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Science Professionals: Master‘s Education for a Competitive World
education projects and internships, and advocating this new educational opportunity.
These programs do not displace traditional 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 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 degrees awarded in fields such as education and business administration, however, has indicated the professionalization of master’s education. This trend has recently touched natural sciences such as the biological sciences and mathematics where traditional master’s programs continue—as they should—alongside the recent development of professional science master’s programs.
Higher education institutions are responding to the increased need for professionals who bring both scientific knowledge and professional skills to the workplace by developing PSM programs in the natural sciences that provide: