Nearly six years ago the Department of Biological Sciences recognized an opportunity to provide graduate training to post-baccalaureate students who were interested in receiving an advanced education in biology, but ultimately wanted to pursue careers outside of research. Following two years of planning, spearheaded by Dr. John Yoder and other members of the BSC Faculty, the UA Graduate School approved the Master of Arts (MA) in Biological Sciences program in 2018 (colloquially referred to as the BSC Professional Master’s Program). The BSC MA program went “live” in 2019.
Similar to the thesis-based MSc degree, the MA program requires 30 hours of coursework (around two semesters of classes), but instead of conducting independent research and defending a thesis, the MA degree is a coursework only program that culminates in a Capstone Experience, which typically takes the form of a professional internship or literature review. These important differences have broad appeal for students looking to take advantage of the early career advancement and increased medical school acceptance rates a master’s degree in Biology can provide. Approximately half of the MA students intend to pursue pre-professional health careers and apply for medical, dental, or other professional heath school admission. The other half are primarily focused on pursuing careers in government STEM positions or science education at the K-12 or community college level.
As the MA program enters its 3rd year, a total 12 students have graduated from the program so far. We caught up with Allie Sorlie, part of the first MA cohort and long-time employee of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, about her diverse educational background and why she ultimately chose to pursue a BSC MA degree here at UA.
“I went to University of Central Florida for undergrad and initially received a B.S. in Elementary Education. After graduating from UCF, I found an exciting opportunity to utilize my education training in a museum setting and took an AmeriCorps position at the Alabama Museum of Natural History on campus as an Education Specialist. In that position, I helped to extend the museum’s reach by working to expand traveling science programs to more Alabama counties. After my year as an AmeriCorp member, I took the Education Outreach Coordinator position at the museum in 2013 and worked there until 2021. I developed, implemented, and taught natural history education programming and content and developed and coordinated natural history and science-focused events and programs for all ages. I developed a deep love for environmental education and natural history education while at the museum and knew that I wanted to keep pursuing that as my career, so I went to UA first for a M.A. in Curriculum and Development for Elementary Education. I completed this degree in 2016 while working at the museum full-time. In 2019, I decided that I wanted to expand my experience and education in biology and found the M.A. in Biological Sciences degree. I felt this program would be a great fit for me (and it was!). I left the museum in 2021 to finish my biology degree and have just graduated in May 2022. I am currently working with a non-profit that runs an ecology and environmental education summer camp in Yellowstone National Park for students across the country. I will finish with this job at the end of August and am looking for my next opportunity. I am excited for the experience I am gaining at this current position and am looking forward to what the future holds.”
Interested in pursuing or learning more about the BSC MA program? Visit the BSC Graduate Website for more info.