Esports Programs in Canada and Ontario

The esports industry has been booming for the last 5 years, and with that came an evident opportunity for businesses to leverage esports as a new attract Generation Zs to garner new students. What are the esports programs in Canada?

Canada has 6 college esports programs: Lambton’s Esports Entrepreneurship and Administration, St. Clair’s Esports Administration and Entrepreneurship, Seneca’s Esports Marketing Management, Durham’s Esport Business Management, Vancouver Animation School’s Esports Diploma and Mount Royal’s Esports Management. 

In this article, we will dive into each of these programs, including the differences and I’ll have a video linked to discuss if you should apply to these programs (coming soon). Heads up, this was written as a personal opinion piece, although I try to be objective, my biased perception and lack of knowledge of certain areas are evident in this writing. Nonetheless, it should be an amazing source of information for anyone interested in an esports program in Ontario or Canada.

Esports Programs in Canada

Esports post-secondary programs started to spur up initially in 2019 with the growing interested between Gen Z and gaming. I too was one of the students who was intrigued by the prospect of working in esports in January of 2020. Located in Ontario, I instantly learned about Lambton College’s program and was immediately intrigued. What I wasn’t sure of at the time was if this could actually amount to a job opportunity.

Not to mention the stigmas around gaming and the perception it leaves on your family, “he/she spends all day gaming at home and now he/she wants to waste his/her life going to a program to game more. There is no future in gaming.”

You who may be reading this may too feel the uncertainty that I felt not only before applying to the program but also during almost the entire first year of being in the program. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. First off, as promised, let’s go through each of these programs and learn the similarities and differences between them.

Esports Programs in Ontario

What are the esports programs in Ontario? Ontario has 4 post-secondary esports programs, making it possess the majority of the esports programs in Canada. These programs are Lambton’s Esports Entrepreneurship and Administration, St. Clair’s Esports Administration and Entrepreneurship, Seneca’s Esports Marketing Management and Durham’s Esport Business Management.

Below is a quick table that will show you all the high-level information you may want to know about the programs (p.s. sorry for the poor formatting for phone readers, blame WordPress):

Post-Secondary Institution Duration (years) Location Cost Certification Application Requirements Number of Esports Teams (as of today) Strengths* Weaknesses*
Lambton College 2 Sarnia, Ontario $ 7880.12 Ontario College Diploma Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) 4 Business connection + Staff Location + Irrelevant mandatory courses + Number of esports teams
St. Clair College 2 Windsor, Ontario $ 8048.14 Ontario College Diploma Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) 8 Heavy funding/ scholarships + Number of esports teams Esports team perception
Seneca College 1 Toronto, Ontario $ 3716.00 Graduate Certification Ontario university or college degree or college diploma or equivalent N/A (idk) N/A (idk) N/A (idk)
Durham College 1 Oshawa, Ontario $ 3984.34 Graduate Certification Any post-secondary diploma or degree + Proof of English language proficiency 5 All courses tailored to esports Only 1 year old as of 2021

*These are my personal judgements 

By the way, if you are concerned that your high school grades aren’t high enough to land into the colleges (referring to Lambton and St. Clair), don’t be. From my experience, neither of these programs are competitive enough to afford/desire to turn down poorly performing applicants. This, of course, can change at any time and this isn’t an absolute statement (as I don’t work for or with either of these programs), but when I applied I know I was considered since I graduated high school with only 4 grade 12 courses (through summer school). As long as you have graduated high school, you should be fine.

For my cohort at Lambton College, I know we had students that applied like a week before the program and still got in, again due to the programs not filling to max capacity. So if lateness is also a concern, don’t be afford to call the program coordinator after applications are closed to see if you can still make it.

Now let’s break down each college further.

Lambton College’s Esports Entrepreneurship and Administration Program

Lambton College was the first college to create a post-secondary esports program in North America (take that US), St. Clair only starting months later. This is one of the two Ontario colleges that accept students right out of high school, with St. Clair being the second.

I will preface this section to say as a result of being a student at Lambton College, I know the most about the inner workings and flaws of this program, but at the same time I know all the great parts.

