Fordham University’s New Masters of Public Media Program

In our recent article on Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, we highlighted 18 GSAS programs actively recruiting students on our platform.

In Fall 2016, Fordham University is introducing it’s newest graduate program, a Master’s Degree in Public Media.

Learn more about this exciting new graduate program, and how you can get a jump-start on applying for acceptance into the inaugural class of 2017.

What is the new Masters in Public Media at Fordham?

The M.A. in Public Media is a one-year professional master’s degree in collaboration with Fordham’s award-winning radio station WFUV, with the cooperation of WNET, New York’s public media network, designed to advance a new generation of multi-platform communication professionals. Students can choose between two tracks:

  1. Multi-platform journalism, including audio, video, and interactive web content
  2. Strategic communication for the nonprofit sector, including social media marketing, public relations, corporate under-writing, and development.

What makes this program so exciting for students interested in this field?

The MA in Public Media was created to help prepare students to tell stories through a variety of different media platforms. It is more than public broadcasting; this program engages students within the realms of journalism and strategic communication to tell stories for the public good. Public Media is focused on impact through social change and civic engagement. That impact correlates with what happens after a story is shared –centered around follow up and engagement with the audience.

In a crazy, fast-paced world, students can take a year off to study, contemplate, and disseminate what their role is in media in the 21st century. It is not about being the first to get to the story, but being the best at covering a story responsibly, morally, and ethically.

What will the program curriculum look like? 

The MA in Public Media’s curriculum combines theory and practice – students will have the tools to understand and contextualize the profession as well as the practical tools to enact core principles. Courses will be taught by a balance of scholars and practitioners from Fordham’s Communication and Media Studies Department, WFUV and WNET.

The curriculum is divided into six parts:

  1. Two practical multimedia 10-day intensive courses
  2. Two core courses on public media and strategic communication
  3. Two required fundamentals courses, taken in the fall semester
  4. Two specialized, practical courses in either the journalism concentration or the strategic communication concentration (spring semester)
  5. Two elective courses or internships, one per fall and one per spring semester
  6. A special master’s project

What types of career opportunities will students be exposed to in the program?

Students in both specialization tracks will have the opportunity to work closely with WFUV, WNET and other civic organizations to gain hands-on experience inside and outside the classroom. Whether pursuing careers in established media operations, social entrepreneurial start-ups, or in outreach, marketing, and development, the MA in Public Media is designed to produce a new type of professional who is ethically educated, and both creatively and practically equipped to advance their missions. Also to further assist in preparing students, every student will be assigned a Fordham Career Services counselor to help identify and achieve professional goals throughout the year.

What does the path to application look like, and what are some of the program requirements?

  • The GRE exam is required for those wanting to be considered for financial aid
  • The successful candidate for admission should have a 3.0 GPA or better
  • Written personal statement
  • Official college transcript
  • Three letters of recommendation (either academic, professional, or a mix of both)
  • Non-native English speaking applications will be required to submit TOEFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) results, issued within the past two years. We will expect our most competitive applicants to have scores above 100 on the TOEFL and 7.5 or above on the IELTS
  • A maximum of three work samples may be submitted electronically. These may take the form of written work (either analytical or journalistic), the articulation of internship experience(s), or some type of digital production (e.g., a website, short film, or video, piece of multimedia journalism, audio piece or podcast, a data visualization or motion graphic)

Highly qualified applicants may qualify for partial scholarships of $10,000 and paid internships at WFUV.  All applicants are automatically considered for this funding and will be notified if they have been awarded merit funding.

Fordham’s new Public Media master’s program will welcome its first cohort in Fall 2016.

Applications must be submitted online:


Bookmark the Public Media program on Gradschoolmatch, where you can stay in touch with Fordham GSAS for more updates.

You can also contact Jackie Reich, Chair and Graduate Director, directly at


US Graduate School Enrollment Has Been Flat Since 2010

Peak Graduate Enrollment (1)This is pretty interesting. It may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine… or it may just be regression to the mean. US graduate school enrollment has been flat since 2010, at just below 3 million heads per year. We haven’t seen anything like this over the past 30 years, a period for which we’ve enjoyed small but steady year-on-year increases. What factors might be responsible for this effect? What does it mean for graduate schools and prospective students?

