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A typical workplace today demands a conjunction of skills. Not only are you expected to be proficient at your core competencies, but also be efficient at managing the 6M’s—Men, Machines, Materials, Money, Methods and Mother Nature. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation realised this early on and in 1997, designed certain master’s programs that imbued a professional component into STEM courses. The result was Professional Science Master’s or PSMs as they are popularly called.

PSM programs are two-year MS courses with a professional component that includes business, communications and/or regulatory affairs. For example, a PSM in Forensic Science includes scientific coursework (drug chemistry, toxicology, molecular biology, etc.) along with professional skills (case law, witness testimony, formal reports, etc.). Most PSMs include a team-based project work and they almost always have a credit-based internship requirement. General application requirements include a GRE score of 300 (with a 3.5 on AWA section) and a TOEFL score of 95 or IELTS score of 7 for non-native speakers of English. Applicants are also expected to submit essays and letters of recommendation. Individual course requirements vary depending upon program and university, so it’s best to rely on university website for particulars.

As of 2019, PSMs are offered in 345 programs at 157 institutions across 35 states in 4 countries. According to a survey conducted by Council of Graduate Schools (the consulting body for PSM courses) in 2013, 91% of PSM graduates were employed in jobs related to their fields of study. “We have a 99.8 percent employment rate six months after earning the degree,” says Dagmar Beck, President of the National Professional Science Master’s Association, who teaches at Rice University, Texas. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Here are some PSMs that are worth exploring:

  • Computer and Information Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Cybersecurity and Privacy: Cyber Defense at New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Technical Systems Management at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
  • Geographic Information Science at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
  • Bioinformatics/Bioinnovation/Biotechnology at Temple University
  • Biomanufacturing and Bioprocessing at University of Georgia
  • Biomedical and Health Informatics at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Biophysics/ Molecular Chemical Biology at SUNY Buffalo

In 22 years of their existence, PSM programs have seen unprecedented success with graduates employed in large pharmaceutical companies, smaller biotechnology firms, non-profit organizations and the federal government. In PSM graduates, employers purportedly get exactly what they want—brilliant scientists with an understanding of business.
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