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Engineering is a big field when it comes to specialization. Should I pursue mechanical, civil, electric, or chemical? Should I begin my job search or acquire higher education? These are all valid questions for an engineering hopeful. With so many choices, where will you go?

Electrical and computer engineering

It's just perfect for students who want to be in a specific area of technology, and at the same time don't want to be bogged down by the parameters of the program like a master of science, says Shahram Yousefi, associate head of the department of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Queen's University.

With the master of engineering's handful of specializations, students in electric and computer engineering have the chance to partake in internships or industry collaborations. Students have the option to work on a four-month project with either a faculty member or industry partner to gain more hands-on experience in the field.

We emphasize a lot these days the importance of doing the industrial or internship because these ones in particular also build a connection, he explains. There's something that's added to the resum├® that shows a bit of relevance to the industry.

And upon graduation, students have successfully been able to attain jobs, with many ECE career hotspots in the Ottawa and Toronto area. A fraction of the students are coming from overseas and go back and they're equally successful where they come from and some do stay in Canada. The absorption into the industry has been quite good.

Engineering design

Working in engineering design is a job that requires equal parts of creativity and leadership. Vladimir Mahalec, director for McMaster University's Centre for Engineering, describes the master's in engineering design program as an opportunity for students to specialize in three fields: product design, sustainable community infrastructure, and process and production systems.

Typically they either end up with a design or a prototype, he says, adding that students develop design thinking, which is identifying the root of the problem and creating alternatives. If you look at our program, about half of our classes are focused on development of early design thinking, leadership skills, and project management, he explains, while the other half is solely dedicated to technical skills.

Coming from multiple bachelor's engineering disciplines, Mahalec says the interdisciplinary backgrounds prepare students for the workplace where their colleagues will likely come from different specializations. It's really great because it allows us to put together interdisciplinary teams who can then work jointly on solving problems.

Master's students roughly have a $15,000 salary advantage over bachelor's graduates, but job acquisition is very much reliant on whether students are willing to move out of their comfort zones.

The jobs are scattered all across Canada and if they are focused on only staying here because they want to be next to mom and dad, this is a serious constraint, explains Mahalec.

Think clearly about why you want to enrol in a master's program, and the competencies you want to attain or enhance. Then we can work together to ensure that this is possible and that they can deliver what their goals are.  

Photo: Maria Gritsai/Thinkstock