First, the data. They are fall enrollment head counts from the IPEDS data center, a US Department of Education enterprise. Due to their validation process, there is a bit of a lag, such that the most recent available data is for 2103. Fall enrollment is used because the time series is longer. Another enrollment variable that IPEDS keeps, 12 month enrollment, shows that flat enrollment extends to 2014.

I’ve omitted data for the year 1999, which seem to have a wildly spurious under count relative to its neighboring years. I’ve included enrollment data for all non-profit (both public and private) and for-profit universities that award a masters or higher degree. Of the 2176 institutions in this group, enrollment data was missing for only about 50. This is a comprehensive picture because these are, in essence, anywhere that anybody goes to graduate school in the US for whatever field of specialization.

What factors might be responsible for this plateau in graduate enrollment?

  1. Economic prosperity-Probably not. Graduate school is widely thought to be anti-cyclical. The idea is to time your graduate education during a recession, so that jobs are more plentiful when you emerge. Inspecting the graph here sort of disputes that view. First, there are never enough recessions for this idea to explain the overall enrollment growth that has occurred up until recently. Furthermore, it is hard to discern enrollment boosts in recessions and pauses during the inter-recession periods with more than wishful thinking. Perhaps the best argument against this idea, however, is that although we are now a few years out of the recession, the US economy has hardly been bicycling on spinners over this period. The Great Recession has had long-lived negative effects that may have become baked-in to thwart economic progress.
  2. Declining enrollment at for-profit universities. No effect. The graph above looks the same if for-profit enrollment is removed from the data. Although it is true that enrollment is dropping at for-profits due to their notorious problems, graduate enrollment in the for-profit university sector is dropping at a lesser rate than undergraduate enrollment. Furthermore, the graduate enrollment at for-profits is only a small fraction of the overall graduate enrollment in the US. The simple fact is that enrollment at non-profit public and private universities is flat all on its own.
  3. Demographics-Quite possibly. The rate of growth has also slowed markedly for undergraduate enrollment in college. Since 2011, undergraduate enrollment has also been flat, holding pretty steady at 9.1 million heads (as a general rule of thumb, graduate enrollment stays around 1/3rd of undergraduate enrollment). Since about half of all baccalaureates earn graduate degrees, flat undergraduate enrollment growth predicts flat baccalaureate award rates, suggesting that the flatness in graduate enrollment will persist for some time to come.
  4. Tuition cost/Student loan burden-Possibly. College students have been graduating with increasingly higher student loan debt as they’ve been asked to bear a higher share of their cost of education. More people may be avoiding graduate school because the tuition cost is too high and/or they are unwilling to take on additional debt, despite the clear economic benefits of an advanced degree.
  5. Flat research spending-Quite Possibly. No matter the cost to students, producing people with advanced degrees is expensive for universities. There are a couple of reasons to believe that university research activity is, in fact, the strongest driver of overall graduate student enrollment, both of which I intend to write more about shortly. As research funding is constrained, the demand for and resources to train graduate student researchers is also constrained. The flat graduate enrollment we see above mirrors the flat to declining research spending over the same period. Not coincidentally, US universities also haven’t experienced year-to-year research spending this flat over the same period for over 30 years. Austerity is coming to roost at the university and it is likely impacting the vitality of graduate programs.

Flat graduate student enrollment seems is probably due to a combination of these latter three factors, in my opinion. The demographics and loan burden suggest to me that competition between programs for outstanding students, which is always high, will prove even higher. Fewer such people are considering graduate school and the value proposition for those who do attend will need to be stronger than it appears today. We hear data points here and there from our clients in the enrollment office trenches that suggest universities have already entered a period of evaluating their programmatic needs and preparing to mothball graduate programs that cannot attract enough talent. This may be the new normal.

The flat research spending means that fewer slots are available for students. Given the extraordinarily inefficient way people go about finding their graduate school options, this could negatively impact those students seeking research experiences as either doctoral or masters students, due to increasing competition between applicants for the available resources. Such students may need to widen their application strategies to ensure they find a program that not only fits, but is likely to have the resources to carry them through.

