Winter 2013

Pharma Degree

New Sackler School master's program responds to growing job sector

By Jacqueline Mitchell

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Students interested in pharmacology careers—one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the United States—have a new option available to them. The Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts will offer a master of science degree in pharmacology and drug development starting this fall. The new degree will be managed along with the doctoral track through Sackler’s existing graduate program in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.

“Because the needs of the pharmaceutical industry are constantly changing, people with master’s degrees are assuming a more and more important role in the private sector,” says Emmanuel Pothos, the program’s director and an associate professor of molecular physiology and pharmacology. “Both types of degrees continue to be very popular with industry.”

The first such two-year degree affiliated with a medical school and offered in the Boston area, the Sackler M.S. will provide students with a foundation in drug discovery and development. The first year of training will parallel that of the Ph.D. degree track. Students in both programs will take the same core courses, participate in the same journal club, attend the same seminars and do laboratory rotations, says Pothos.

In their second year, the master’s students—just like those enrolled in the doctoral program—will be expected to conduct original, publication-quality laboratory research for a thesis. “The only difference is the duration of the research training,” says Pothos. The option to conduct a library thesis will also be available to master’s students.

Because the Ph.D. program can take four to six years to complete, the brisker pace of the master’s degree is expected to appeal to professionals already working in the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and abroad.

“Companies and governments may be willing to send workers here for more training, but they need them back in a reasonable amount of time,” Pothos says. “The master’s program accomplishes both goals.”

The pharmacology job sector is expected to increase 25 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while overall job growth in the same period is forecast to expand 14 percent.

Sackler expects to admit three to 10 students to the inaugural class, which will begin in September.

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