Considering a PSM degree? Comparing it with a PhD or MBA?

Raghuram Sukumar Degree Programs 21 Comments

Guest Post by Daniel Chatham – Former Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences and Director of Admission and Recruitment for the University of California’s Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. He blogs about Higher Education at  insidetheadcom.com

Lots of information is available for PhD and MBA applicants, but the PSM degree option is less well known and lacks some of the resources in these other areas.  I’ve been working on a guidebook for PSM applicants to help fill this resource gap and would like to share a preview with HSB readers.

If you are considering a PhD or MBA and the PSM alternatives to either of those degrees, please comment below on what your biggest challenges are in making that decision.

How would this resource help you most?  What problems would this guide solve for you?  What else would help you if it were here?  Please share your thoughts because the goal is to provide something very useful for applicants.

Here is the table of contents for your review and consideration.

  1. INTROSPECTION FIRST
  • WHY ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT GOING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL?
    • Career enhancer
    • Career changer
    • Cultural expectations
    • Requirement of specific career path
    • To find yourself
  • WHAT IS THE PAYBACK ON A GRADUATE DEGREE?
    • Time to complete a graduate degree
    • Direct costs of attending graduate school
    • Opportunity costs of graduate school options
    • Graduate school return on investment
  1. WHY PURSUE A PSM DEGREE?
  • WHAT IS A PSM DEGREE?
  • WHAT A PROFESSIONAL SCIENCE MASTERS ISN’T
  • WHO OFFERS PROFESSIONAL SCIENCE MASTERS PROGRAMS?
  • WHY PURSUE A PSM?
  1. CHOOSING PROGRAMS
  • MANY PSM FOCUS AREAS
  • RESEARCH SCHOOLS
  • HOW TO CHOOSE A PROGRAM
    • Career services and outcomes
    • Delivery format
    • Program reputation
    • Course offering
    • Student body
  • VISIT AND LOOK FOR YOURSELF
  • OTHER RESEARCH METHODS
    • Alumni feedback
    • Current students
    • Faculty
    • Staff
    • Where are they?
  1. ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES
  • ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES ARE STEWARDS
  • HOW ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES WORK
  • WHAT ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES WANT
  1. PLANNING YOUR APPLICATION PROCESS
  • GRADUATE SCHOOL
  • APPLICATION TIMELINE
    • When to submit applications?
    • What do different deadlines mean?
  • HOW TO ENGAGE THE PSM PROGRAM
    • Email do’s:
    • Email don’ts:
    • Campus visit
    • Telephone interaction
    • Social media interaction
  1. ESSAYS
  • WHAT ARE ADMISSIONS ESSAYS?
  • WHEN ARE ESSAYS REQUIRED?
  • HOW IMPORTANT ARE ESSAYS?
  • HOW ARE ESSAYS EVALUATED?
  • HOW TO INTERPRET DIFFERENT KINDS OF ESSAY QUESTIONS
    • Specific essay questions
    • Vague essay questions
    • Statement of exceptional circumstances
  • HOW TO WRITE STRONG ESSAYS
    • Four degrees of detail: an essay framework
    • Recycling can be obvious
    • Proofread your essays
    • How to overcome a weak essay
  • ESSAY DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST
  1. TRANSCRIPTS
  • HOW IMPORTANT ARE GRADES FOR ADMISSION?
  • HOW ARE UNDERGRADUATE GRADES INTERPRETED?
  • OVERALL GRADE TRENDS AND HOW THEY MATTER
    • Low at the beginning, gradually improving
    • High grades at the beginning, then lower overall
    • Low grades in one year, but high grades in all others
    • High grades only in courses unrelated to your PSM goal
    • Low grades in specific courses
    • Low grades overall
    • Wild grade fluctuations
  • CONTEXT FOR GRADES IS IMPORTANT
  • HOW CAN YOU OFFSET A LOW GPA?
  1. RESUME
  • WHAT IS A RESUME?
  • HOW IMPORTANT IS A RESUME?
  • HOW ARE RESUMES EVALUATED?
    • Quality of work experience
    • Quantity of work experience
  • WHAT FORMAT IS BEST?
  • HOW TO TREAT INTERNSHIPS AND PART TIME WORK
  • EXAMPLE RESUME – RECENT GRADUATE
  • EXAMPLE RESUME – EARLY CAREER PROFESSIONAL
  • WHAT ABOUT LINKEDIN?
  1. REFERENCES
  • WHAT ARE ADMISSIONS REFERENCES?
  • HOW IMPORTANT ARE REFERENCES?
  • HOW TO GET STRONG LETTERS OF REFERENCE
  • WHAT ABOUT CHARACTER REFERENCES?
  1. STANDARDIZED TESTS
  • MOST COMMON STANDARDIZED TESTS
  • WHEN ARE THEY REQUIRED?
  • HOW IMPORTANT IS THE GRE?
  • HOW ARE THEY ASSESSED?
  • HOW TO ADDRESS A WEAKNESS IN THIS AREA
  • HOW AND WHEN TO PREPARE FOR THE GRE
    • New GRE test format
  1. ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS
  • WHAT ARE ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS?
  • WHAT KINDS OF ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS ARE THERE?
    • Assessment interviews
    • Informational interviews
    • Marketing interviews
    • Relationship interviews
  • HOW TO PREPARE FOR ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS
  • HOW ARE INTERVIEWS ASSESSED?
  • HOW ARE ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS USED IN DECISIONS?
    • What if you have a weak interview?
  1. INTERNATIONAL STUDENT CONSIDERATIONS
  • PROGRAM GOALS
  • LANGUAGE TESTS
    • TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
    • IELTS – International English Language Testing System
    • PTE – Pearson Test of English – Academic
  • HOW LANGUAGE TESTS ARE USED
  • GRADES
  • ADMISSIONS INTERVIEWS
  • ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
    • Likely application scenarios
  • VISA PROCESS
  1. POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
  • THREE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
  • WHY IS APRIL TH AN IMPORTANT DAY?
  • CONDITIONAL ADMISSION: YOU’RE IN – SORT OF…
  • FULLY ADMITTED, NOW GO SOMEWHERE!
    • Important factors to consider:
  • CAN YOU DEFER (AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, ANYWAY)?
  • WAITLISTED, BUT WHY?
  • DENIED, NOW WHAT?
  1. WHAT MAKES A “BAD” APPLICATION?
  • CASE STUDY