Finally, persistent flat enrollments is probably not a good thing in the overall picture of what a thriving knowledge economy needs. There is no reason at all to believe that the US economy suffers from too many highly educated workers, given the simple observation that unemployment rates are the lowest and earnings the highest for the most highly educated. A failure to produce more workers with advanced degrees could stymie the growth of companies and industries that depend upon such highly educated talent.






How To Become A Top-Ranked Graduate Program

rankings-300x219We spend a lot of time attempting to understand (and solve) the problems students face in finding a graduate program that fits.

Our data indicate the typical successful student researches a dozen or fewer programs and applies to only 3.

Let’s couple that statistic to their scale of opportunity. In a typical academic field there are about 300 universities each offering a single graduate program that the typical student might have an interest in.

Thus, a typical student only applies to 1 out of 100 programs that might be suitable. Or, put more starkly, there is a 99% chance a student who should be interested in your program won’t apply.  There may be many reasons why a student doesn’t apply to your program, but the most common reason is they don’t even know it exists.

When a student is discovered by a program on Gradschoolmatch the most common feedback we hear from them is, “I found interesting programs I never would have never known otherwise(!!)”  No matter whether your program actually found them first, it is your subsequent guidance that generates strong interest that increases the probability they’ll apply.

To find prospects that you might like, make a habit to login on Gradschoolmatch once or twice a week for 5 or 10 minutes. Go through your Match or do a quick custom Search for prospects that have backgrounds and interests that seem to fit your program. Bookmark their profile, and send a brief, helpful message. That little bit of effort changes trajectories.

And that’s about all it takes to improve your program’s chances of making their 1% list.

Or, to put it more brightly, you become a top-ranked graduate program every time an applicant puts you in their top 1% list. And of all the rankings lists out there, let’s simplify this down to the core issue: their list is the only one that really matters.



Program Spotlight: UVA School of Architecture

With four distinct graduate programs, as well as two certificate options, graduate students at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture are exposed to some of the most pressing, relevant issues in today’s urban landscape. Coupled with professional development and research opportunities, UVA’s yearly Vortex project is one of the nation’s most unique forums for addressing architectural challenges and presenting revolutionary solutions.

Learn more about the UVA School of Architecture’s Masters programs from Kristine Nelson, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

GSM: Briefly describe your role with UVA and some of your main objectives.

Kristine: My role as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for the School of Architecture at UVA is to oversee the graduate enrollment process through application, acceptance, scholarship offers and matriculation. Additionally, we are expanding our reach to target current undergraduate students, as well as graduates who have been working but who have not considered one of our Master’s programs as an option for their continued learning. Drawing from Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary link between education and the space, the School of the Architecture is one of the most forward-looking design and planning schools in the world, engaging its students through an interdisciplinary culture, full-use fabrication facilities, and dedicated teaching faculty.

GSMBriefly describe the 4 graduate programs you have listed on Gradschoolmatch and anything unique that prospective students might like to know.

Kristine: The Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) is a two-to-three-year long program rooted in theoretical conception and practical application. The program attracts a diverse range of students with undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and engineering as well as pre-architecture and architecture. It is our goal to prepare the next generation of leaders to engage the complex design challenges of the future.

The Master of Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) is two-to-three-year program seeking to foster the next generation of design leaders in practice and academia who will envision a more just and sustainable world. We challenge students to envision landscapes that simultaneously contribute to public life and embody an ethic toward the bio-physical world. Our projects confront the most pressing environmental and social issues of our day – social justice for marginalized communities, livable green infrastructural cities and their waterways, renewal strategies for shrinking post-industrial cities, and urban adaptation to global climate change.

