Monday, January 28, 2008

The Professional Science Masters Degree

The Washington Post today has a good article on the creation of masters' degrees in the Washington DC metropolitan area that train students to work in applied science industries.
The PSM program is designed to provide more advanced training in science or mathematics -- with a dose of business skills -- and entice more students who receive bachelor of science degrees to stay in the field without having to pursue a doctorate.
American University, for example, began a PSM program in 2004 with three branches: biotechnology, applied computing, and environmental science and assessment."

I understand that the National Academy of Sciences is soon to publish a panel report recommending that these programs be used more widely in the United States. I think they are also widely applicable in developing nations.

I myself have a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering degree, which was seen at the time as preparing me for professional work as an engineer. A doctorate at the time was focused more on research and teaching; a Bachelor of Science in engineering at the time suited one to work in the huge bays of defense contractor engineering staff facilities.

The MSEE was a two year program, following what in my case was a BS in Engineering, not specialized in any specific field. It was, however, a course that involved 140 class hours of study, considerably more than was required in other disciplines, including undergraduate fields such as electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. Thus the MSEE grad had a very strong, albeit basic background (for the time) in mathematics and engineering analysis and synthesis.

Congratulations to the local universities for leading in the development of these degrees, especially in emerging industrial fields, and indeed congratulations to the WP in publicizing them.

I would also point out that I was an adviser for some time to the James Madison University College of Integrated Science and Technology, which sought to offer an undergraduate degree that prepared students in a general way in the sciences and technology, making them scientifically and technologically literate as well as literate and numerate entrants into the workforce. I hope that many of their graduates will find the PSM degrees appropriate ways to continue their education and preparation for leadership positions in science-based industries,

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