Box 2-2

Typologies of Master’s Degree Programs

In their work on the master’s degree, A Silent Success, Clifton Conrad, Jennifer Grant Haworth, and Susan Bolyard Millar suggest master’s programs could be categorized as follows:

  • Career advancement programs: Master’s programs that focus on providing the student with practical skills for well-understood career opportunities. Typical of this sort of program would be one in education or business offered by a college or university for which master’s education is an institutional focus.

  • Ancillary programs: Master’s programs that are defined largely in relation to, and are typically subordinate to, doctoral programs. The master’s program is frequently used as a screen for the doctoral program. The master’s degree is offered as either a stepping-stone to the Ph.D. or as a consolation prize for those who do not continue. These programs are most often found in institutions that focus on research and doctoral education.

  • Apprenticeship programs: These master’s programs often coexist with doctoral programs and may even be found in research-intensive institutions. Very often, the faculty in certain fields, such as electrical engineering, believe in a strong ethic of professional preparation at the master’s level and devote themselves to teaching at the master’s as well as at the doctoral level.

  • Community-centered programs: Some master’s programs are focused on creating for their participants not only an arena of intellectual engagement but also a strong sense of giving to the communities in which they work. Conrad et al. provide the example of a summer master’s program in English that attracts many teachers from rural and urban areas. Participants are engaged in the substance of the program, which they complete over four summers, and also use what they learn in the schools they return to.


—Adapted from Clifton Conrad, Jennifer Grant Haworth, and Susan Bolyard Millar, A Silent Success: Master’s Education in the United States (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

geosciences, mathematics, and computer science—master’s education is as varied in its purpose as it is in any broad field. As shown in Table 2-3 (and Appendix H, Table H-2), the ratio of master’s degrees to doctorates awarded each year ranges from 20.9:1 in computer science (similar to ratios in health fields and some subfields of engineering) to as low as 1.3:1 in the biological sciences and just 1:1 in chemistry. In fields like computer science and the geosciences (a subfield of earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences), students mainly pursue master’s degrees as an intentional degree in an applied field for use in professional practice. In natural sciences fields like the biological sciences, physics, and chemistry, by



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