The program’s course list, although due to change each year, is as follows:

  • Semester 1
    • Sports Marketing
    • Introduction to Business
    • Social Media Marketing
    • Critical Thinking and Writing
    • Esports Gaming Foundation I
    • Personal Wellness
  • Semester 2
    • Live Stream Marketing and Production
    • Esports Gaming Foundation II
    • Fundraising and Sport Sponsorship
    • Job Search and Success
    • Project Management
    • One general elective (you choose the course)
  • Semester 3
    • Sport Research and Analytics
    • Video/Audio Production
    • Technology in E-Sports
    • Esports Gaming Foundation III
    • Accounting Concepts I
    • Communications for Business
    • One general elective (you choose the course)
  • Semester 4
    • Ethical Leadership and Critical Decision Making
    • Selling
    • Esports Law
    • Esports Gaming Project
    • Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship
    • One general elective (you choose the course)

The program itself was very eye-opening to me, I document exactly how it was in my book So You Want a Job in Esports: Your Hero’s Journey in Esports (TBA). It showed me the massive growth and money present in the industry. We would frequently have guest speakers coming in, sharing insights, in addition to many opportunities to present in the college such as through the Lambton College Gaming Community (LCGC) and the Esports Arena (image below).

Above is Lambton College’s Esports Arena. Btw, you can see me in the picture above in the top left looking away from the arena. We were posting a PUBG Mobile tournament.

The staff for the program are pretty amazing. Matthew Hutchinson, who is the program coordinator, is extremely business savvy with work such as his co-authored book “Fundamentals of Business: Canadian Edition“. To put it further in perspective, prior to being signed on as the program coordinator, Hutchinson was the faculty advisor for Enactus Lambton which became the first program in Enactus history to win the Worlds Cup (it’s an international entrepreneurship competition).

His strong connections in the industry and passion for the growth of the program allows brings further business opportunities for the student. Another staff member, Tony Frangis, runs Lambton’s esports arena. Frangis, previously a radio co-host, now manages all the esports teams and has a lot of cool insights into the future of esports and the growth of the program. He also supports mobile gaming like myself, so hurry!

For this program, I think the strong staff backing this program is what makes it a strong candidate and from a personal perspective, if I had to choose which program to enroll in again after knowing what I know, I’d still choose Lambton almost exclusively due to the staff that is present).

That said, when compared to St. Clair, Lambton college only has 2 esports-focused staff members versus the number of paid part-time and full-time staff members that St. Clair has. Not to mention, besides Shaun Byrne (their program coordinator), I’ve never met or spoken to any of them. My conversations with Byrne were limited, so pulling judgements out of is difficult. With their greater number of staff, I’d be remiss to not find the amazing staff on their team as well.

Speaking of numbers, as of this writing Lambton College only has 4 esports teams according to their site compared to St. Clair’s whopping 8. Obviously, during Covid, the number of teams may expand in the future, but Covid affects all programs, not only Lambton.

Although I was the president of the LCGC at Lambton for the last year and a half, I’d admit it’s nothing compared to St. Clair’s club from funding, to production, to activities, Lambton get’s swept up across the board. These are elements that can all be amended in due time and effort, which I know Lambton’s esports staff are diligently working on, there is a major weakness that cannot be changed.

Lambton’s biggest weakness by far that cannot be amended is its geographic location, bordering the US in the southern Ontario city, Sarnia. Although mentioned as a joke, we call Sarnia an “Old people city” because it is. According to Townfolio, the median age of a resident here is 45.6 and the largest age group being between 50 to 60. These people definitely aren’t interested in esports, hindering the execution of tournaments more difficult.

Above is the ages of the population in Sarnia.

Not to mention the lack of jobs if you live or plan to live locally due to the demographic. For events as well, since Sarnia borders the US, it’s almost a barrier for participants due to the headaches of crossing the border (not to say it’s impossible or difficult). The barrier furthermore blocks students, who want to pay massive international fees from the US to join a small program in a small city.

Not to mention the massive opioid crisis within Sarnia. Thankfully, I was not away of any such thing to occur within the college itself (but it could very well be), which still is alarming to anyone looking for a safe place to study. The city is also boring, so it has that 🙂

Another weakness for Lambton College’s program is what I take as “filler courses”. Take a second look at the course list I provided above, “Physical Wellness”? “Critical Thinking and Writing”? This list of courses is like 10x better than what I had (I swear we took the same English course 3 times), but it still has some ways to go. If there is 1 thing I significantly dislike about the program, it was the amount of filler thrown down your throat to have pricing to industry standards instead of providing actual value.