The Master of Architectural History (M.Ar.H.) is the oldest and largest architectural history program in the United States. This two year degree allows students to explore the history of architecture, landscape and urban form by analyzing the sources and forms of architectural expression while considering architecture a critical feature in a broader social and cultural context. With its roots in the study of American architectural history, the department’s areas of study also include Mediterranean, European , and Asian architecture, cities and landscapes

The two-year Master of Urban and Environmental Planning (M.U.E.P) prepares students to make significant contributions as professionals in a variety of public, private, and non-profit settings. The MUEP program emphasizes the linkages between the urban environment and policy, drawing connections between housing and equity, land use and economy, and development and sustainable communities.

Spring 2015 projects presented by graduate students
Spring 2015 projects presented by graduate students

GSM: What do you typically look for in potential applicants in terms of background, interests, and work experience?

Kristine: All four of our Master’s programs have students from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. Our design programs (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) offer three year programs that embrace a diverse range of disciplines while the two-year program is for applicants with a bachelor’s degree in architecture or landscape architecture. Our 2015 incoming class from all four of our Master’s programs has students whose majors include: Aerospace Engineering, African American Studies, Art History, Economics, Psychology, Philosophy, Computer Science, and Portuguese.

The UVA School of Architecture does not require any prior work experience. However, all practical experience as listed on a CV/resume is taken into consideration as part of the entire application package.

GSM: How useful is Gradschoolmatch to you and your programs as a recruiting tool, and how does it differ from other recruiting methods you employ?

Kristine: The biggest benefit of Gradschoolmatch is that it allows our office and Program Directors to be in touch with students who might not immediately consider architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history or urban and environmental planning for their graduate studies. Many people assume that an undergraduate degree in one area limits their future academic and career options, but in fact is beneficial to diversifying and enriching the career fields that are fed by our graduate programs. Gradschoolmatch is the only way to communicate with students who have not previously expressed an interest in our programs and allows us to more fully represent our niche education options.

Additionally, Gradschoolmatch is an easy way for potential students to contact our faculty and program directors, which is essential to finding a mutual fit for graduate studies.

GSM: You offer 2 certificate programs through the School of Architecture. What do those look like, and how do they supplement your degree programs?

Kristine: The Historic Preservation Certificate is available to Master’s degree candidates in all four disciplines. This interdisciplinary program offers students the opportunity to expand their professional studies through specialized training in the practice and ethics of historic preservation and the stewardship of cultural landscapes. Students graduating with Historic Preservation Certificates have gone on to do important preservation work with private firms, public agencies, national and international non-profit and non-governmental-organizations, and leading preservation advocacy organizations.

The Urban Design Certificate program is also open to graduate students in all four disciplines.  The certificate is structured to synthesize concepts, methods and strengths across disciplines into new approaches to the design and planning of cities and settlements. Students graduating with the Urban Design Certificate will acquire the skills which will better position them to secure employment with private firms or public agencies that specialize in the complexities of contemporary urban design.

Each program consists of 21 credit-hours. There is substantial overlap with degree curriculum, therefore students can expect to complete their degrees on time even if they pursue these valuable certificate options.

GSM: What do research and professional development opportunities look like for students?

Kristine: The School of Architecture has substantial funding available for students to travel for on-site research for their thesis or other proposed projects. Additionally, graduate students have opportunities to assist faculty in their research, often with grant funding.

We have a variety of student groups that are chapters of professional organizations in each field, allowing for vital networking and professional development opportunities. Additionally, students are encouraged to participate in design competitions as well as submit papers for national conferences. Finally, our career services offerings begin with short-term internship opportunities over our January term and continue by assisting with summer and full-time employment professional job fairs.

GSM: What is your relationship with UVA School of Architecture alumni, and how do they impact student recruitment?

Kristine: We have a renewed interest from our alumni to participate in recruiting on all levels. This means they are often available for questions via email or in person at an open house event as well as being highly motivated to meet and talk with applicants who have been offered admission in the spring. Our graduates welcome getting involved in the recruitment process and are excited to share what their UVa education has meant for their chosen profession.

GSM: What is something unique to UVA School of Architecture that you want prospective students to know about?

