Are professional science master’s programs worth the investment?

A few days after I posted my last entry, on post-graduate training programs for pharma careers, GenomeWeb posted a link to a recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools which looks at outcomes for graduate from professional science masters programs.

“Professional Science Masters” (PSM) programs are fairly new.  For an overview, you can check out this New York Times article, which describes the way these  programs have grown since their initial introduction:

“I think of it as a 21st-century degree,” said David King, dean of graduate studies and research at the State University of New York College at Oswego. “It’s interdisciplinary. It’s a hybrid, which I think is more agile. It’s responsive to rapidly changing needs in terms of the job market.”

Nature has also written about these programs. As the Student Outcomes Survey report describes them,

“The PSM degree is designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science, while
simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers. PSM programs prepare graduates for careers in business, government, and non-profit organizations, combining rigorous study in science and/or mathematics with coursework in management, policy, law, or related fields.

Along with an emphasis on the development of professional skills such as writing, leadership, and communication, most PSM programs require an experiential component that must include a final project that is developed with an employer. The experiential component typically includes an internship in a business or public sector setting.”

More than 50% of students in these programs are in a course of study related to the life sciences.  But are the programs a good career move?  According to the report,

“Since this survey was implemented roughly one to two months after spring 2011 graduation, and approximately six months after December 2010 graduation, the fact that 81.6% of respondents were employed so soon after graduation is an encouraging finding, especially given the current job market and unemployment rate. Among respondents who were working, 88.4% were working in a job that is closely or somewhat related to their field of study.”

The full report also includes some interesting data on what students found themselves doing after graduation, and about the salaries they were receiving.  You can find out more about different PSM programs that are available by checking out

(Note that there are lots of postgraduate training programs that follow a ‘professional’ model without being officially part of the PSM program. However, you can be reasonably sure that a program that carries the official PSM brand is not a fly-by-night operation!)

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Education, Training | Tags: , | No Comments »