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Dezsö Horváth, dean at York University’s Schulich School of Business, speaks to master of management students at an event held in the McEwen Auditorium at the Schulich School of Business in 2016.Joncarlo Lista/Schulich School of Business

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree from McMaster University last year, Fiona Woticky went on the hunt for a specialized master’s program that could improve her chances of launching a steady career. She then came across information about the master of supply chain management program at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“I knew the field had a lot of career potential,” says Ms. Woticky, who graduates next month from the 12-month program with a job waiting for her at a well-known consulting firm. “One of my professors introduced me to the world of consulting and helped me secure a supply chain position five months into the program with the Oracle Enterprise Solutions group at Deloitte.”

The Schulich supply management program is among a growing list of specialty master’s degree offerings at business schools in Canada and abroad. According to Universities Canada, half of Canadian jobs will require a major skills shift over the next decade as technology changes the way we work. Specialized master’s degrees provide focused learning in specific areas in demand in the changing job landscape.

A 2018-2019 survey of 806 business schools around the world by the AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) found that nearly 70 per cent – including 31 Canadian schools – offer a specialized degree in accounting and almost half offer a specialized degree in finance. And while it is a relatively new area, 17 per cent now offer a master’s degree in data analytics.

Schulich now has a suite of eight specialized master’s programs in areas such as accounting, business analytics, finance, management, artificial intelligence, marketing, real estate and infrastructure and supply chain management. Three more programs are in development. The school says the intake for master’s students this year was larger than for its traditional MBA programs.

Schulich has doubled, and is working to triple the original intake into its master of management program. In 2012, Schulich was the first school in North America to offer a master’s in business analytics and demand for the course, and its students, has since surged.

“In business analytics, many students by three or four months into the program, they already have jobs,” says Dezsö Horváth, Schulich’s dean.

In addition to its traditional MBA program, the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business offers a nine-month master of management degree, a 12-month master of business analytics, and a master of science in business administration. Demand for the business analytics program has grown 20 per cent every year since its inception, says Rodrigo Porto, Sauder’s director of recruitment and admissions for graduate programs.

While traditional MBA programs are targeted to experienced professionals looking to level up in their career path, many specialized degrees are aimed at undergraduates with little, if any, work experience. Students in the Sauder business analytics program have an average of 3.5 years of working experience – internships and co-op work included.

“A large majority have almost no work experience,” Mr. Porto says. “They really want to leverage their technology skills.”

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John-Derek (J.D.) Clarke, Ivey’s executive director of master's programs, recruitment and admissions, pictured in the Richard Ivey Building in London, Ont. on Mar. 5Gabe Ramos/Ivey Business School

Western University’s Ivey Business School has a master of science in management degree with three streams: international business, digital management or business analytics. All are 16-month, “pre-experience” programs, says John-Derek Clarke, Ivey’s executive director of master’s programs, recruitment and admissions.

Like the others, Ivey has seen double-digit growth in applications for these specialized programs.

“Individuals are coming out with undergraduate degrees and are underemployed,” Mr. Clarke says. “And I just think there’s a growing need for certain skill sets that employers are looking for, especially in data analytics. That’s a huge growth area.”

Underemployment post-grad does not appear to be a problem for the specialized programs: At Sauder, 91 per cent of the most recent class in business analytics and 88 per cent of the masters of management class were employed within 90 days of graduation. At Ivey, 95 per cent of master of science in management program graduates are employed within six months and Schulich says between 90-and-100 per cent of each class were employed within 90 days.

“It’s not only popular but the placement rates are very good and the salaries are very good,” Dr. Horvath says.

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