Master's of Science or Master's of Arts

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Master's of Science or Master's of Arts

Postby Rebeka » Fri Jul 03, 2015 12:33 pm

Many times I am asked which is a "better" or more attractive on graduate school or job applications, a MA Biology or a MS Biology. I have looked around and some universities/colleges offer both, with a research thesis requirement of the MS; some offer one or the other with some MA requiring research and some a MS with the option of a research thesis or "library" thesis.

The students asking this question vary in their immediate plans after their BS--either going to graduate school or entering the market.

We have a small MA Biology program at my college, which requires a research thesis, a and a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale in undergraduate course work; a minimum of 24 credit hours of courses in biology, which must include
Introductory Biology (2 Semesters with Lab)
Genetics (1 Semester with Lab)
Cellular and Molecular Biology (1 Semester with Lab)
Ecology (1 Semester with Lab)
Six to 8 credit hours of courses in physics. Sixteen to 24 credit hours of courses in chemistry, including organic chemistry.

Students ask me why our program is not a Master's of Science instead of a Master's of Arts.

So, what is the opinion? Is there a consensus? Does a program with the above requirements look like a MA or an MS?

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Re: Master's of Science or Master's of Arts

Postby Dave Walker » Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:12 am

Hi Rebeka,

In the grand scheme of things I don't know how much an MA vs MS really means for a career. I have heard several students doing theirs Master's try to compare the two...but to a hiring manager it's basically a check box for "secondary education, non PhD level."

That said, if one is going into the life sciences, choosing a program with a lab requirement I would think is important, and should be clear on the resume.

At my Ivy League alma mater, all scientific programs receive a BA or MA, just because of some decision made 200 years ago at the college. The research done is rigorous -- the "MA" part is just a fluke of history.
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Master's of Science or Master's of Arts

Postby Ana » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:05 pm

I agree with Dave, the letter ager the M is not as important as having relevant experience, and in research that means lab experience, so if the students want to get into research they should get the program with more exposure to the lab.

Depending on the university or program you will get MS or MA. I don't think hiring managers make any difference.
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Re: Master's of Science or Master's of Arts

Postby Dick Woodward » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:24 pm

Actually, whether you call it an MA or MS, it actually looks like the undergraduate biochemistry major that I took back in the day. Is this course intended for people who did not major in a scientific discipline for their undergraduate degree?
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