The New York Times had an interesting article this morning about the P.S.M., which, according to sciencemasters.com, is "an innovative, new graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics, while simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers." According to that website, there are now 229 PSM programs and 105 PSM-affiliated institutions.
The NYT explains: "Advocates of the degree say it will become a fixture at many more universities because it promises to satisfy the work force requirements of increasingly technological economies in the United States and abroad." The degree was endorsed by the National Research Council in 2008; see for instance this report (available for free) - the news release is available here. My readers in academia might also be interested in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education (for subscribers only).
Here is an excerpt of the news release by the NRC, back in 2008: "Master's degrees in many fields of the natural sciences traditionally have been embedded in the path to a doctorate rather than viewed as ends in themselves. But over the past decade, foundations and universities have worked together to develop new master's programs for students seeking professional skills for the global economy. These professional science master's (PSM) programs typically build communication and problem-solving skills along with advanced scientific knowledge, and they often include interdisciplinary training."
Sciencemasters.com also links to articles about the PSM in the Journal of Physics (A new model Master's, June 2010) and BioWorld Today (Successful biotech leaders integrate science, biz skills, October 29, 2010). Some quotes from the article in JoP:
- "This hybrid degree is designed to give would-be scientific managers and laboratory administrators the skills they need to make their mark in hi-tech industry."
- " "Companies love our students because they can 'speak' science, business and innovation," says Ed Caner, director of the Physics Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, US, which has offered PSM courses since 2000. "We're training jacks of all trades, people who can write a computer program one day and present a business plan to investors the next." "
- "Almost one-fifth of the 281 graduates surveyed said they received starting salaries of $90,000 or more, with a median of $60,000–65,000 per year. Graduates with only a bachelor's degree in physics, in comparison, earn about a fifth less."
I found the article in BioWorld Today to be excellent. Quotes include:
- "While about 70 percent of medical product companies are founded by scientists, it's often difficult for those experts to step out of their comfort zone in the lab... into the world of business."
- "Academic institutions generally work with industry sectors in creating coursework for PSM degrees... Of the 218 PSM programs at 103 US institutions [note: numbers are slightly different from those in the NYT because the article was published earlier], 89 are in the biosciences... many PSM programs are clustered near US biotech hubs."
The rise of PSM degrees is reflected in recent developments at my own institution - Lehigh University - since my department is launching a new Master's (M.Eng.) in Healthcare Systems Engineering, with the first class to enter in the fall of 2011. You can find information about the program here.
The website explains: "This concentrated degree program is designed to prepare graduate students for engineering and management careers in organizations engaged in delivering healthcare and health related products and services." The program combines healthcare systems courses (in quality and process improvement, financial management, information technology) with traditional industrial and systems engineering courses (optimization, simulation, statistics) as well as a capstone project in partnership with industry.
While the healthcare systems program at Lehigh is still in its infancy, it certainly seems to be a good time to launch a Professional Master's degree.