Graduate School
Graduate School
ECU Campus
Professional Science Master's (PSM)


Introducing the PSM

The Professional Science Master's (PSM) degree is a unique professional degree grounded in natural science, technology, engineering, mathematics and/or computational sciences and designed to prepare students for direct entry into a variety of career options in industry, business, or non-profit organizations.  It is a distinctive advanced degree for those intending to pursue a career in the practice of science.  PSM programs are multi- and/or interdisciplinary, and prepare students for high-level careers in science that have a strong emphasis on skill areas such as management, policy, and entrepreneurship.  The term "science-plus" has been coined to describe this unique curriculum:  the intermingling of advanced science education with development of professional skills.  The science courses are the typical science courses every master's student will take.  The "plus" courses are included in the curriculum to develop interdisciplinary skills including:  communications both written and verbal, project and business management, computational skills, ethics, team building, and more!  Because of this focus, PSM graduates are expected to progress towards leadership roles.  Every PSM program works with a real world employer which allows the program to adjust quickly to the shifting workforce demands and to rapidly changing research strategies and technologies.

In Short:

  • Professional Science Master's (PSM) degree program
  • Includes multi- or interdisciplinary STEM core:  the "science" curricula
  • Features field-specific management and transferable professional skills:  the "plus" curricula
  • Requires collaboration with employers to ensure curricula is better suited to work force needs

  • For more information about the PSM, visit the websites linked below.

    PSM Mission and Affiliation

    Professional master's degrees attempt to meet non-academic employer's rising need for an improved graduate workforce.  Students need to acquire a high level of technical aptitude; multiple professional competencies; an interdisciplinary, highly flexible, and collaborative attitude; and a globally oriented perspective.  Professional master's education seeks to provide these skills by adding employment-specific education to the curricula.

    The UNC PSM Mission Statement

    The UNC PSM Program seeks to meet North Carolina employers' needs for a job-ready, highly adaptive, and professional (master-level) graduate workforce.

    The NPSMA Mission Statement

    The mission of the National Professional Science Master's Association (NPSMA) is to promote and support the growth and development of professional science master's degree programs.

    PSM affiliation helps to ensure each PSM program adheres to a strict set of national standards.  Thus, its primary purpose is quality control.  This affiliation process is administered by the PSM National Office (PSMNO) to safeguard a strong and distinctive PSM brand.  The following is a brief list of the guidelines and benefits which defines a PSM affiliation:

    • More than 50% of curriculum is multi- and/or inter-disciplinary STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses
    • At least 20% of curriculum is management (field and trade-specific management, people management, change management)
    • Active employer advisory board for each PSM program
    • Employer-provided projects and/or internships
    • Program assessment and re-affiliation every 5 years
    • National standard of professional education
    The goal of these guidelines and benefits is to "keep academic depth, add breadth, management skills, and employer input and interaction" to the curriculum.  For more information about PSM affiliation see the PSM affiliation flyer or visit the PSM national website (links below).  Also check out the link for the example PSM degrees to see how the "plus" curricula changes the degree into a practical career oriented education.

    PSM Affiliation Flyer
    PSM National Website -- Affiliation

    PSM Programs at East Carolina University

    The Graduate School is proud and excited to have three programs with PSM affiliation!  Students can now enroll in a PSM option in Chemistry, Geographic Information Science (GIS), and Network Technology.  Below you will find a short description of each of the programs with information on who to contact for more information and links to their web pages and where to apply.  As a student considering applying to or graduating from a PSM program be sure to know all the course work and requirements entailed:  contact the program director and look online for the curriculum guidelines.  It may also be a good idea to look at future careers after graduating with a PSM affiliated degree.  Check out the resources and benefits listed on this page to fully grasp the concept of why a PSM is right for you.

    The PSM option for a Master's of Science degree in Chemistry allows for easy integration of the knowledge and skills learned in the program to practical applications in the field of science.  Students wishing to enter the program must choose the PSM option when applying.  For questions concerning the Chemistry PSM program, including where and how to apply, click on the links below or contact:

    Prof. Yu "Frank" Yang
    Chemistry, Director of Graduate Studies
    584 Science and Technology Building | (252) 328-9811

    Students with an interest in Geography Information Science are now able to choose a highly specialized course of study that provides advanced training in logistics, management information systems, marketing, or public administration through the PSM concentration.  More information concerning this concentration can be found in the links below.  All questions concerning the PSM in Geographic Information Science can be directed to:

    Prof. Scott Curtis
    Geography, Director of Graduate Studies
    A-232 Brewster Building | (252) 328-2088

    ECU Geographic Information Science PSM
    Graduate Catalog - Geographic Information Science

    Students entering the PSM in Network Technology  will have the opportunity to learn industry relevant approaches to problems and be mentored by current employers in the trade.  Students can choose between four concentrations:  Computer Networking Management, Digital Communications Technology, Information Security, and Web Technologies.  For more information on these concentrations, course requirements, and how to apply visit the links below or contact:

    Department of Technology Systems
    Office of Graduate Studies | (252) 328-9653


    ECU Network Technology PSM
    Graduate Catalog - Network Technology

    Benefits of PSM Programs

    There are numerous benefits to having a program affiliated with the professional science master's initiative.  Not only for the student applying to and graduating from a PSM program, but also for the faculty, and university that hosts these programs.  Ultimately, the benefits climb the ladder to affect and improve employers of all sizes (non-profit, public, and private alike) and society from regional to international as a whole!  Below are some of the benefits gained by those involved with PSM programs as well as many resources and links for more information.

