What Makes a Master of Professional Studies so Different from Master of Science?

What Makes a Master of Professional Studies so Different from Master of Science?

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What is an MPS degree? How is MPS different from MS? What's the expected MPS degree salary? Read on for the A to Z on Masters of Professional Studies.

Madhuwrita Nandi
Updated on:  12 Sep 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 22.2K | 5  min read

A bachelor’s degree is insufficient to establish a good career in current times. Given the increasingly competitive job market, you still need a key area of differentiation and a course offering a specialized knowledge of a field helps.

We are talking about a Master’s in Professional Studies (MPS). The next natural question is: what is MPS program and how does it differ from the standard M.S. To help understand, we give an MPS Vs. MS degree comparison in this article.


What is the Curriculum of an MPS Degree?

An M.S. is a master’s degree in the field of Science. It typically involves a broad area, including Mathematics, Engineering, Medicine, etc. In some rare cases, an MS is awarded in humanities and social sciences. Primarily, the degree focuses on scientific and mathematical research subjects. The elements of a conventional Master of Science are:

  • list items Research and lab work.
  • list items Focus on using scientific methods to understand complex concepts and solving problems.
  • list items A thesis submission at the end.
  • list items Taught by professors.

An MPS, on the other hand, is a master’s degree in an applied field of study. Commonly, they teach interdisciplinary subjects intended for a particular domain or industry. In short, MPS is limited to a narrower band of education with a focus on practical skills rather than research. The elements of a MPS are:

  • list items Hands-on learning.
  • list items Completing a capstone project to help develop problem-solving, communication, critical reasoning, and other skills needed in the real world.
  • list items Taught by industry experts.

Does the Course Duration of MPS Differ from MS?

  • list items A typical full-time master of science program takes two years or four semesters.
  • list items A regular Master of Professional Studies course is part-time/full-time and flexible because it is geared towards working people. You can complete it in 1 to 5 years. Most professionals finish it in 2 years. In case the degree is full time, it takes about 16 months divided into four semesters. 

How Much Does MPS Cost?

While the tuition fee of colleges as well as courses differ, on average:

  • list items The tuition fee for MS course varies from institute to institute. For instance MS course in University of California, Berkeley, (highly ranked public institute) is about $ 13,053.25 for residents and $ 22,257.75 for non residents.
  • list items The tuition fees for an MPS course in a private US university (Cornell) is $56,550 for an academic year. For a public university (University of Maryland), the amount for MPS degree in Data Science will cost you $3,800 per course. The number of courses to complete the program are 4.

The amount stated above only includes tuition and no other expenses. Moreover, the fee may be higher is some universities like in the case of Cornell that asks for $56,550.

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Are the Eligibility Criteria for MPS Different from MS?

Both MS and MPS degrees have similar application requirements. 

  • list items A bachelor’s degree. MPS programs don’t require an undergraduate major similar to the field of the master’s course. 
  • list items A statement of purpose.
  • list items Two or more letters of recommendation.
  • list items A CV. 
  • list items Work/Writing portfolio 
  • list items TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score, if the graduate degree was not in English. 

All Master of Science courses require a GRE General Test and recommend giving the GRE subject tests. MPS degrees might not ask for it. For instance, both Georgetown and the University of Maryland don’t require it, but Cornell does. 


How do the Employment Opportunities After Master’s in Professional Studies Differ from MS?

MPS degrees are for people looking for a career change or jump. The program gives the necessary professional training:

  • list items To move to a senior position.
  • list items To completely switch fields.
  • list items To fill in a skill gap or expertise required for a specific industry.

In comparison, an MS degree leads to further research and enrolment in a doctoral program.  


Master of Professional Studies Vs. Master of Science: What are the Benefits of It?

  • list items MPS programs give you real-world skills that are directly applicable to a particular job. Therefore, for someone who knows precisely the profession/ field/ department they want to work in, it is a great option. 
  • list items A student who has earned a generalized Bachelor’s in Science (or B.A.) can use an MPS to hone in a specific domain. 
  • list items MPS degrees are incredibly flexible, which means anyone can find the time to graduate. From online courses to evening classes, from full-time degree to part-time program, a person can pick what suits their schedule.
  • list items Since the peers and teachers are working in the industry, it provides the opportunity to network with professionals. The network comes in handy when you are searching for employment. 

A traditional MS degree is the best for a student who wants to have a solid grasp on theories and enhance their research skills. If you hope to earn a Ph.D. from one of the top universities in the world, then a master's of science would be advantageous. If you wish for career progress in say a technological industry or communications firm, then an MPS would be better. 

  • list items Cornell University: Information Science, Applied Statistics, Human Resource Management 
  • list items George Washington University College of Professional Studies: 6 programs 
  • list items Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies: Applied Intelligence, Integrated Marketing Communications, Journalism, Emergency & Disaster Management, Cybersecurity, Risk Management, and others.
  • list items Pennsylvania State University's Smeal College of Business: Supply Chain Management.
  • list items SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry's Department of Environment: Environmental Studies.
  • list items University of Maryland: Applied economics, industrial-organizational psychology, geospatial information sciences, and others.

The list above is only a small sample of courses. There are many other Professional Master's Degrees, such as in administration, education, international relations, etc.

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  • list items Master of Science in Bioinformatics
  • list items Master of Science in Computer Science
  • list items Master of Science in Cyber Security
  • list items Master of Science in Engineering
  • list items Master of Science in Information Systems
  • list items Master of Science in Information Technology
  • list items Master of Science in Management

MPS Degrees: The Rising Popularity

To sum up the difference between Master of Professional Studies and Master of Science: the former is career-based and the latter research-based. In most other terms, the two overlap. Georgetown, the college we have used as an example in this article, explains it best:
MPS “is a master's degree that combines the focused study of traditional graduate degrees (such as the Master of Arts or Master of Science) with the specialized, industry-specific skills you can immediately put to use in the workplace.”

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