Your Comments

Dan, like to know if you want additional information to be included in the book.

Also, if you have any questions about US admission, PSM, Biotechnology programs, post them below in comments. Dan will be following this thread to answer your questions.

Comments

  1. Hello Daniel Chatham,

    I am Navya , recently finished my under graduation in Biotechnology. I am very much interested to do PSM in Biotechnology. But i have came to know that , PhD after PSM degree is unavailable for students it seems. Is that true?

    1. Dear Navya,

      I just realized I responded to your query incorrectly. I stated that you can do a PSM after a PhD, which is true. I apologize for mixing up your question: can you do a PhD after a PSM?

      Yes you can. The science of PSM programs (as detailed in my earlier response) is at a high level. It is not however, part of an MS/PhD path. PhD programs will not likely substitute a PSM for their two years of masters level coursework. If the PhD does not require you to do the coursework at their own school, then there is a chance some of the science courses could transfer in for credit or waive some of the course requirements, but not all of those requirements.

      In either situation, you would still have to take masters level courses as prep for a PhD program. Having a PSM does not mean you cannot do a PhD and students graduate every year and do go on to PhD study from PSM programs. It does mean that you get additional career options in industry as well as remaining a good candidate for a PhD program. Some PSMs care about research interests more than other programs do so check them out carefully.

      Good luck once again.
      Daniel Chatham

  2. Hi Navya,

    Some PSM programs are available even if you complete a PhD, but not all. The science component of PSM programs is at or near PhD level science so if the PSM is in the same field as your PhD, the science component would not create substantially new skills. If the PSM is in a related (but not directly similar) line of science, then it would be new knowledge. This is largely the logic behind a policy to exclude PhD holders from a PSM program. Other programs actively encourage people with MS or PhD degrees to participate because the science is not everything.

    The “plus” courses in a PSM hold great value for people whose entire training and education has been in the sciences. Whether you have a BTech, MTech, or PhD, the PSM experience will teach you and develop new skills within you. It also opens new career options.

