Professional master’s degrees fill void
By Diane Luckow
Seeking to advance, restart or transform your career?
Simon Fraser University can help. The University has expanded its designated ‘professional’ master’s programs in niche areas, with more planned in the coming years.
These programs extend beyond the traditional research focus of most master’s programs to target today’s job market, where highly trained personnel with solid training are in demand.
While SFU has long offered professional graduate programs, such as the Master of Business Administration, Master of Engineering or Master of Education, the ‘professional’ designation “suggests a closer alignment of education with the careers in which students will apply their knowledge,” says Wade Parkhouse, dean and associate provost, SFU Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
“These professional master’s degrees have been created in consultation with industry, organizations and the professions to identify the interdisciplinary skills these graduates will need to immediately have an impact in their careers.”
It’s a sensible move. There is a growing market of working adults who require continuous professional upgrading. Meeting their needs is an ideal way for universities to extend their research knowledge and expertise further into the community while also addressing declining undergraduate enrolment.
This semester, SFU is offering four professional master’s degrees—in terrorism, risk and security studies; heritage resource management; mechatronic product realization; and big data.
Professional Master in Big Data
The popular Professional Master in Big Data, introduced in 2014 in computing science, attracted 359 highly qualified applicants vying for 45 positions in the fall 2016 semester.
The 16-month, full-time program includes course and lab work and a four-to-eight-month co-op internship.
Professor Greg Mori, director of SFU’s School of Computing Science says, "Since its launch in 2014, the program has seen tremendous interest from prospective students who want to join the exciting field of data science and are well aware of the big-data talent gap across North America.
“Students from our first graduating class have already secured employment, which further attests to the high demand for data science professionals."
Professional Master in Mechatronic Product Realization
For practicing engineers, the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering has developed the Professional Master in Mechatronic Product Realization.
The full-time, 16-month, lab-intensive program teaches product development techniques, processes and manufacturing systems. It also features key courses in business and technical writing.
The program, designed with international professionals in mind, includes a course called Engineering in the Canadian Context.
“It touches on job aspects that engineers may be lacking when they immigrate to Canada, such as engineering standards, codes of practice, and law and ethics,” says professor Mehrdad Moallem, director of the program.
“And a four-month co-op internship gives students Canadian industry exposure and experience.”
Eight students are enrolled in the program this semester. All are international students.
New this semester are the Professional Master in Terrorism, Risk and Security Studies (TRSS) and the Professional Master in Heritage Resource Management (HRM).
Professional Master in Terrorism, Risk and Security Studies
The TRSS program is offered entirely online. It comprises eight courses and a final project. Students receive practical and timely information from TRSS faculty and from industry experts in Canadian security and police services who bring real-world perspectives and experiences to the program.
There are 13 students enrolled this semester, all of them working in federal or provincial governments or police or military services.
“We wanted the ‘professional’ designation on this master’s degree,” says professor Garth Davies, program co-director, “because that's who the program is targeting. The specialized material and information about industry best practices is invaluable for our students as they try to deal with some of the most intricate and complex issues of our time.”
Professional Master in Heritage Resource Management
The two-year, online Professional Master’s Degree in HRM, designed for archaeology professionals, accepted its first 11 students this semester from Ontario, Oregon, Wyoming, B.C. and the Yukon.
“All have been working in the heritage management field for a year or more, some up to 18 years, and want to enhance their professional profiles,” says program director John Welch, professor of social archaeology.
“They’re taking the program because they want to deepen their professional training and do intensive research on an issue, a site or a topic related to archaeological heritage management.”