Canada's technology industry is growing rapidly, and the pandemic further accelerated a shift toward reliance on technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation. Consumers turned to online stores, virtual education, digital-first banking and other tech-enabled platforms to complete tasks from the safety of their homes. In the aftermath of the pandemic, these same consumers have grown dependent on the ease and accessibility of online features and digitally-supported experiences. As a result, international organizations require more tech experts capable of designing, building, and maintaining computer systems for various functions.
The president of the recruitment company Hays Canada, Travis O'Rourke, told NOW Magazine, "It's a massive, massive skill gap in Canada." Additionally, O'Rourke says that transitioning into the computer science field is a beneficial career decision, especially mid to late in a professional's career, due to the growing demand and capacity to transfer skills from relevant areas. For example, with a master's in computer science, those with an educational and professional background in healthcare can move into developing healthcare technology. Similarly, those working as educators can gain computer science competencies needed to build remote learning platforms for higher education.
The recent buzz surrounding the demand for computer science professionals in Canada has prompted those in other fields to question, "is a master's in computer science worth it?" In this blog, we will review computer science career options, skills, costs, the future of the field, and how professionals can build competencies to enter leadership roles.
Top Career Options for Professionals With Computer Science Degrees
One of the most meaningful benefits of completing a master's in computer science is the ability to land jobs working with cutting-edge technologies in almost any industry or sector. For example, graduates with an online master's degree in computer science can become video game developers, iPhone or Android app designers, web developers, systems analysts, and more. Regardless of the industry, there are four popular career options for computer science graduates in Canada, including data scientists, computer software engineers, software developers, and computer programmers.
A data scientist helps an organization turn raw data into meaningful insights by collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and communicating data findings to internal and external teams. Data scientists use advanced analytics, ML, predictive modelling, programming languages, and other technological and mathematical methodologies to solve business problems. These professionals are often employed by consulting and IT companies, universities and colleges, financial services and banks, and private and public sector organizations.
Data scientist median wage: $39.00/hour
Computer Software Engineer
As the name suggests, computer software engineers work to design, develop, assess, test, and maintain software applications. Organizations use computer-based software systems and mobile applications to operate efficiently and need engineers to ensure they function correctly. A professional pursuing a career as a computer software engineer may work as an application architect, cloud infrastructure engineer, mobile development lead, software designer, software testing engineer, and more. As a result, there are numerous pathways and career opportunities for professionals in this area.
Computer software engineer median wage: $49.38/hour
A software developer, also known as a programmer, writes code to develop computer systems and software. In addition to writing code, developers recommend and install new systems and continuously test and iterate on these systems to optimize efficiency. Developers can research and suggest new software to organizations and help integrate the renewed software into existing systems. Developers may work on computer games, application programming, multimedia development, and more.
Software developer median wage: $40.38/hour
Finally, computer programmers are comparable to software developers and bear similar roles. Computer programmers write, alter, and test software code to maintain and upgrade systems like software developers. In addition, programmers help strengthen an organization's software, communicate technical challenges with internal teams, develop solutions, and sometimes lead teams of programmers to do the same. These professionals often focus on operating systems to help improve back-end business procedures.
Computer programmer median wage: $40.38/hour
What Do You Learn in a Master of Computer Science Program?
Students enrolled in a Master of Computer Science go beyond the foundational knowledge learned in an undergraduate degree and build in-demand skills that data scientists, computer software engineers, software developers, and computer programmers use to become leaders in their roles.
For example, some courses cover parallel programming, application development, algorithm design, data mining and analysis, cyber-attack and defence, machine learning and technology entrepreneurship, and more. This program aims to turn technical knowledge into real-world execution. In summary, students who study a master in computer science online may learn the following:
- The fundamentals of parallel programming concepts, algorithms, and applications, including OpenMP, Message Passing Interface (MPI), and serial farming
- Machine learning, data mining, and statistical pattern recognition, including supervised learning (parametric and non-parametric algorithms, support vector machines, kernels, neural networks) and unsupervised learning (clustering, dimensionality reduction, recommender systems, deep learning)
- Challenges in information security, such as privacy and post-quantum cryptography
- iPhone and Android application knowledge used to develop and run applications across mobile devices
How Much Does a Master in Computer Science Degree Cost in Canada?
What is the Future of a Master of Computer Science?
The future is bright for graduates with a Master of Computer Science degree. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, recent graduates with a Master of Computer Science see median earnings of $92,521 per year. Additionally, approximately 88% of recent graduates are currently employed in related roles (with 8% not presently looking for positions and only 4% reportedly unemployed). Finally, the job outlook for computer science graduates is positive; professionals working as data scientists, computer software engineers, software developers, and computer programmers see "good" or "very good" job prospects across most provinces.
According to the Financial Post, digital jobs in Canada are projected to grow to 2.2 million by 2025, specifically in the clean tech, health and biotech, and agri-food sectors. The pandemic drove consumers and businesses to a digital-first environment. The demand for more computer-enabled experiences also impacted tech employment; technology roles climbed to more than 11% during the pandemic, up from 9.5%. This upward trend is not likely to slow down over the next decade, so graduates with a Master of Computer Science are well-positioned for the future of work.
Benefits at a Glance: What are the Advantages of Pursuing a Master's in Computer Science?
Pursuing a Master's in Computer Science is a suitable mid to late-career move for ambitious leaders who want to upskill for a future ruled by digital transformation. Committing to a Master's degree requires an upfront time and financial investment; however, it's an investment that pays off in several long-term advantages, from earning potential to career mobility.
- Earn higher salaries: In Canada, those with a Bachelor's in Computer Science earn a median annual salary of $69,884 compared to $92,521 made by those with a Master's in Computer Science. That equates to earning approximately $22,637 more per year, or $113,185 more in just five years.
- Experience job growth: Jobs in computer science will grow significantly (to 2.2 million) in the next two years in Canada. Graduates will see a favourable job outlook and new job opportunities materialize in the next decade.
- Learn in-demand skills: Graduates with a master's in computer science learn several of the top skills needed for the future of work, including data communications and AI applications.
- Stand out in a competitive landscape: In a competitive workforce, those with a Master's in Computer Science can set themselves apart from candidates with fewer credentials.
- Transition into senior leadership roles: Finally, the advanced knowledge disseminated in the Master's program allows computer science professionals to become entrepreneurs, lead teams, and guide crucial data-driven business decisions throughout organizations. This may lead to overall career mobility, promotions, or C-suite roles.
Become a Leader in Computer Science at Wilfrid Laurier University
If you're interested in computer science roles, consider Wilfrid Laurier University's online Master of Computer Science. Wilfred Laurier offers Canada's first and only 100% online Master of Computer Science degree. This program combines the ease and flexibility of distance learning and the credibility associated with a world-class university.
In each 13-week course, students learn competencies in parallel programming, application development, algorithm design, data mining and analysis, cyber-attack and defence, machine learning and technology entrepreneurship, and more. Additionally, this program requires a time commitment of 10-15 hours per week, meaning students can work part-time while completing coursework and building their credentials. Learn more about the Master of Computer Science by downloading the program guide.