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Science Professionals: Master‘s Education for a Competitive World
The PSM program must establish credibility in order to be accepted on a widespread basis: “Despite recent publicity in a variety of articles… many [in industry] had never heard of the PSM, and those who had did not have a clear perception of what the degree entailed.”
In order to succeed, the PSM must be targeted to industries where it is best suited: employers most likely to support the PSM were large companies with multidisciplinary interests, companies with an interdisciplinary focus, and government agencies. Additional “missionary work” is needed to establish the credibility of professional master’s degrees in the biotechnology industry.
Industry and universities need to develop better working relationships: many connections are on a personal basis. Beyond collaboration through advisory boards, programs/institutions should invite people from industry to regularly serve as guest speakers, and program heads should attend and speak at industry association meetings.
Statewide partnerships should be explored. The development of statewide networks or a high-level advisory board for the chancellor’s office of the California State University system was seen as a way to facilitate placement of interns and graduates and to continue to publicize the PSM degree.
By addressing these recommendations, information and perception gaps can be bridged, further contributing to program expansion.
Third, there is a need to address the question of what is—and how to provide—adequate student financial support. Originally, the Sloan Foundation anticipated that, being professional, PSM students would fund their master’s educations with the expectation that their future earning would make their investments in themselves and their careers worthwhile in the long run. Tobias and Brigham report that “student support is probably the factor limiting expansion [of programs], especially as PhD programs in mathematics and the physical sciences become more aggressive in their recruitment efforts.”32 KGI, by contrast, assumed some student support was critical. Initially KGI provided students with 100 percent support during their first year of study. They planned for first-year support for students to decline to an average of 50 percent over the next several years which KGI successfully accomplished, but some student support remains.
As noted earlier, students attracted to PSM programs typically differ from other graduate students. They include more women and, in general, tend to be older. For the most part, they are students who would not have gone back to graduate school in a program other than a PSM, which