Kristine: Probably the most unique part of the UVA School of Architecture experience is our emphasis on interdisciplinary involvement, especially during our yearly Vortex. Vortex is a week-long, school-wide event in which professors and students from all departments come together to create solutions to address important issues facing the Charlottesville and UVA communities. Student and faculty groups combine the knowledge they’ve learned in their own disciplines to produce projects that culminate in an exhibition to city and university leaders.

uva school of architecture
Students presenting their work at the 2014 Vortex


To learn more about the UVA School of Architecture, visit us at You can also follow the school’s social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more information.


Program Spotlight: Emory University GDBBS

With a broad, interdepartmental approach, Emory University’s Graduate Division of Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS) provides students the opportunity to explore many different facets of the biological sciences.

In addition to relationships with renowned public health institutions like Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the greatest differentiators of the GDBBS is its commitment to student development and robust research opportunities.

Learn more about Emory’s GDBBS from long-tenured Director of Recruitment and Admissions, Kathy Smith.

GSM: What does your role at Emory encompass?

Kathy: One of my main objectives is to provide the highest level of customer service that I can. To students interested in one of the eight PhD programs in the Graduate Division, that means providing timely and complete information when they need it, whether it be via email or phone, or through an easy to use website.

The Graduate Division strives to enroll an incoming class of students who are the best fit for the programs and who we feel will succeed. This means there is no “one size fits all” formula. The admissions committees review the entire application when making their decisions, and that means we enroll students who have a wide range of credentials, especially in terms of GRE scores and GPAs.

GSM: What are some of the unique strengths of your programs at Emory?

Kathy: All of our graduate programs are interdepartmental. Applicants apply to and are accepted by a specific program that fits their broad interests. Students work with faculty from many different departments, providing a truly interdisciplinary training experience.

The GDBBS provides great flexibility by allowing students to change programs after the first year, or work with GDBBS faculty members in a different program. This provides the flexibility of an umbrella program, while giving the student the individualized mentoring of program-based admissions. The students enter into a manageable-sized community of faculty who are all invested in the success of each individual student. Many students who interview remark on how surprised they were that so many faculty knew who they were when they first arrived on campus. These students also mention how impressed they are with the programs, and especially by the strong relationships between the students and faculty. Funding is guaranteed as long as you are making satisfactory progress toward your degree.

One of our greatest strengths is our students. They are not only engaged in their research, but also in the community at large. They participate in community service events, serve on numerous committees at both the program and university level, and participate in a broad range of recruitment events, including organizing events and assisting in the interview visits, sitting on panel discussions with visiting student groups, and attending graduate school fairs. They are also highly successful. Emory is tied for #1 in the nation in the number of individual NIH F31 fellowships, and is #2 in the nation in total F31 funding.


GSM: Emory is in close proximity to the CDC. How do local organizations impact GDBBS students, and what types of opportunities are available to get involved in research and projects?

Kathy: The CDC is literally across the street from the Emory campus. Faculty at the CDC can apply to be adjunct members of GDBBS programs, and several GDBBS students are working with advisors at the CDC for their PhD dissertation. Students can also elect to do one of their three research rotations with faculty members from the CDC.

Students also have the unique opportunity to work with faculty members at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the American Cancer Society.

GSM: What are some typical career paths for students following graduation, and what types of professional development resources are available to prepare them for those roles?

Kathy: Our graduates enjoy careers in a wide variety of different fields. They hold faculty positions at both research and liberal arts universities, government positions at the CDC, USDA, NIH, NSA, EPA, FDA, NASA, FBI and the US Patent and Trademark Office, pharmaceutical and industry positions, as well positions as editors, writers, patent attorneys, law partners and CEOs.

The Laney Graduate School and the GDBBS provide many career development resources for students. Two NIH-funded programs include BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) and IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development). The BEST program focuses on preparing predoctoral and postdoctoral scientists for the breadth of possible career choices in biomedical research and helping them establish a network, share, evaluate and disseminate best practices. The IMSD program is a reflection of our commitment to increase the diversity of the scientific workforce, and it focuses on multi-level mentoring, research integrity, and career preparation and planning. Our commitment to diversity is reflected in our top 10 ranking for graduating African American PhDs by Diverse Education’s Top 100 Degree Producers.  Since 2010, the GDBBS has ranked 4th, 9th, 2nd, 7th and 4th nationally.

