Evaluating the Masters Experience:

Opinions of M.S. and A.M. Recipients, 1998 and May 1999

The Graduate Council of the Faculties invited all students who received the M.S. or the A.M. degree in May, August, or December of 1998 or in May of 1999 to fill out a questionnaire evaluating their educational experiences at Penn. The questionnaire was a modified version of the questionnaire administered to Ph.D. graduates since May of 1996. Of the 533 students who received A.M. or M.S. degrees in 1998 and May of 1999, 194 or 40% responded. Ph.D. graduates turn in the questionnaire when they deposit their dissertations. As only a small minority of masters students deposit theses to fulfill their degree requirements, there is no similar contact point that allows us to collect the questionnaires from masters graduates. The response rate to the masters questionnaire, therefore, is substantially below the response rate of Ph.D. graduates, which is 99%.

Below, we have summarized some of the key responses from that questionnaire. The responses are summarized for all masters graduates and then disaggregated by disciplinary division (for graduate groups that also award the Ph.D.). The last three columns report the responses for students in three terminal masters programs (that is, programs that do not award a Ph.D.). As some students receive the masters degree on their way to Ph.D.s, some receive masters degrees in lieu of the Ph.D.s that were their original goal, and some came here for the explicit purpose of receiving masters degrees, there is a great deal of diversity across fields and programs in the attitudes of masters students as they apply for their degrees. The data reported in each of the columns allow for those differences.

The first three rows report the average rating that masters graduates gave to the quality of advising, courses, and their relationships with faculty in their programs. The ratings reflect a 1 to 4 scale with 1 being the best outcome and 4 the worst. These ratings indicate a favorable response by graduating masters candidates that are quite similar to those of graduating Ph.D.s. The large majority of graduating masters students report strong satisfaction with their programs as indicated by the large percentages that would choose the same program again. Physical and life sciences and social sciences have the least satisfied students by this measure. The greater dissatisfaction of the science students may arise from the fact that all of these students entered doctoral programs and the majority are not continuing on for the Ph.D. The reasons for the greater dissatisfaction of the social science students are less clear from these data. Further investigation is in order.

--Janice F. Madden, Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Response category Total By Disciplinary Division* Terminal Masters Programs
Humanities Social Sciences Physical & Life Sciences 1 2 3
Quality of:
advising 2.1 2.1 2.3 2.3 2.5 2.1 1.7
courses 1.7 1.6 1.9 2.1 1.9 1.8 1.4
faculty relationships 1.7 1.7 1.9 2.1 1.9 1.9 1.2
Would do again at Penn 77% 80% 53% 50% 0.85 75% 96%
Continuing for Ph.D. 25% 40% 72% 30% NA NA NA
Number 194 40 36 20 27 16 54
Response Rate 40% 34% 32% 40% 0.55 18% 44%
* Excludes terminal masters programs; that is, graduate groups that do not award the Ph.D.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 1, July 13, 1999