Professional Science Master's Degree
The Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Degree is a graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics while simultaneously developing workplace skills. PSM programs are interdisciplinary in nature, preparing students for fields such as forensic science, computational chemistry, applied mathematics and bioinformatics. PSM degrees can be completed in sixteen months to two years of full-time study including an internship.
Recognizing that traditional graduate-level science training may not be suitable for non-academic careers, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in 1997, began to support master’s-level degree programs designed to provide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ("STEM") students with a pathway into science-based careers. These Professional Science Master’s degrees combine a science or mathematics curriculum with a professional component designed to provide graduates with the necessary skills for a career in business, government, or nonprofit agencies.
Originally funding fourteen campuses, the Sloan Foundation expanded its support directly or indirectly to over fifty institutions, collectively offering over 100 different PSM programs. As of 2017, there are 356 PSM programs at over 165 institutions.  In 2005, the Foundation funded the Council of Graduate Schools to be an “institutional base for PSM growth, with the goal of making the degree a normal, recognized, widely accepted academic offering”. In furtherance of this objective, the Sloan Foundation also provided support to found the National Professional Science Master’s Association, a professional organization of PSM directors and alumni intended to “provide a collective voice for PSM degree programs”.
In 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act which placed special emphasis on improving America’s economic competitiveness by strengthening STEM education. The COMPETES Act specifically mentioned the importance of the PSM degree to the nation’s overall competitiveness. Additionally, a 2008 report issued by the National Research Council of the National Academies urged the continued expansion of the PSM degree. In 2009, the National Science Foundation, under the auspices of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, facilitated funding of twenty-two different PSM programs by appropriating funds for a Science Master’s program.
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation [Sloan], 2008
- Simms, 2006
- National Professional Science Master’s Association, 2010, para. 5
- CGS, 2007
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (2008). Science Education: Professional Science Master’s Degree. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from http://www.sloan.org/program/15.
______________________. (2008). Professional Science Master’s Degree: History. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from http://www.sloan.org/program/15/page/67.
Committee on Enhancing the Master’s Degree in Natural Sciences. (2008). Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council of the National Academies. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12064.
Council of Graduate Schools. (2007). Statement on the America COMPETES Act. Retrieved August 3, 2010,from http://www.cgsnet.org/portals/0/pdf/GR_AmericaCOMPETES_0307.pdf.
National Science Foundation. (2009). Program Solicitation: Science Master’s Program. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09607/nsf09607.htm.
National Professional Science Master’s Association. (2010). About Us. Retrieved August 3, 2010, from http://www.npsma.org/mc/page.do?sitePageId=101812&orgId=npsma.
Simms, Leslie. (2006). Professional Master’s Education: A CGS Guide to Establishing Programs. Washington, D.C.: Council of Graduate Schools.