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Science Professionals: Master‘s Education for a Competitive World
tive application of that knowledge—that is, a new kind of scientist with multidisciplinary skills and experiences.
The time is now right to accelerate and spread nationally the development of this new concept—professional science master’s education that is interdisciplinary in character, strongly emphasizes effective communication and problem solving, and provides an understanding of entrepreneurial skills and technical innovation. Successful programs that have responded to this challenge have engaged collaboratively a broad set of stakeholders—employers, prospective students, faculty, government agencies, and other funders—in designing curricula, defining education projects and internships, and advocating this new educational opportunity.
These programs do not displace classical master’s programs. Rather, faculty develop them to serve the needs of students who require a different graduate experience for the workplace: banks, insurance and financial companies, and large firms who hire graduates of PSM programs in financial and industrial mathematics; a maturing biotechnology industry with a growing need for middle managers who have both advanced scientific knowledge and broader business skills; services corporations like IBM that require employees with depth in science and breadth in business and customer skills; and government employers (particularly in the military, intelligence, and homeland security agencies) that have an increasing need for science- and technology-savvy staff, particularly those with an interdisciplinary background.
After extensive information gathering and deliberation, we recommend concerted action to accelerate the development nationally of professional science master’s education. This recommendation is based on the following findings:
In the natural sciences, the master’s degree is as varied in its purpose as it is in any broad field. Master’s degrees in fields such as physics, chemistry, the biological sciences, and mathematics have typically signified either a “stepping stone” en route to the doctorate or a “consolation prize” for those who were not admitted to candidacy or dropped out. Master’s degrees in computer science and the geosciences, by contrast, have typically prepared graduates for the workplace. In the early part of the 20th century, professional and graduate education took divergent paths and physics, chemistry, and biology are exemplars of classical graduate education. Professional degrees, by contrast, served as credentials for practice. During the last 50 years, tremendous growth in master’s