The GDBBS also hosts a career seminar series and provides access to MentorNet and the BioCareer Center. The Laney Graduate School hosts Mentors on Call, where alumni provide guidance on preparing for the workforce, and links alumni with students for informal mentoring and professional guidance. Pathways Beyond the Professoriate brings alumni back to Emory to network with our students and help them identify positions they may not have considered. Our goal is to graduate students who are well-rounded and competitive candidates in a wide variety of fields.


GSM: What is some advice you would give to prospective GDBBS students?

Kathy: Do your research and don’t just rely on rankings. Students are individuals and they will have unique fits with any university; it is definitely not a one size fits all process. Factors include the research fit at the university, the stipend as well as the cost of living in the area, and how well the university prepares their graduates for future careers.

The most important consideration should be whether or not you think you will be happy and successful at the university. One of the best ways to do that is to talk to current graduate students in the program, and see how the faculty and students interact with each other during interview visits. If the majority of the current students are happy and well-mentored, chances are you will be too.

GSM: What does the path to application look like for prospective students? Where is the best place for them to get more information?

Kathy: Today, universities try to put as much information as possible on their websites, so that is a great place to start. In my opinion, if a student has questions they should never hesitate to contact a program directly, either by phone or email. A school and program that cares about its students will also take the time to make sure that prospective students have the resources they need to make informed decisions.

In terms of our application process, we have tried to make it as user-friendly as possible. The process is entirely paper-less; as part of the application process applicants upload their statement of purpose and resume, and upload their official transcripts as PDFs. The recommendation letters are handled online as well, so the applicant does not have to send any material in the mail during the application process.


To learn more about Emory University’s GDBBS, visit us on


The MD-PhD Degree is a Million Dollar Award

Money-Mortar-BoardI’m still obsessing a bit over the cost of graduate education. Not the tuition price charged to students that most everybody else is obsessing over, but rather the cost to the university of producing a graduate with an advanced degree. My general hypothesis is that we’d be surprised to know just how much it costs to produce graduates with advanced degrees, and that this cost will often bear little relationship to the level of tuition and fees charged to students.

To know this cost is not trivial. Imagine a typical non-profit university as a bucket that is filled up through a variety of revenue streams from tuition, to research grants, to donations and endowment income, auxiliary enterprises (ie, hospitals, clinics & athletics programs), and federal and sometimes state support. All of this revenue then pays for all that a university achieves throughout the year, which includes but is not limited to educating graduate students. Instructional spending is also reported, but that actually allocated to graduate students is far less clear.

A while back, using a simple aggregate method and some unusual but reasonable assumptions arguing that, in fact, research dollars pay for all the master’s and doctoral graduates, I calculated that the typical graduate degree costs a university $80,000 to award. Another way to estimate this cost is to fractionate university expenses reported to the federal government that are related to education, accounting for the weight of graduate enrollment and award rates. More on that project in a later post.

As one gets into this mindset it is easy to begin thinking that not all advanced degrees are equivalent, that some must be much more expensive to produce than others. You can imagine a much lower cost to award a 1 year master’s degree to a tuition-paying student than that for a stipend-munching multi-year doctorate.

Here are some (back of the envelope) calculations I’ve derived for what it costs a university to produce what is likely to be one of the more expensive degrees to produce, the dual MD-PhD degree, which is a signature for a clinical scientist.

The typical MD-PhD dual degree recipient spends 8 years in university residence, 4 spent in medical training and 4 more in research training. In exchange for that time, the institution agrees to waive all costs of training and research, while providing the student a living stipend.

The cost of education differs for each period mostly because the academic physicians who train students during their medical education are paid more than PhD faculty who train students during their research period. For the cost of medical education, I took the average of the cost of instruction + cost of student services + cost of academic support per enrolled student at about 18 institutions that are solely medical schools–throwing out the three highs ($178,000 per student per year!!) and three lows ($10,000 per student per year!!). For the cost of PhD education, I took a value near the median cost of graduate education per enrolled student, just as above, but used spending at high research universities as a benchmarks.

