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Professional Science Master's Degrees: What Are They?

Professional science master's degrees are alternative master's degrees that focus primarily on science and mathematics. Majors include areas such as chemistry, biology, forensic science, mathematics and statistics.

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In professional science master's degree programs, graduate students can expect to take science- and business-focused coursework and complete real-world training projects in order to get ready for business-related jobs in scientific industries.

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Professional Science Master's Degree Overview

In total, professional science master's (PSM) programs take one to two years to complete. Unlike traditional Master of Science (MS) programs, students are not required to complete a final thesis, and they may need to fulfill fewer core and elective credit requirements.

Because they are designed for individuals who specifically hope to pursue positions in industry, PSM programs are highly interdisciplinary and typically include a mixture of advanced scientific coursework and business courses that cover topics such as:

  • Management
  • Communications
  • Finance
  • Workplace dynamics
  • Legal regulations

PSM programs also include a 'professional skills' components that provide hands-on training. Students often work in teams. Experience is gained through participation in:

  • Workshops
  • Employer-sponsored projects
  • Real-world internships

Fields of Study

According to the National Professional Science Master's Association, professional science master's degree programs are currently available in fields of study that include:

  • Biotechnology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Molecular biology
  • Environmental sciences
  • Forensic sciences
  • Mathematics and statistics
  • National defense
  • Physics and geological sciences
  • Software engineering
  • Information assurance
  • Telecommunications management
  • Medical sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Pharmaceutical sciences

Application Requirements

To apply to a PSM program, it is usually necessary to have a bachelor's degree, and students may need to have completed certain prerequisite math and science courses, such as Calculus. They may also need to hold a minimum GPA. Other application materials include:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • GRE scores (however, in some PSM programs, the GRE requirement may be waived)

Career Options

PSM programs prepare graduates for science and mathematics careers in industry, business, government and non-profit organizations. Graduates may also advance in their current careers, enter a new field or start their own businesses. Some common areas in which PSM graduates work include:

  • Analytics
  • Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Physical sciences
  • Health care
  • Environmental science

Possible job titles include:

  • Regulatory affairs manager
  • Cell culture production supervisor
  • Biostatistician
  • Technical services manager
  • Drug safety manager

History

The PSM was first offered in 1997 to support science, mathematics and bioinformatics programs at 26 research institutions. In 2001, PSM programs were extended to master's-focused institutions. The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is currently working to make the PSM a regular feature of all graduate programs in the United States.

By combining science and business coursework, professional science master's degree programs prepare graduates for success in management positions in a variety of scientific industries.

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