Learn more about:
Why offer dual degrees?
A Call for Change in Graduate Education
Although the system of graduate education in the United States is one of the best in the world for training scientists and engineers, it has lately come under attack for its inflexibility and for turning out a steady stream, if not flood, of academic researchers during a time when government support of research is dwindling and the demand for new researchers is dropping.
The attack is from three sides. Young scientists are increasingly critical of the system as they become mired in the mud of perpetual postdoctoral fellowships or (as 50% of them do) seek employment in a non-academic or even non-science field. The government has criticized the system as inflexible, and unwilling or unable to prepare scientists to contribute to our present national needs. Industry, which absorbs much of the overflow of academic researchers, complains that new Ph.D.’s are often too specialized for the range of task that will confront them in a non-academic environment.
Because of these real or perceived inefficiencies in the way we now train future scientists, the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a lengthy report on “Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers.” They offer two broad recommendations to those institutions involved in the training of scientists and engineers, the essence of which is to educate our students much more broadly and prepare them for careers outside of, as well as inside, academia. They say, 1) To produce more versatile scientists and engineers, graduate programs should provide options that allow students to gain a wider variety of skills; and 2) Graduate scientists and engineers and their advisers should receive more up-to-date and accurate information to help them make informed decisions about professional careers.”
They also recommend that more students be offered the option of a Masters’s degree or a new type of Ph.D. degree in preparation for work in a non-traditional field. They indicated that Master’s degrees have been typically undervalued, under promoted, and underused. Both the Master’s degree and the novel Ph.D. would be based on research that required less time than would a thesis or dissertation in preparation for an academic career. Presumably, the novel Ph.D. degree would also contain some non-traditional courses.
Response to Call for Change
The nation’s institutions of higher education have responded to the NAS report in a variety of ways. A number of schools have developed programs that would more specifically train scientists for the newer biotechnological industries. Several schools have specifically developed new Master’s degree programs as a result of the NAS report. Northwestern University has developed a Master’s degree program in Biotechnology to equip students for work in major pharmaceutical firms such as Northwestern’s neighbor, Abbott Labs. Course work in scientific techniques, research and “corporate survival skills” such as teamwork, budgets, and federal regulations are all required. Penn State offers a B.S./MBA program with a similar goal. Their program familiarizes students with some science basics and also awards them an MBA. The University of Maryland in Baltimore County offers an M.S. in Applied Molecular Biology that is also designed to prepare graduates to work in the biotechnology industry, but primarily as technical support personnel. Their program requires intensive laboratory work and no business exposure. Cornell University has developed a MBA for scientists who already have advanced degrees but who wish, for reasons of need or desire, to work in management. In this program the MBA is obtained in one year. The University of Rochester offers a two year M.S./MBA program in which students earn both an MBA and an M.S. in Microbiology and Immunology.
The University of Florida Programs
The University of Florida has also responded to the call for change. In 1995, the College of Medicine began accepting M.S. students in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Prior to this, only students declaring interest in a Ph.D. were accepted into the College. In 1997, this program became college-wide and interdisciplinary. Under this program the MS given is in Medical Sciences. Specialties are no longer designated on the MS degree. With cognizance of a growing number of businesses engaged in the sophisticated biotechnological sciences, and desiring to give students a full scientific research experience along with a complete training in business skills, the University of Florida also offers a joint M.S./MBA. Sponsored by the Florida MBA Program, the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and the Biotechnology Program, the joint program culminates in two standard degrees, an M.S. and an MBA, in three years. Both the M.S. and M.S./MBA require laboratory research and the writing of a thesis. The goal of both the M.S. and M.S./MBA programs is to train bright and enthusiastic students who want to work at the interface of science and business in either research or management of companies involved in the production and promotion of modern biological products for use in the solution of global human problems.
In 1999, a new four-year M.S./JD program was approved for individuals interested in patent law or other legal aspects of the biotechnology industry. In 2000, a new two-year MSM program has been introduced to train masters students in various disciplines (not just M.S. students) MBA business courses outside the traditional MBA program to better prepare them for careers involving business. This program is not limited to those with 2+ years work experience and offers many of the same courses and instructors as MBA students.
In 2010, grant funding was received from NSF to establish a new interdisciplinary Masters Program called “Science Master’s Program in Translational Biotechnology. This is a two-year thesis program that is interdisciplinary (biosciences and business), is research intensive, has deep industry involvement, and includes a formal internship at a company.
Applicants must meet the minimum requirements for the University of Florida Graduate School: GPA 3.0 and a score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) of 1000 Combined verbal and quantitative for the old scale, and a minimum score of 300 for the new scale. Note that for students accepted into the Masters the average GPA is 3.5, GRE is 310 (new) or 1220 (old). The program requirements 3 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and “official” transcripts.
Deadline for applications is March 31 of the current year fall admission.
If you are interested in other graduate and/or research opportunities, go to The Office of Research and Graduate Programs
Contact MGM-GradEd@mgm.ufl.edu for more information, or phone 352-273-6380