If I wanted to learn about physical wellness, I would pay someone for it. I went to this program to learn all things business and esports, not learn that I need to sleep 8 hours or that there are dependant parts of sentences. The worst part of these courses (besides their existence) is that they are teaching us high school concepts, and not even grade 12 concepts. They are more likely grade 10. If anyone is worried about complicated school work, these courses won’t warrant your worries.

There’s so much more to say about the program on both more goods and more bads. But this article is getting significantly long and I’m only in the first college. To conclude, Lambton would be my overall choice, but I’m not you so you decide base on all I provide here. Lambton has been improving rapidly and I know in 2 to 3 years if I was to revisit this program, a lot of these issues wouldn’t be here anymore (as something the staff are actively looking to mitigate).

For More Information: Lambton College Program Page

St. Clair’s Esports Administration and Entrepreneurship Program

Why did St. Clair switch the “entrepreneurship” and “administration” around, I don’t know (and to be fair their program was released only months after Lambton). That said, St. Clair is the other college that esports enthusiasts can look to apply to when interested in a possible career in esports. In fact, from more of an outsider’s point-of-view, they look stronger on a lot of fronts.

Although, again I’d likely still apply to Lambton knowing what I know now, St. Clair could actually be a better choice for certain students based on your priorities and desires. Overall though, regardless of which you choose, they both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The program’s course list, although due to change each year, is as follows:

  • Semester 1
    • Accounting Concepts 1
    • Introduction to Canadian Business
    • Introduction to Esports
    • Esports Media Production 1
    • Introduction to Sport Marketing
    • Introduction to Sport Management
  • Semester 2
    • Accounting Concepts 2
    • Program and Event Management
    • Business Communications 1
    • The Esports Industry
    • Esports Media Production 2
    • One general elective (you choose the course)
  • Semester 3
    • Techno Marketing
    • Team and League Management
    • Administration of Esports Projects 1
    • Esports Media Production 3
    • Sport and the Law
    • One general elective (you choose the course)
  • Semester 4
    • Marketing Design Technologies
    • Marketing Management
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Administration of Esports Projects 2
    • Esports Media Production 4
    • One general elective (you choose the course)

(thank god this program list doesn’t have 3 different English courses)

St. Clair’s esports presence is massive, and their support within their college to double down on their esports sector is really there. With them having a number of staff members, they can focus and invest a lot of resources to their esports within their college and the success of the numerous esports teams (8, being the most teams for a college listed in this article). Not to mention with their large scholarships, they are able to bring in really skilled players.

When comparing the skills between St. Clair and Lambton College, we can look at objective truth. Between both colleges, is hosted an event known as the Border City Battle (run by students in each college, rotating per semester). In this event, a set number of teams from both colleges compete for the Border City Battle trophy. As of the day of this writing, 3 of these events occurred and St. Clair has won all of them.

Although most of the tournaments have been close, not to disregard Lambton entirely (and obviously certain game’s teams are much better than another’s), St. Clair across the board has better talent.

In the image above you see who I believe is a staff member looking down at the players and right behind him is Shaun Byrne. They are in Lambton College’s Arena for this iteration of the Border City Battle.

St. Clair’s Esports Club has good money coming in and a strong team facilitating it. Their social media outright destroys anything the LCGC has, despite being in Lambton’s history for many years (I’ll take responsibility for that, haha). St. Clair’s Saints (their more college-run program) also has a better social media presence and branding than Lambton, although Lambton isn’t far behind. Both college’s Discords exceptionally lively (even during Covid), but St. Clair easily takes the crown as the “more living” ones.

St. Clair also streams games a ton more than Lambton was to, providing more value for the college students who both want to watch and participate in these events. This is mostly student-run but by mandate of the college.

Their location, however, just like Lambton’s isn’t the best. That said, Windsor is significantly better than Sarnia. For one, the population is significantly larger and it’s also younger. Drugs aren’t as rampant as in Sarnia, although obviously exist. Being in the same geographic location as the University of Windsor also provides many benefits for small colleges looking to run esports tournaments. Windsor isn’t a completely boring city either, but I wouldn’t know if it’s a fun city par say.

