I was never impressed with the M.B.A. degree. M.B.A. grads used to get jobs easily at snobby consulting companies, highfalutin investment banking firms or Fortune 500 companies.

Uppermost, I questioned their value. Did all that education amount to much? Those in the industry must have had their doubts, because a growing chunk of academia is promoting the professional science master's degree, or P.S.M. for short. The P.S.M. two-year program combines technology/science and math disciplines along with business training, giving students skills in two important elements of the real world: technology and business. It's open to those who hold B.A.s in the sciences, math or engineering. Students are prepared for careers in research management, technology transfer, consulting and banking.

The P.S.M. program was launched in 1997, partly funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, but didn't fully get under way until 2002. The wheels of progress grind slowly in academia, especially if foundation money is hard to come by. First a grant has to be written (a torturous process), and then it can take two years after funding to get a program off the ground. The government has "contributed nothing," says Sheila Tobias, creator of the P.S.M. program and Sloan's coordinator for the project.

Industry doesn't need more M.B.A.s, but it does need grads with "hybrid" degrees, according to Tobias. Unlike the old-fashioned M.B.A. that requires a thesis, the P.S.M. degree requires an internship. Employers practically kill for real-world work experience.

Similar to the M.B.A. and law degrees, P.S.M.s are designed to provide training in a particular field, which leads directly to specific professional careers.

In the science and tech sectors, the P.S.M. is a better fit than the M.B.A., says Tobias, because it offers more technical content than the M.B.A., more business basics than the science Ph.D. and more information technology than both.

The P.S.M. concept was conceived by Tobias in the mid-'90s when she was conducting research for her book "Rethinking Science as a Career." She was surprised to learn that of all the master's degrees awarded in the United States each year - about 460,000 of them - fewer than 3 percent were in math or science.

How are P.S.M. grads faring in the marketplace? Tobias says there are no statistics ("We're kind of like a startup company," she says), but college-placement directors tell her anecdotally that graduates land jobs within three months of graduation at average starting salaries of $55,000 in private industry and $50,000 in the public sector.

P.S.M. programs sound great in concept, but the only way to find out if they pay off is to speak to a random sampling of employers and college placement officers. To get more info, look at www.sciencemasters.com.

There are also many post-bachelor's programs for technical professionals designed to teach business and management skills. Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., for example, just launched a master of science degree in engineering and global operations management (EGOM) for working professionals. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has an online master of engineering in professional practice (MEPP) degree program focusing on developing engineering, communication, management and computer skills.

There are many more. Look at a bunch of them, because they're all different.

Bob Weinstein writes a self-syndicated technology column.

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