    Lastly, there is one program similar to a PSM that was crafted especially for the scientist with a PhD. If you already hold a PhD in life sciences, consider the Postdoctoral Professional Masters (PPM) degree at KGI. It is a one year program that focuses on the business and plus courses in their traditional PSM program. It is only open to PhD holders and is the first program of its kind in the US.

    Good luck with your plans.
    Daniel Chatham

    PS: how could content like this guide help you in your grad school search? As someone actively considering the PSM, I appreciate your input.

    1. Hello Daniel

      Thank you for the reply. The content you have posted is really good. I have searched many blogs and websites regarding PSM in Biotechnology but i haven’t found any enough information on it. After reading your content now i can able to choose the universities taking part in good research work in Biotechnology and also professors active in research work , in which i am interested to do.

      I have one more question to you. How far work experience can influence an admission in a university. At present am working as Clinical Research Associate , do this designation along with good academics , GRE , strong LORS & SOP will please Department of Oncology , to give admission in MS Cancer Biology.

      Thanks
      Navya.

      1. Hii Daniel

        Sorry , a small correction. Can PSM Biotechnology student , apply for PhD?

      2. Work experience is very important or important at most PSM programs. Only a small number of programs care more about academic qualifications. The position title you mention is attractive for admission, especially if it is more than a year or two. Only holding that position a few months is not a tremendous asset.

        Now for MS in cancer biology: research experience will count heavily. Your work in a research setting will also be an asset. Academic qualifications in this case also count more heavily than they do for most PSM programs.

        MS in cancer biology programs are very different than PSM programs so be sure you have clarity about your career goals before you apply to one or the other.

  3. Dear Daniel chatham,
    I am Teja, completed my MSc biotechnology in 2008. I had work experience of two years in the same field and I left my job eight months back because of some reasons. Now I want to continue my career by pursuing PhD or by PSM. I have few questions related to PSM.Please help me out with these.
    Does the gap from the eight months affect my application to get admission?
    Does PSM suits to my profile? How I can make my career bright with PSM?
    Please provide the required information.
    Regards,
    teja

  4. hi daniel and navya..i,m lukyn fr masters in usa but heard f psm which givs bth ms and mba in 2 yrs …is it true that it does…plz throw sm lyght n it….i,m interestd n doin…eagrly waaityn fr ur rplys

    1. Hi teja,

      Thanks for the question. If I understand it correctly, you heard of a joint PSM / MBA of two years (it is a little hard to read).

      To my knowledge there are no joint programs that can be completed that fast. The only one I know of that offers both programs is at Keck Graduate Institute which is a combined three year program with the Drucker School of Management. Of all the programs out there, I would also look at Rutgers as a possibility. Considering how their PSM is built and housed at the University, it would not be surprising if they too offer a joint program.

      Gud luk.

  5. Hello Daniel chatham

    Thank you for your post, I was looking for PhD in USA, but when I got less GRE score, I started looking for PMS programme, can you give me an idea on Financial aid/ scholarship/ teaching assistantship/fellowship available for this programme?

    1)Did Bachelors in Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Chemistry combination(2003-06).
    2)I have finished Masters in Biotechnology at national level (Biotechnology entrance exam sponcered by govt. of India), (2007-06)
    3)have 6 months training experience in Biotech industrial programme (sponcered by Dept. of India programme), during this time I did a project in R & D , submitted a paper in Immunology/Molecular biology as first author and is under evaluation. (How much this counts?) (2010)

    Can you kindly give me an idea…based on information above, what are my chances of getting financial aid if I apply for PMS? Your answer is going help me take important decision to take education loan accordingly

    Thank you in advance.

    Regards
    Priya

    1. Financial aid varies widely across the many PSM programs. Some have generous aid packages, but not all offer aid. Look to the private universities for bigger aid budgets. The public schools may or may not offer any aid.

      Most programs do not offer teaching assistantships for PSM students. There is a possibility of lab work or on campus jobs at many of the programs.

  6. Hi

    Sorry I forgot to mention my scores so far.
    In Bachelors i got GPA- 3.5/4
    Masters GPA- 3.5/4
    GRE 299/340, AWA and TOEFL scores yet to come.

    Thank you again, Daniel Chatham. Eagerly waiting for your reply.

