Innovative Degree Breaks New Ground

Last Updated on February 06, 2017 at 11:06 AM

Originally published February 06, 2017

By Lauren Macias-Cervantes

UTEP Communications

UTEP graduates looking to gain an edge in the marketplace can now build their way to success – literally. A new graduate degree option allows them to assemble their master’s degree to fit their professional goals.

A new master's degree in professional science allows students to build their degree to fit their professional goals. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre, UTEP Communications

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently approved the M.S. in Professional Science. The degree program is composed of two graduate certificates. The first certificate, consisting of 15-18 hours, is offered by the College of Science. The second graduate certificate, typically in a professional area (also 15-18 hours), can be taken in the College of Science, any other college at UTEP, or outside UTEP in a traditional class setting or online.

“The purpose of the degree is to enhance the marketability of students at the master’s level by blending disciplines,” explained Nancy Marcus, Ph.D., associate dean of science for academic programs “We want our students to be successful. This provides a new opportunity for students not going on for their doctorate degree.”

For example, a student with a bachelor’s degree in science who is interested in forensic science may consider getting certifications in biology and forensic DNA; or if a student is interested in banking and insurance, they may consider certificates in mathematics and business through the program. The resulting master’s degree may give them an edge when applying for jobs. Students can choose from endless graduate certificate combinations. 

The Professional Science M.S. is the first of its kind in Texas and one of few in the nation.

“In the 21st century economy, there is enormous demand for professionals who have a foundation in science,” said Robert Kirken, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science. “We are constantly looking at satisfying future employment demand by projecting trends. This master’s degree allows our students to blend their science knowledge with another discipline, like business or health, which we anticipate will make them more marketable and readily employable.”

Potential students are excited about the new degree and agree it gives them an advantage.

“Upon reading about the new master’s option that UTEP now offers, I was amazed,” said Haidar Ahmed, a UTEP second semester freshman. He said the degree option was perfect for students who are interested in science, but also want to widen their career choices.

“As students, we always want to make our resume stand out from everybody else’s, and this new degree option is the best way to ensure future employers of our work ethic as well as our interest in multiple fields,” he said. “This new plan can help students in their future careers.”

Ahmed is majoring in biology and aspires to become a neurosurgeon.

For UTEP graduate Nora Hernandez, it was the professional development aspect of the two-year degree that piqued her interest.

“I think what made this degree particularly interesting to me was that it is developed for the working professional,” Hernandez said. “It still gives you the opportunity to keep a position and be able to keep developing yourself.”

Hernandez has a bachelor’s degree in biology and an MBA from UTEP. She is a program manager at UTEP for a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, but considers a career in hospital administration a viable future career choice. She said she will be strategic about charting her next move, including researching what hospitals are looking for.

The new option is good news for students and employers, and Charles Ambler, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School, thinks it is also positive for UTEP. 

“The effort at UTEP to develop this degree is part of a move nationally to develop master’s programs to align with rapidly evolving workforce needs,” Ambler explained. “This innovative degree will serve as a model for the development of more degree programs for students who want to combine advanced study in a core discipline and acquire professional skills.”

Recruiting for the degree’s inaugural semester is in progress. Interested students can send an email to