When Masters Degrees Roamed the Earth

This is the second post in our Clinical Doctorate series.  The first post can be found at Are Masters Degrees Going Extinct? 

The informal clinical doctorate survey in the DNA Exchange last summer provided some insight into the genetic counselor viewpoint and provided some results that will be interesting to compare with the formal survey from the Genetic Counseling Advanced Degree Taskforce in December.  Thank you to those who participated in our Clinical Doctorate survey.  And the results are…

A total of 254 genetic counselors voted:

  • Masters and then Clinical Doctorate as a later option (Clinical Doctorate as a Terminal Degree):  49.61% (126 votes)
  • Masters only (no change):  34.65% (88 votes)
  • Clinical Doctorate only (Clinical Doctorate as Entry Level Degree):  13.39% (34 votes)
  • Other :  2.36% (6 votes)

Almost half (49.61%) of voters supported making a Clinical Doctorate in Genetic Counseling available as a later option.  A total of 160 voters (63%) supported the option to create a Clinical Doctorate as either a later option or as the only option while 88 voters (34.65%) want to leave the current Masters in Genetic Counseling path as the only path.  It was unclear as to what the 6 votes (2.36%) for “other” was since all of those votes were left blank as to what the other options might support.

The small scale survey we did was not a scientific poll, but it does lead us to ponder the options.  Why are 160 out of 254 genetic counselors are motivated enough to vote for some version of a clinical doctorate?

One strong theory is professional development: Are we missing out on opportunities due to our degree?  Most of us have encountered or have friends who were unable to attend conferences like the Smith meeting, be considered for pharmaceutical clinical science associate positions, be considered for faculty positions at some institutions, or qualify for grants since we do not meet the requirement of having doctorates.  We meet every other single requirement for the position, but because doctorates alone hold such a high respect in the medical field, we are being excluded from opportunities.  The limitation is simply because the highest degree that we can reach is a Masters degree.

How frustrating to be limited not by ability, but by degree limitations.  Genetic counselors are trained in such a way that we can take on different specialties and roles.  Our flexible degree allows us to specialize in one tiny section of the genetic world OR broadly cover patients of all ages whether pregnant, affected by a genetic condition, or wondering about the impact of familial cancer.  Could an advanced practice clinical doctorate allow us even greater flexibility later in our careers?

One way to address this question is to look at the published literature of many different professions that now have clinical doctorates:  pharmacy, audiology, nursing, speech pathologists, occupational therapy, physical therapy, optometry, podiatry, and psychology.  There are some great online and peer reviewed articles out that detail the pros and cons of clinical doctorates overall and by discipline.  If you are interested, check out the great laundry list of resources that the Physician’s Assistants put together during their decision process http://www.innovationlabs.com/clinical_doctorate_summit/pre/resources.html#4a>

Some key pieces of information.  The American Academy of Audiology reports that practitioner incomes are increased since implementation of the clinical doctorate in audiology (AuD).  AuD graduates earned 13% more than pre-AuD counterparts did in 2006.  (http://www.audiology.org/news/Pages/20081027a.aspx)

Want your information in a slideshow?  Review Laura Conway and the GCADT’s slideshow that reviews the literature and has a slide summarizing the long term outcome impact of the clinical doctorates in PT, pharmacy, and audiology including increases in salary, male, and minority applicants.  < http://www.nsgc.org/Portals/0/Presentation%20Slides.pdf>.

Interesting in learning a little bit about how the physical therapists designed their transitional clinical doctorate? Go directly to the source, http://www.apta.org/PostprofessionalDegree/TransitionDPTFAQs/

What do all these resources tell us?  They tell us that there is some nice outcomes data about other disciplines and now genetic counselors in all stages of their career need to come together to decide if a Doctorate in Genetic Counseling (DGC) is good for our profession.

Stay tuned for a 3rd post in the Clinical Doctorate Series.  We will address GCADTF (Genetic Counselors Advanced Degree Task Force)’s plans to have a decision-making summit in 2013, explore the logistics of getting a clinical doctorate as a later option, and discuss some possible CD course load.

Co-authored by Dawn Laney and Kelly Rogel.  Dawn Laney  is a genetic counselor, research coordinator, and instructor at Emory University in the Department of Human Genetics.  Although she is a child of the computer age and is all for innovation she secretly prefers to use pen and paper to write rough drafts of anything creative.  Kelly Rogel is a graduate from Sarah Lawrence College’s Genetic Counseling program and is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer Teacher for the Deaf  and HIV/AIDS Educator in Kenya and spends her free time learning more about how genetic services in Kenya can be expanded.


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3 responses to “When Masters Degrees Roamed the Earth

  1. Rachel

    I think you have to keep in mind that the population of GCs that read and subsequently voted in the poll is likely a very biased population. I do not feel that those results reflect the overall opinion of the GCs in North America.

  2. CCGC

    Indeed – the official poll results from the GCADTF showed that a whopping 81% of 2161 genetic counsellors who responded to the survey (51% response rate) were in favour of maintaining the masters degree as the terminal degree option. Those who responded to your unscientific study were in the vast minority when you actually poll the GC community as a whole.

    • Accuracy

      Except that the official poll did not allow for a respondent to indicate a desire to keep the masters as the entry-level and have an advanced degree as a terminal degree option. Therefore, it is impossible to conclude that the majority are in favor of maintaining the masters as a terminal degree.

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