    On top of the benefits received from a program's PSM affiliation, a student working towards and graduating from a PSM degree will also benefit from:

    • Employer networking
    • Access to employer resources such as new equipment, technology, and funding
    • Employment-relevant, competitive education
    • Familiarity with professional workplace environment
    • Essential professional skills & newest technology
    • Focused career prospects
    • Contributing to the resolution of complex industry issues
    • Good potential for employment after graduation and rapid promotion
    • Real-world experience and application
    • Development of highly desired work skills
    • Nationally standardized and quality controlled education
    • Alternative way to remain in science without pursuing a Ph.D. degree
    For more information about how a PSM degree benefits the student click on the links below.

    Students are not the only ones that will benefit by being involved in a PSM program.  Faculty can also share in the wealth gained:

    • Opportunity for networking with employers
    • Increased visibility through interaction with employers
    • Access to employer resources (technology, funding, know-how)
    • Prospects for collaborative projects and student supervision
    • Potential to gain an understanding of the particular employment environment
    • Facilitate student learning in streamlined, career-driven curricula
    Faculty can learn more about what it means to be apart of a PSM curriculum, the steps to starting a PSM program, facts and statistics about the UNC system's history with PSM programs, and more by following the links below.

    The university that offers and supports PSM programs profits in more ways than just curb appeal to more students.  The benefits for universities include:

    • Provide students with another career option
    • Help solve community workforce needs
    • Access to employer networks, newest technology, and resources
    • Increase in external engagement
    • New interdisciplinary research and innovation potential
    • Provision of employment-relevant, competitive education for graduate careers outside the university
    • Low research cost
    • High graduate and employment rates
    • PSM components can be transposed to undergraduate and doctorate levels
    To find out more about what universities are offering which PSM programs, or to see how the Council of Graduate Schools endorses PSM programs use the links below.

    PSM Programs by State
    Council of Graduate Schools PSM Flyer
    National PSM Website

    Because employers are an integral part in making PSM programs a unique, technical training and education they also experience benefits by participating.  Such benefits include:

    • Co-creating education courses that are tailored to employer needs
    • Access to creative student thinking as well as faculty research endeavors
    • Interaction with potential future employees
    • Prospects of hiring the best graduates
    • Savings in recruitment cost
    • Savings in new employee training and adjustment
    • Potential for new research and fundraising collaboration
    • Prospects of increasing level of innovation as a result of collaboration
    • Returning to society a work-ready, technically trained cadre of graduates
    • Potential for giving back to society with research and projects 
    The following links contain more information geared towards employers about supporting PSM students.  Be sure to check out the PSM website for testimonials from employers who have hired PSM students!

    Employer Informational Powerpoint
    PSM Employer Flyer

    PSM programs work to benefit every level from education to career and thus all the proceeds are returned to society.  Students gain a more career-oriented education, faculty expand their resources and knowledge in their fields, universities bolster their curricula with interdisciplinary collaboration and relevant courses, and employers can foster and have access to an improved graduate workforce.  As a result, society, on any scale, can flourish:

    • Regionally, partnerships with local employers ensure the PSM program remains responsive and adaptive to current and future workforce needs.  PSM programs are also well suited for community development and engaging and connecting with the state.
    • Nationally, PSM programs retain individuals in graduate education in STEM fields and prepare expertly trained professionals for careers in high demand.  In doing so, these programs aid in the enhancement of economic transformation.
    • Internationally, PSM programs answer the marketplace's call for increased innovation that leads to global competition.
    • In general, society as a whole will benefit economically from the employment-ready, competitive work-force born out of PSM programs and the inherent collaboration between willing and able universities, industries, governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
    PSM Competitive Edge
    PSM National Website

    Quick Facts

    • The PSM initiative started in 1997 with grants from The Sloan Foundation.
    • With the recognition of the need for scientists and engineers who can help translate basic scientific discoveries into practical applications that will improve the health of people, the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) was founded.
    • In 1997 there were 8 PSM programs available nationwide.
    • In 2013, the PSM initiative hit a milestone of 300 different programs!
    • Currently there are 340 programs at more than 150 universities worldwide!
    • To date, the PSM initiative has grown every year since its conception.
    • The KGI is the host of the NPSMO since 2012 and handles PSM affiliation and regulation.

    National PSM Association (NPSMA)

    The NPSMA is a professional membership association comprised of those who support the PSM initiative including program directors, faculty, administrators, industry representatives, alumni, and students.  It serves as an aid to businesses, industries, nonprofits, government agencies, and trade associations to develop programs, internships, and job opportunities for students and graduates.  Students, faculty, and employers can become a member with the NPSMA in order to take advantage of their resources and networking as well as attend events including webinars, conferences, and workshops.  Click on the link below to navigate to the NPSMA website to find out more information.

    NPSMA Website
    ECU PiratesProfessional Science Master's (PSM)