All MD-PhD students receive a stipend each year of the full 8 year period, and all have their tuition waived (which is a lost opportunity cost for the university…those seats could be filled otherwise by paying customers). The research actually conducted by any doctoral student also costs money (a bit more than $2000/month for a good round average, born of personal experience and a few chats in the hallway). Finally, I’m using private university tuition costs in order to inflate the numbers, thereby justifying a very catchy blog article title. But don’t be confused, the cost of public university MD-PhD’s are not likely to vary too far from the overall number for a private school…they are no great bargain either.

  • 8 years stipend @ $30,000/yr = $240,000
  • 4 years of waived medical school tuition @$50,000/yr = $200,000
  • 4 years of waived graduate school tuition @$35,000/yr = $140,000
  • 4 years of cost of medical education @$50,000/yr = $200,000
  • 4 years of cost of PhD education @$30,000/yr = $120,000
  • 4 years of cost of PhD research effort @$27,000/yr = $108,000

That all sums up to about $1,008,000 for one degree holder, or let’s just round it to a million dollars for a simple-to-remember number. And the US is currently producing just under 600 MD-PhD graduates each year, or over half a billion dollars for less than 10% of all biomedical doctoral degrees awarded. That’s a healthy slice of pie.

This is an extraordinary level of investment borne by the government and the institutions for a fairly unique type of researcher. This cost implies that universities should invest an extraordinary level of care in finding and selecting the individuals who receive these expensive studentships. They should be exceedingly cautious to prevent filling these seats with individuals unlikely to have successful careers…which can be a very difficult judgment to make.

My strong advice to the MD-PhD applicants hitting the interview circuit this fall is be prepared to justify for the admissions committee why the university and society should invest at such a high level in your clinical research career. In what ways have you excelled to a level  high enough to claim one of these seats? What assurances can you give that your future career will provide a return on this investment?


Program Spotlight: Biomedical Sciences, UT Southwestern

With a seasoned group of world-renowned faculty, diverse professional development opportunities for students, and robust research facilities, UT Southwestern has one of the most prestigious biomedical sciences programs in the nation.

Learn more about Ph.D. programs available in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Southwestern from Assistant Dean Lisa Gardner, Ph.D.

GSM: What are some of your main objectives in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences?

As an Assistant Dean, my main role is overseeing and directing domestic applicant recruitment, review, and admission to the Division of Basic Science, which is the umbrella program for 10 biomedical Ph.D. programs. Being an academic medical center makes it challenging for us to recruit undergraduates. Very few undergraduates have ever heard of UT Southwestern, and so one of my main objectives is always to increase our exposure to top notch science majors across the country and introduce them to the caliber of research and education we have here across all biomedical disciplines. The bottom line for me is to always bring the best and brightest students to UT Southwestern.

GSM: About 5 years ago, UT Southwestern revamped their website presence as a university, and recruiting for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences starting moving heavily in a digital direction. How has technology affected how you and your team recruit?

We made a conscious decision to significantly decrease our nationwide travel to undergraduate institutions as technology advanced. The new website in 2011 enabled us to use more photographs and videos to capture the personality of UTSW online. We are fortunate to have a marketing department with web service experts who understand the strength of the research enterprise here, and in the past two years, they built and launched an entire website that houses pages for each lab on campus. From this page, a prospective student can search by term or by faculty member to find labs of interest.

GSM: How useful is Gradschoolmatch to you and your programs as a recruiting tool?

The majority of interactions I have had with students on Gradschoolmatch have been very promising. The dialogues are comparable to or better than any conversations I have had in person with students on their home campuses when I traveled extensively. With the ability to reach many more campuses and highly qualified students from my office, I can be much more effective at a fraction of the cost.

I particularly love when a student uses the “What makes me unique” section to highlight his or her research experience. Research experience is one of the biggest factors in our admissions decisions, and being able to identify the candidates with really strong basic science research experience saves me time up front that I can use to have more meaningful conversations with those students during the application process. Additionally, I can continue to help the students by email as they decide where to apply and complete the applications.

biomedical sciences
The newest class in the Division of Basic Science at UT Southwestern began classes on August 24th.

