The master's degree program in physics at California State University, Long Beach has been ranked among the top 20 programs in the nation at preparing physics students for the workforce.
After looking at all university physics master's degree programs, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) recently released a report identifying 20 schools with the strongest professional master's degree (PMD) programs in the country.
"While physics enrollments are declining, the demand for students who are technologically trained continues to grow," said Roman Czujko, co-author of the report, explaining one of the reasons for the study. "We tried to identify schools that were doing a good job of preparing physics students for the workforce."
Cal State Long Beach was recognized alongside the programs at Columbia University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas Tech University, the University of Oregon and the University of Washington.
"We're extremely proud of this recognition by the American Institute of Physics, and in my mind, there is no finer compliment for a program," said Robert C. Maxson, president of CSULB. "We have a blue-ribbon faculty in physics and I'm not surprised that they are being recognized for their work."
Produced by AIP and supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the report defined PMD physics programs as those that address the current needs of the economy as well as the needs of students by providing both fundamental knowledge and specialized skills.
"We were surprised when we heard about the ranking," said Alfred Leung, chair of the CSULB Physics Department and advisor for the graduate program. "We didn't know the institute was looking in the area of a more professional degree. As it turns out, we have been working very hard at developing our program in that direction. So, it was great to receive such recognition."
The report stated that successful PMD programs have a combination of features that fall into four general categories: bridge building (connecting the physics department to the world outside academics); programmatic emphasis (utilizing the expertise of physics faculty as well as faculty from other disciplines at the university); research experiences (internships or other off-campus work experiences based on a collaboration with a corporation or government laboratory); and non-technical aspects (classes that address the unique needs of students in areas like oral and written communication and teamwork).
The report also pointed out that PMD physics programs are needed because of the increasing demand for employees with scientific and technological skills who are also able to work outside of an academic setting.
Jim Stith, director of the Physics Resource Center at AIP, noted that students must be prepared to work in a variety of industrial settings. "These range from technical positions in traditional engineering companies to that of analysts in financial firms, and their education must provide the foundation that enables them to quickly assess problems in diverse situations and all allows them to formulate solutions," he said.
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