Master of Science vs. Master of Professional Science made easy

Hello all! It’s me, Naomi, wanting to further elaborate on the previous post on how to find the right master program. The tips are helpful and essential to understand and compare to your own future searches. It is best to try and think of them as early as you can when trying to pave your academic career. Regarding Tip 1 “There are different types of master programs. Some that are mostly taught classes, some that are mostly research…”, I feel needs to be elaborated just a bit more. Masters of Arts (MA) and Masters of Science (MS) are typically more popular when it comes to biology. There are differences when it comes to duration, class load, and other specifications. I won’t dive into the varying facets too much, but I will compare and contrast the Master of Science versus the Master degree I obtained, Master of Professional Science (MPS).

Master of Science (MSc)

With a Master of Science, the typical duration is about 2 years (though it can vary due to an array of circumstances) and is associated with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. To complete an MSc. you typically need to produce a thesis. It is very vital for one to reach out to potential advisors prior to applying to figure out not only if your research interests align, but also if your personalities mesh. Choosing an advisor is an important aspect to the rest of your degree, whether it be MSc or Ph.D., but I will get to that topic in a later post.  

As I mentioned, this is a short description of an MSc program. If requested we can dive into the ins and outs of an MSc program in a later post.

Master of Professional Science (MPS)

Dr. Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, MPS programs “aim to engage students with professional goals and help them become scientists uniquely suited to the 21st-century workplace, equipped with a deeper and broader scientific knowledge than that acquired with a Bachelor of Science degree and the skills to apply it”.

The MPS degree is the path I chose for my academic career. Don’t get me wrong I applied to a few MSc programs but felt that the MPS was more of what I was looking for, initially.

First things first, and MPS degree aims to prepare students for science careers where there are growing demands whether it be within the government, non-profit organizations, or in the industry. Typically, the MPS degree helps tie together various branches such as business law and the media with science. MPS programs are in general fast-paced, typically spanning 1-1.5 years to complete but cover a wide range of course material with heaps of real-world experiences and opportunities to volunteer and make connections with those in the industry. There are different tracks, so not all MPS programs are the same, that you can choose.

What is the program really about?

Master of Professional Science programs are not as well-known right of the bat when comparing them to MSc programs. The first program began in 1997. To be honest, I didn’t even know of them until I did some extensive research on marine mammal master programs. A MPS is similar to an MSc in the sense, it is still heavily math and science-based, overall. 36 credit hours in order to complete them (a MSc can require more depending on the university needs). MPS it is a bit more flexible to the applicant’s choices and needs. Plus, instead of a full-on research thesis, you can conduct a masters’ project in which you have to complete an internship that can be research-based (thus rendering it similar to an MSc thesis) or it can be procedure based (meaning the student along with the internship host advisor create a new/update an old working procedure needed for their organization). These internships typically span 3-6months and can be conducted during the regular semester. The student has to form a committee with a committee chair and complete a project proposal, literary review, a final draft, final project paper and a final presentation.

My experience with MPS

For my Master of Professional Science path at the University of Miami, I chose the marine mammal science track. I wanted a research-based “internship” as I knew I wanted to continue down the academic career path. It was a bit different: I reached out to mostly professors with research that I was interested in. I asked if they had any 3-6month projects they wanted to complete but needed some extra hands and time to help. I completed my course work within two semesters and then conducted the majority of my internship during the summer semesters. It took me the fall semester to finish up the data analysis and write up/present my findings. I completed my degree in 1.5years (more details can be found within my “about me” section).

I can click here to find the MPS program I did

If there is anything else you want me to elaborate on please just leave it in the comment section! Or contact me directly.

Thanks for reading!

Naomi Mathew is a PhD student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She works on bioacoustics in marine mammals from the Gulf of Mexico. She is the co-founder of Whale Scientists. You can read more about her here

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