterloo’s school of pharmacy from other undergraduate science programs!

There it is. The programs above are a huge reason why the University of Waterloo holds the prestige and reputation that it does today. With excellence in a variety of fields and programs, it’s really a place where students are prepped for the workplace post-graduation. Is any one of those programs calling your name? Start thinking about how you can make yourself stand out from the crowd 😉

Published on September 2, 2021

About Michael Salib

Michael Salib is a second-year architecture student at the University of Waterloo. As a content creator and designer, he self-identifies as a "creative enthusiast," letting creativity dominate his day-to-day life. Michael has tutored and mentored students through their transition from elementary to high school and high school to post-secondary for several years, helping them rise to their full potential. He also has a knack for public speaking. During his free time, you will find Michael doing a plethora of things, such as traveling, hiking, acting, drawing, cooking, taking photos, and spending quality time with loved ones.