That said, they still are bordering the US from a similar area as Sarnia. This doesn’t help their recruitment for new students nor participants for events. Both colleges are located in the southern part of southern Ontario, so they both are competing for the same audience. This may not affect the experience you as a student may have directly, having fewer students in your cohort is not very satisfy or reassuring for a student in a new program with some big stigmas attached to it.

St. Clair is also kind of known for their (to say it nicely) abrupt conduct in the esports scene. Although I wouldn’t know if this is something outside my limited bias vision, it seems as so from what I’ve been able to notice. A particular instance I can recall was during my time as a lead administrator of the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports. OPSE was looking to pave the way for esports in Ontario, and as a cost to it came strict guidelines with a bit of a user-second mentality.

I mean for better or for worst (it is a competition facilitator that should hold true to the rules, but also a business charging a hefty fine to its participating members) OPSE was not going to bend a rule for anyone. One of the rules was that OPSE streamed games cannot be streamed by another party as to not take away from OPSE stream views.

However, St. Clair’s program ensures that all varsity matches are streamed by students for a learning opportunity (another value of the St. Clair program), and OPSE wasn’t going to bend the rules despite how inconsequential it may have been.

So the Saints decided to withdraw from their match. Since they likely had many students wanting to watch their streams, as there typically are, so they informed the students on social media. Nothing wrong there, but the wording ticked off OPSE, who responded, which caused Shaun to respond from his personal account (where the OPSE founder used his personal Twitter to rebuttal) and it brewed a massive ordeal that would leave any third party thinking “Ohhhhhh brother”.

Below are a few snippets of an initial chain (if you really enjoy drama, just click on the initial post and pop some popcorn. I probably wasted about an hour reading through it).

Regardless of that small drama, St. Clair has a lot of strengths and plays very strongly on the “esports” over “business” side. If you really want a college that supports you as a player or has your college experienced more enhanced as a player, especially if you are new to the Windsor area, St. Clair may as well be the right college for you.

Personally, I didn’t care for the players and heck I was the one providing the community engagement through the LCGC, so none of this appealed to me. In fact, Lambton College’s limitless opportunity due to less staff and more student involvement is what made it worth it for me.

St. Clair has a lot of money, looks great and is probably a load of fun! If that’s the college experience you want, not to say Lambton doesn’t have it, but St. Clair definitely has it for their esports side.

For More Information: St. Clair College Program Page

Seneca College’s Esports Marketing Program

This is literally the only one on the list I know very little about. Not due to any fault of their own, simply because A) they aren’t in OPSE, B) they are a grad cert and C) they started at least 1 year after the other two programs.

I’ll be sure to update this section in the near future through a colleague of mine in POG (Proud Ontario Gamers). But until I do, below is a link to their program. Looks like you have to do your own research 😉

Jokes aside, they seem to be a marketing-focused program, which I very much so like, A LOT. I think the grad cert concept is a very strong one (as I explain in the Durham section), even better than the standalone programs and I’ll explain why, but to take it further as an Esports Marketing program sounds ingenious!

If there is any program that can provide strong value to their students, it’s this one, and it’s completely because the more specialized you are, the more valuable you are. Esports is an industry, not a career. That’s another topic I speak a lot about in my book So You Want a Job in Esports: Your Hero’s Journey in Esports (TBA).

Here is a list of the courses:

  • Semester 1
    • Digital Marketing and Social Media for Esports
    • Esports Experience
    • Business of Esports
    • Marketing Communications in Esports
    • Sponsorship Strategies for Esport Entities
    • Esports Media Landscape
  • Semester 2
    • Athlete and Influencer Marketing
    • Esports Event Production and Distribution
    • Entrepreneurship for Esports
    • Audience Analytics for Esports
    • Evolution of Esports Technology
    • Brand Activation and Experiential Marketing

Here is their webpage which will give you more information on their program. All you need to know though, is if you are looking for esports marketing, this course is for you:

For More Information: Seneca College Program Page

Durham’s Esport Business Management

Durham competes directly with Seneca, but not completely. Durham’s program is on the same wavelength as Lambton’s and St. Clair’s (I’d argue inferior) program with a general esports program, but Seneca focuses specifically on esports marketing. When put that way, both Seneca and Durham are their own separate creatures competing with no other college or university in Canada.

