Master’s Degrees for Science Professionals

Learn how can a professional science master’s degree help your career.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new degree on the block. Okay, so it’s not exactly “new”. The professional science master’s degree (PSM) has been around since the mid-1990’s. However, such a flexible master’s degree was not as marketable during that time, so it almost faded into obscurity.

Today, there are 103 US universities offering the PSM. This figure has nearly doubled since 2008. A list of graduate schools offering the PSM can be found at the PSM Locations Map on the Professional Science Master’s Website. More suited for a 21st century career, the PSM is a two year terminal degree that provides students with a hybrid of science, mathematical and business courses. PSM alumni can move into science careers in business, government or non-profit organizations.

The average starting salary for a PSM graduate is $55,000 a year in business and $45,000 in government.

You can earn a PSM degree in bioinformatics, bioengineering, health physics, computational chemistry, environmental science, forensic science, human-computer interaction, industrial mathematics, industrial microbiology, physics, biostatistics, chemistry, food science, marine biology, computer science, information systems, pharmacology or quantitative finance. Depending on which major you choose, you could land a job in a multinational pharmaceutical company, the federal government, banks, insurance or in a forensic laboratory. The options are plenty, as this degree bridges the gap between science and business that has never before been crossed.

Professional Science Master’s Degree Program

A traditional master of science program focuses heavily on theory and prepares students for a research PhD program or entry-level position at a laboratory. Although students learn mathematical and science theory, there is a larger focus on applying these theories in a real-world professional setting. Upon graduation, PSM graduates can understand the business aspect of a science corporation.

In this respect, the PSM is being compared to the rise of the MBA, a terminal master’s degree noted for its case studies that provide students with hands-on business experience. What makes this degree unique is that it has piqued interest in academic, as well as the science industry. A survey conducted by the US National Professional Science Master’s Association reported that employers are hiring PSM alumni at a speedy rate.

The internships and final projects are what sets this major apart from other master of science programs. Graduate schools partner with business, government and non-profit organization for students to complete their internships. Rather than completing a thesis as you would other master’s or PhD programs, you complete a group or individual project that demonstrates the skills you have learned in your academic training.

What Can a Professional Science Master’s Degree do For You?

In December 2010, approximately 5,000 students were enrolled in a PSM program. Students who pursue this degree usually come from one of two paths. You may be a recent college grad, with a bachelors degree in physics and the desire to move into the industry. This group typically has trouble finding a job directly out of undergraduate college because they do not have the necessary business skills. Or, you have a few years of work experience in the industry under your belt, but are stuck in your current position because you don’t have the leadership skills to get a promotion to a management position.

Proponents of the degree are hoping that the professional science master’s degree will make students more marketable to employers. PSM alumni have an advantage over students who earned a master of science, as they understand business practices such as financial management, written and verbal communication, leadership and teamwork.

You may be thinking this sounds great, but what about the pay-off? To answer your concerns, the average starting salary for a PSM graduate is $55,000 a year in business and $45,000 in government, according to the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices. This is only a few thousand dollars less than that of a doctoral graduate with one to two years of experience. In short, the pay off is worth it.

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