Government approves SFU’s new Professional Master of Science in Computer Science

September 08, 2017

By Katie Knorr

More than 50 students have graduated from SFU’s professional master’s program in big data since it was introduced as a pilot in 2014. They are now working as data scientists, big data developers, data engineers and machine-learning specialists for companies such as Amazon, RBC, Scotiabank, Tableau, Hootsuite and many others.

The pilot’s success has garnered provincial approval for a new Professional Master of Science in Computer Science, which will offer several program “streams,” including the professional master in big data.

Created in consultation with industry, organizations and the professions, a professional master’s degree teaches the interdisciplinary skills that working professionals need to upgrade their knowledge and advance their careers.

The 16- to 20-month, full-time professional master in big data is open to students with programming experience and a strong aptitude in computer science or in quantitative fields, such as engineering or physics. It includes course and lab work and a four-to-eight-month co-op internship.

It’s no surprise that data science education is in high demand. “Big data” or massive amounts of data (typically upward of one terabyte), require specialized techniques, tools and technologies to process and unlock the valuable information available in these vast data sets. When analyzed properly, the data can yield useful insights about an organization’s products, customer base, logistics and more.

“Big data remains a fast-growing area of computer science, but it currently faces a critical talent gap in Canada and around the globe” says professor Fred Popowich, executive director of KEY, SFU’s Big Data Initiative, and former program director of the professional master in big data.

“The new Professional Master of Computer Science will continue to fill this need, but also allows us to develop additional streams that will address changing needs in the information technology industry.”

In just three years, SFU’s School of Computing Science has grown the big data pilot program from 13 students in the first cohort to almost 40 students in the second and third cohorts. This semester 50 students will begin their studies.

“The new professional master’s program plan allows for greater flexibility in course selection,” says professor Mohamed Hefeeda, program director of the professional master’s degree.

“We have also restructured and updated the lab courses to reflect the most up-to-date tools and technologies being used in industry today. And finally, students will enjoy a newly renovated lab space with state-of-the-art hardware to support their learning experience.”