Professional Science Master’s
Degree: Background and
Institutional Perspective
Revised – 11/12/10
Council of Graduate Schools
Professional Science
Master’s (PSM) Degree
An innovative degree that:
 Prepares graduates for science careers in
business, government, or non-profit sectors.
 Combines rigorous study in science or
mathematics with workforce skills-based
coursework in business, management, policy,
communications, law, or other fields - “Science
PSM Programs…
 Emphasize the written and verbal
communication skills, leadership, and teambuilding required in professional settings.
 Include project or team experience vs. thesis:
real world experience.
 Provide connections to potential employers
through internships.
 Often include cross disciplinary courses.
Program Examples
PSM programs are interdisciplinary in fields such as:
Forensic Science
Financial Mathematics
Environmental Science
Analytical Chemistry
Applied Systematics
 Genetic Counseling
Connections with Industry
 With input from advisory committees of local
and regional employers, curricula are designed to
be responsive to workforce needs.
 Unusually nimble in adjusting to shifting
workforce demands and to rapidly changing
research strategies and technologies.
Professional Science Master’s
Degree - Why?
 Prepares students for careers in less time than a
 Retains students in science who might not be
interested in going on to the Ph.D.
 Offers more science and math than a MBA and
more professional skills than a Ph.D. or
traditional master’s.
Who are the Students
The PSM is for students who:
 Want to work in business, government, or
nonprofit sectors.
 Seek interdisciplinary careers.
 Thrive in team-oriented environments.
 Seek career advancement.
 Desire to work in emerging areas of science and
scientific discovery.
Major PSM Initiatives
 California State University System – over 20 programs, with
more under development. Received NSF/SMP Funding.
 North Carolina – 13 programs, with more under development.
Received NSF/SMP Funding.
 University of North Texas – 3 PSM programs were developed
at the flagship campus at Denton.
 University of Illinois – 3 PSM programs at Urbana-Champaign
with more planned.
Major PSM Initiatives
 SUNY – 12 PSM programs on 6 campuses (3 in existence from
first Sloan grants), with 23 planned; 16 campuses involved.
 Rutgers, the State U. of New Jersey – 6 PSM programs with 8
under development (received NSF SMP award).
 University of Massachusetts – 14 PSM – many collaborative –
on four of the five campuses in the UMass system, Boston,
Dartmouth, Lowell and Amherst.
 Florida - 11 PSM programs; planning nearly 20 additional
programs as part of regional economic development.
Why Consider Establishing
PSM Programs
 The bulk of new jobs being created are in the nonacademic sector.
 PSM programs are more popular with women and
domestic students than traditional master’s programs in
Natural Sciences.
 Master’s graduates are more likely to be employed in
the state in which they earned a degree compared to
Ph.D. graduates.
 Graduates contribute to workforce development
through their ability to manage and grow science &
technology based industries.
Guidelines for PSM
 Total credits equivalent to a standard master’s degree.
 Majority of program course work in graduate-level
science and/or mathematics courses.
 Professional skills component developed in
consultation with prospective employers.
 Professional skills are usually enhanced by internships
and problem-based projects sponsored by employers.
 Employer advisory board engaged.
 Formal recognition granted by CGS.
PSM – American Competes Act
 As part of NSF authorization, has as an allowable use
of funds, “creation, improvement or expansion of
innovative graduate programs such as science master’s
 The Report language states, “ The Committee
recognizes the importance of master’s programs to
prepare future science professionals for careers in the
business, government and non-profit sectors and
intends that proposals to implement or expand
innovative professional science master's programs
remain eligible for funding …”
Other agencies with interest:
 Dept. of Education – FIPSE had invitational priority
for PSMs and has funded others as well.
 Dept. of Homeland Security – working with CGS to
interest DHS Centers of Excellence to develop PSMs.
 Dept. of Energy – submitted request for PSM-type
master’s as part of “RE-ENERGYZE”.
 Dept. of Labor – through regional agencies.
 NOAA – interested in providing internships.
Be creative in looking for funding sources!
National Research Council
Report Supports PSM
NRC report recommends “concerted action to
accelerate the development nationally of ” PSM
education including:
 Expand beyond the NSF to other federal
science agencies.
 Encourage states to endorse PSMs.
 Philanthropic institutions should continue to
play role in creating and sustaining PSMs.
National Research Council
Report Supports PSM (con’t)
 Professional and industry associations should
include PSMs in their higher education
 Higher education should support development
of PSMs and seek employer partners.
 Employers should partner with higher ed
institutions to create and sustain PSM programs.
Win, Win, Win
 Win for the student – alternative way to remain
in science without getting a PhD.
 Win for the university - provide students with
another career option and help solve community
workforce needs.
 Win for the employers – local, regional, state –
have a technically trained cadre of workers.
For further information: Contact
the CGS PSM Project Staff
Carol B. Lynch, Senior Scholar in Residence and Project Director
([email protected])
Eleanor Babco, CGS Consultant and Associate Program Director, Professional
Master's Initiatives
([email protected])
Sally Francis, Co-Director, Professional Science Master's Project
([email protected])
Leontyne Goodwin, Program Manager
([email protected])
Josh Mahler, Program and Operations Associate
([email protected])

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