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Science Careers Blog

May 1, 2012

Keck Graduate Institute to Manage Affiliation Process for Professional Science Masters Programs

Beginning July 1, the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) of Claremont, California, will house the office that manages review of graduate programs for official recognition and affiliation as Professional Science Masters (PSM) programs, gathers information about programs and their graduates, and controls use of the registered PSM logo. KGI won the contract to run the office handling these functions, which have until now been carried out by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).

As James Sterling of KGI, and Carol Lynch and Sally Francis of CGS, explain in an article in the May issue of the CGS Grad Edge newsletter, affiliation with the PSM program does not constitute accreditation of curricula and programs, but rather recognition that they comply with a set of formal guidelines that have been developed by CGS. 

Full-scale, separate accreditation of PSM programs, apart from the overall accreditation of the their home institutions, is not necessary, the article asserts. "The PSM is a professional degree but there is no single clearly-identified profession that graduates enter, and there is no single profession whose interests warrant licensure of PSM graduates or accreditation of this degree. Therefore, in contrast to many professions, there is no need for an independent accreditation organization. Similarly, there is no single type of risk that is presented to the customers of the employers of PSM graduates that could lead to a specific form of malpractice, the need for licensing, or the need for specific continuing education requirements for PSM graduates."   

There does exist, however, "a perceived need to ensure that a new program [calling itself a PSM program] meets [the official guidelines] and that some form of re-affiliation review system be in place" to guarantee that existing programs continue to meet them as well. The new office at KGI will carry out these functions. It will also manage the www.sciencemasters.com website used as the central repository for information about PSM programs.

Hallmarks of PSM programs, which generally run two years, include close cooperation with advisers from industry, extensive mentored experience for students in industrial settings, and a curriculum that combines study of both a scientific discipline with study of business, management, regulatory affairs, or other topics relevant to a specific science-based industry. About 250 PSMs currently exist, up from 80 in 2006. In the academic year 2010-2011, 173 graduates received PSM degrees, and about 5500 students were enrolled in programs at the beginning of the current academic year.

In addition, the new office at KGI will continue efforts to increase awareness of the PSM degree and its benefits among both potential students and company human resources officials nationally, KGI president Sheldon Schuster told Science Careers in an interview.
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