I did get the opportunity to speak with both Durham’s program coordinator, Kolleen Brunton, and their Esports Arena Manager, Sarah Wagg. Both seem like great people and they presented the program in a glorious light that I’m excited to share here.

But before I do, here are the courses for the program:

  • Semester 1
    • IT for Esport
    • Computer Applications for Esport
    • HR for Esport
    • Law for Esport
    • Esports Project Management
    • Introduction to Esport Marketing
    • Introduction to Esport
  • Semester 2
    • Corporate Esport Strategies
    • The Business of Esports
    • Successful Esport Events
    • Esport Digital Marketing
    • Digital Content Creation
    • World of Esport Capstone
    • Esport Event Video Production

Now to the good stuff. I personally think an esports graduate certification is better than an esports program. Why? Because esports is an industry, not a career. I wrote an entire chapter in my book on it, god damnit! People in the esports entrepreneurship and administration programs don’t have a focus, because the program feeds esports as if it was a career. Most companies want you to specialize in something, not know everything but master none (excluding startups and really small businesses).

In the image above is Sarah Wagg to the right. Behind her is Durham’s Esports Arena.

So why is a grad cert better? A graduate certification requires you already have another degree or diploma already. Take English in university and don’t know what to do with your life? Take this Durham 1 year grad cert program and do some copywriting in esports. Have a computer science degree and looking to create a startup? Take this Seneca grad cert program and create a tool specifically for hustle in the marketing of esports.

But that aside, to speak about this program directly, I can first-off confidently say the staff also know what they are doing, possibly more so than Lambton’s. With Brunton being very business savvy, just like Hutchinson, and she is working directly with an esports business professional to run their program as a joint venture. Wagg has experienced many aspects of the industry, working with the slew of esports businesses such as Tespa, Waveform and Blizzard.

Their arena is massive and cool looking. The program itself is all esports tailored, so thank god to no filler courses. They don’t seem to have a bunch of money thrown at this, as St. Clair, but they seem to be at a pretty good start considering they started in 2020.

It’s hard to point out flaws, not because there aren’t some, but because I don’t know. Not to mention this program doesn’t have any graduates yet, unlike both Lambton and St. Clair. One flaw evidently would be that the program is new. As someone who has seen a new program and been through it, without feedback there are parts of the course that will lack. Thankfully they didn’t rely on filler courses, so I don’t think the program’s youth is too much of a problem (I could be wrong though).

Nonetheless, if the way these 2 staff sold me the course is as they pointed out in execution, I would have confidence it would be a good program.

To conclude, should you apply to Durham’s esports program? If you are interested in taking your career into esports as an industry, but already have a desired career path, this may be perfect for you. If you aren’t sure where you want to go, already have a useless diploma you don’t care for, and deciding between Lambton, St. Clair and Durham, I’d take Durham any day. Their shorter, cheaper and more focused program with their excellent staff seems like a great fit.

For More Information: Durham College Program Page

Esports Programs in the Rest of Canada

I’m 4000 words in and my fingers hurt lol. I barely know much more about these next 2 programs, but they exist nonetheless and it’s my job to present them to you all. So here I will. That said, I will keep it much shorter because this article was only supposed to be 1200 to 1800 words and because it’s always hard to speak about something you barely know. I’ll leave the information to you and if it’s of interest to you, feel free to search more.

Vancouver Animation School’s Esports Diploma

Although the institution is called “animation school”, don’t be deceived, this program is the same as Lambton/St. Clair/Durham in its content. This 1-year program seems very barebones. The program in of itself is split into 4 terms, each term with 1 focus (spaning 3 months).

Term 1 is esports foundation, term 2 is industry knowledge & analysis, term 3 is content creators & sponsors, term 4 is team management. This course seems to be completely online. To learn more, check below:

https://www.vanas.ca/career-programs/esports-diploma#curriculum 

Mount Royal’s Esports Management

This course seems to be UCI’s course but in… Canada? I’m not completely sure, the site is confusing. Want to learn more, click the link below (best of luck):

https://www.mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/ContinuingEducation/businesstraining/EsportsManagement/index.htm#courses-fees