National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science Professionals: Master's Education for a Competitive World (2008)

Chapter: Appendix E: Estimating the Path of Master's Degree Recipients in the Biological Sciences

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Estimating the Path of Master's Degree Recipients in the Biological Sciences." National Research Council. 2008. Science Professionals: Master's Education for a Competitive World. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12064.
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Page 95
Suggested Citation:"Appendix E: Estimating the Path of Master's Degree Recipients in the Biological Sciences." National Research Council. 2008. Science Professionals: Master's Education for a Competitive World. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12064.
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Page 96

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Appendix E Estimating the Path of Master’s Degree Recipients in the Biological Sciences Annually, U.S. institutions award 1.3 master’s degrees in the biologi- cal sciences for each doctorate awarded in that field. For example, there were about 7,800 master’s and almost 6,000 Ph.D.s awarded by U.S. insti- tutions in the biological sciences in 2004. We can examine the national data further to better understand the pathways of graduate students through master’s and doctoral programs to careers. On average, the time-to-degree for new doctorates in the biological sciences was 6.7 years in 2004. About 40 percent, or 2,400 of the 6,000 new Ph.D.s, had earned a master’s degree en route. Assuming, then, that these students started graduate study in 1997 and those who were awarded the master’s degree received it in 1999 (after two years of study), then about 4,400 of the nearly 6,800 master’s recipients in the biological sci- ences that year (1999) earned a master’s degree and did not continue to the doctorate. However, we know from National Science Foundation data that only about 55%, or 3,700, of master’s degree holders in the biologi- cal sciences earn no further degrees. This suggests that of the 4,400 who earned a master’s degree and no doctorate, about 700 earned some other advanced degree. In sum, then, we have four groups of students: (1) 3,700 who earned the master’s degree and no other degree; (2) 700 who earned a master’s degree and an advanced degree other than the doctorate (medicine, law, business, etc.); (3) 2,400 who earned a master’s, mainly as a stepping-stone 95

96 SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS to the doctorate; and (4) 3,600 who earned only a doctorate. There are no data sources that will allow us to tease out, for the biological sciences, how many of those who earned only a master’s degree intended to earn just that degree and how many had hoped to go on to a doctorate.   B. Hoffer et al., Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2004 T. (Chicago: National Opinion Research Center). The report gives the results of data collected in the Survey of Earned Doctorates, conducted for six federal agencies—NSF, NIH, USED, NEH, USDA, and NASA—by NORC. The SED reports 5,937 Ph.D.s in the biological sciences in 2004, 703 of which were in biochemistry. Biochemists had a time-to-degree of 6.1 years, and 31.25 reported having a master’s degree. Other Ph.D.s in the biological sciences had a time-to-degree of 6.7 years, and 40.3 percent had master’s degrees. Number of master’s degrees in the biological sciences is from the National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 2006, Table 255, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d06/tables/ dt06_255.asp (accessed October 26, 2007).

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What are employer needs for staff trained in the natural sciences at the master's degree level? How do master's level professionals in the natural sciences contribute in the workplace? How do master's programs meet or support educational and career goals?

Science Professionals: Master's Education for a Competitive World examines the answers to these and other questions regarding the role of master's education in the natural sciences. The book also focuses on student characteristics and what can be learned from efforts underway to enhance the master's in the natural sciences, particularly as a professional degree.

This book is a critical tool for Congress, the federal agencies charged with carrying out the America COMPETES Act, and educational and science policy makers at the state level. Additionally, anyone with a stake in the development of professional science education (four year institutions of higher education, students, faculty, and employers) will find this book useful.

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