    Priya

  7. Dear Daniel chatham,
    Please reply for my quiry.
    I am Teja, completed my MSc biotechnology in 2008. I had work experience of two years in the same field and I left my job eight months back because of some reasons. Now I want to continue my career by pursuing PhD or by PSM. I have few questions related to PSM.Please help me out with these.
    Does the gap from the eight months affect my application to get admission?
    Does PSM suits to my profile? How I can make my career bright with PSM?
    Please provide the required information.
    Regards,
    teja

    1. Dear Teja,

      The gap will need to be explained on your application but will not likely cause trouble. If you have a logical and reasonable explanation, it will be fine. You do have two years experience and that sets you apart from candidates that do not have work experience.

      Since you have an MS in Biotech already, you will need to look closely at the PSM curriculum to see what new material you can be exposed to. It is important to do so you can write stronger statements of purpose and also later when you go for a visa interview. A visa officer will not know the difference between your Msc and a PSM since they will likely both be in biotechnology. You have to be clear that you are pursuing new skills that were not in your previous degree and that the two programs are very different.

      Regards,
      Daniel Chatham

      PS. Your feedback about how the application guidebook could help you with your applications would really help me make sure the book delivers high value.

  8. Hey Dan,

    I`m a prospective PSM applicant and am applying for fall 2012. One thing I`ve noticed in my colleges research is that NO program offers financial aid. Isn`t that true? Could you enlighten me about colleges that do, if at all there are any?

  9. Hi Dan, In one of your replies you have mentioned that its not possible to finish an integrated PSM along with MBA in two years, but North Carolina State University offers an integrated PSM in biomanufacturing along with MBA to exceptional student and claims to finish it in 2 yrs. I would like to know if this is possible and a good option to go for?

  10. Dear Daniel Chatham

    I am interested in pursuing PMS in Biotechnology concentration. I am in process of asking my Professors and supervisors for letter of recommendation (LOR). I have a query regarding LOR, I would appreciate if you could provide me information.

    I have done my Masters in Biotechnology. After my masters, I had an opportunity to do 6 months Industrial Biotechnology training in R & D. I want to know whether Universities accept LOR of Supervisor under whose I was trained.

    And also want to ask what is case study? Are terms internship and case study same or different?

    Kindly solve my queries.

    Warm Regards
    Rahela

  11. Yes Rahela, most of the PSM programs will accept a LOR from your supervisor. These are called professional references.

    Thanks for the question about the guide. The case study is a comparison of two “applicants” qualifications for you to review as if you are on the admissions committee. An Internship is a short term, paid or unpaid work experience like your 6 months sounds.

    Good luck with your applications.
    Daniel Chatham

  12. Dear Daniel Chatham Sir

    What is benefit of doing PSM when there is only 30% management skills involved in course?
    Do the PSM students are more capable to perform management in science field compared to MBA students?
    If a student interested working in non-academic/management field, who has already done his/her MSc in Biotechnology, just for 30% management skill do you think is better idea to take up PSM instead of MBA?
    Most of the student from India take a great financial risk and go ahead optimistically and confidently relying on the information given on university sites,for bright future to pursue masters degree in US, to earn money for a while and get back to their native lands.
    Suppose a student have applied for PSM program by taking student loan, got admission without financial aid, would it be possible for him/her to get job and deal with living expenses, pay the taxes and loan? How much will the employer save at the end?
    Inshort, how beneficial is PSM program in terms of getting job in science non-academic field when compared to ms biotechnology with internship experience or MBA.
    Is it wise enough for the student with ms biotechnology experience + training experience to take up MBA instead of PSM?

    Sir, I would be grateful to you on providing this information.

    Thank you in advance

    Sincerely

  13. Hello sir
    can you help me listing the best universities for PSM biotechnology, both in terms of financial aid and job opportunities.

  14. Hello, Daniel Chatham,

    Thank you for the post.

    I have recently completed my B.tech Biotechnology degree (2017) and am looking forward to pursuing my masters, however, I have come across MS/MBA dual degree and PSM degree in biotechnology.

    Could you kindly let me know the difference between the two (if any) and what the individual has to offer with respect to course, duration, fees and job perspective?

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Shefali Vaidya

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