U.S. Master of Professional Studies: 3 Facts for International Students


An MPS degree offers prospective international students hands-on learning with industry leaders.

Through MPS degree programs, international students learn from industry professionals. (MANFRED RUTZ/GETTY IMAGES)

Indonesian national Shantini Purnamasari describes her studies as an undergrad as “memorizing a lot of concepts from textbooks.” So when she searched for graduate schools in the U.S., she sought a program that provided more hands-on experience.

She landed on the New York University School of Professional Studies, where she is pursuing a Master of Science in hospitality industry studies. Purnamasari, who graduated this spring, says that through the program she learned how to apply concepts from the classroom in the workplace.

Prospective international students may be unaware of Master of Professional Studies – or MPS – degrees, which are geared toward students who want a more specific skillset to directly apply in their careers. The degree differs from traditional master’s degrees, which tend to focus on theory and research. These degrees are usually offered in the U.S. and Canada.

Here are three important facts prospective international students looking to study at U.S. graduate schools should know about these degrees as they consider their options.

1. They take less time and money: MPS programs are a minimum of one year long and, depending on the program, can prove cost-effective for prospective international students.

Indian national Manjari Sahu is enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s one-year Master of Professional Studies in Design for Interactions. She says after working in the strategy and service design realm for three years in India, she sought the MPS degree because she “wanted a push” in the service and interaction design field, which she says Carnegie was reputable in.

Bruce M. Hanington, associate professor and director of graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University School of Design, says the school’s MPS is a course-intensive variant of its Master of Design program, “ideally suited to working professionals who may prefer a shorter program to infuse new design expertise into their practice or to pivot their design careers.”

Tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year for both international and domestic students is $40,000, according to the website. Hanington says the MPS is one year of tuition compared to two for the Master of Design.

Cornell University also offers many MPS programs that students can complete in one year, says Janet D. Anderson, Cornell’s director of professional programs and extended learning for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She says 2017-2018 tuition for the primary MPS program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is $34,444, while the research master’s degree tuition is typically $20,800 per year.

“Some MS students receive grants/stipends and continue in research fields, whereas professional master’s students launch into careers in industry to achieve the return on their educational investment,” says Anderson.

2. Students learn from industry professionals: Prospective international students can gain work experience, network and explore job opportunities through their MPS instructors.

Adele Ashkar, associate dean for academic excellence at George Washington University, says the school’s programs “give students the chance to engage with instructors that are active practitioners and who are often at the top of their profession.”

Students gain “knowledge and skill sets that are focused in very specific professional areas of expertise,” says Dennis Di Lorenzo, dean of NYU’s School of Professional Studies. The university’s MPS grads have found employment abroad at PwC, CitiGroup, Microsoft and Marriott International.

Carnegie Mellon student Sahu says her professors have great field experience and bring in guests currently working in the industry for talks and workshops. She and her classmates have collaborated with Dutch technology company Philips on two separate projects and with Microsoft for their main grad studio project, which challenged students to design a product, service or solution that combined the virtual and physical worlds. She says both collaborations have proven vital for her.

“I now have a summer design internship with Philips in Pittsburgh, and my team was selected by Microsoft to showcase our project at the Microsoft Design Expo in July at Seattle,” says Sahu. “Both of these opportunities were possible through the CMU faculty and resources.”

3. Many require an internship or work-study: MPS programs often require an internship or work-study, which means prospective international students get hands-on experience to apply back in their home country.

Chapman Rackaway, interim dean for the graduate school at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, says “internships are excellent ways for students to showcase their ability to apply theoretical learning into the working environment.”

Chinese national Zhexing Li, a 2015 graduate of the two-year MPS in sustainable urban planning at George Washington University, had an internship with World Resources Institute on a road safety program as well as a fellowship with Smart Growth America on walkable city studies.

Li, whose undergrad degree is in urban planning, says his MPS program showed him the field’s relationship with sustainability and gave him a stronger career direction.

He’s now working in Beijing for the China Fortune Land Development Company, a real estate development firm, but has plans to transition into a nonprofit organization, nongovernmental organization or consulting firm.

NYU student Purnamasari interned as a data analyst for hotel booking platform Stay Wanderful. She says it has allowed her to get familiar with the tools and technology used in the hospitality industry.

Purnamasari says that real-world experience from her degree program is preparing her well to achieve her goal of opening a resort in Bali, Indonesia.

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