GSM: What do professional development opportunities look like for students?

We introduce scientific writing during the first semester as part of the course in Responsible Conduct of Research, where they also learn about other modes of science communication and technology transfer. As part of their regular program requirements, faculty train students in critical reading of scientific papers and critical thinking during journal clubs and lab meetings, and provide guidance in oral presentation skills at works-in-progress seminars.

Our newly created Office of Graduate Career Development provides programs and seminars, internships, and resources that help students develop skills and gain experience needed to become successful scientific citizens of the world. Some of the seminars and workshops we offer include advice on creating resumes and CVs, job search strategies for biomedical scientists, interview preparation, interpersonal communication, project management, and negotiation strategies.

Additionally, graduate students have the opportunity for teaching partnerships with the Honors College at the University of Texas at Dallas and part-time internships at the UT Southwestern Office of Technology Development. The office also maintains strong links with BioNorthTX, a regional nonprofit life science trade association in bioscience research.

GSM: What are some typical career paths for graduates that aren’t just academia related?

The majority of our students complete postdoctoral lab training. Following their time as postdocs, our graduates have found success in many different fields, including biopharmaceutical industry research and business, science media and communication, consulting, tech transfer/intellectual property/patent law, science non-profit organizations, and science foundations. We have a number of student-organizations focused on careers, including a Consulting Club and a Science Policy, Education and Communication Club.

biomedical sciences
A glass enclosed corridor connects buildings on campus to facilitate communication and collaboration between basic science and clinical researchers as well as across different scientific disciplines.

GSM: The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Southwestern is considered an umbrella program. Walk us through the application process for students, and how they can select their academic path once accepted.

Our umbrella program is called the Division of Basic Science (DBS). The best way to start the process is to visit our website and have a idea of the top three programs of interest. On the website, there are degree plans and course descriptions, as well as student profiles for each program.

The online instructions and application for the DBS can be found on the Admissions page, by following the “Ph.D. in the Basic Sciences” link. Each applicant completes one common application for all 10 Ph.D. programs in the DBS. Within the online application, the student must check between 1 and 3 programs they feel they would be most likely to join if accepted. This allows us to set up the best interview and visit to UTSW if the applicant is chosen for an interview. Our interview weekend introduces applicants to the institution in terms of meeting the program chairs, seeing the core facilities available, and talking with faculty and students in programs of interest.

When a student begins on campus as a full time graduate student, they are part of an “umbrella” class of approximately 60 students. Some students enter umbrella programs with a clear focus on what they want to research, and others enter with a broad range of interests. The majority of the class will take one eight-week core course covering the foundation of knowledge needed for the biomedical sciences. In those same eight weeks, to help them isolate their particular interests, they attend a graduate program fair and poster session that includes all ten programs, talk with faculty members, and rotate in labs of interest. Official declaration of their Ph.D. program is required by the end of the first year, typically while finishing up all of the required courses.

biomedical sciences
The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Southwestern is centralized in the newest research building pictured here.

GSM: What makes UT Southwestern such a prestigious research institution, and what types of research opportunities are available to students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences?

UT Southwestern has a number of distinguished faculty. We rank second in the world, among stand-alone medical institutions, in number of Nobel Laureates with six faculty members and one alumnus. Twenty-two faculty members have been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and seventeen members into the National Academy of Medicine. Our faculty includes sixteen members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and thirteen Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators.But what makes it truly amazing is the overwhelmingly supportive attitude of every faculty member. Whether they happen to be a Nobel Laureate, a department chair, or an assistant professor, their door is always open.

In terms of research opportunities, our 10 Ph.D. programs are:
  • Biological Chemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cancer Biology
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Genetics, Development, and Disease
  • Immunology
  • Integrative Biology
  • Molecular Biophysics
  • Molecular Microbiology
  • Neuroscience
With 10 interdepartmental graduate programs and more than 250 labs/mentors to choose from, there are no boundaries that limit the type of research a student can pursue. Our umbrella program teaches all students the basic foundational knowledge and skill to follow their project and its science wherever it leads.

To learn more about UT Southwestern and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, visit us at