NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: EJ770917
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jun-22
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Credential Creep
Bollag, Burton
Chronicle of Higher Education, v53 n42 pA10 Jun 2007
When Brenda M. Coppard was studying occupational therapy in the late 1980s, a bachelor's degree was the standard ticket to enter the profession. By the 1990s, a master's degree was expected. Today a doctorate is becoming the norm. Ms. Coppard has pushed for more advanced degrees. In 1999 the associate professor of occupational therapy helped Creighton University create the first professional doctorate program in the discipline in the United States. Now chair of the department, she says the rapid growth of knowledge and new demands on therapists made the new degree necessary. Hospitals, increasingly cost-conscious, no longer have much time to be mentors to newly trained professionals. Graduates, she says, "need to be prepared to hit the ground running." Yet Ms. Coppard is concerned that degree inflation may be getting out of hand: her concerns are part of a larger debate over professional doctorates. The degrees, also known as clinical doctorates, are spreading rapidly, especially in the health sciences. Many professional associations, representing such disciplines as pharmacy, physical therapy, and audiology, advocate raising programs that prepare graduates to enter a profession to the doctoral level. But other academics are skeptical. Without standards defining the professional doctorate, they say, there is a tendency to use the term "doctorate" very loosely. While a Ph.D. takes on average about 12 years to complete from the start of college, the new degrees, sometimes mocked as a "Ph.D. lite," typically take six or seven years. Generally the new degrees do not require a major research project. "For the last 15 or 20 years," says John D. Wiley, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, "we've been under pressure to take what is basically a master's degree and call it a doctorate." In recent years Wisconsin introduced professional doctorate programs in pharmacy and audiology. Mr. Wiley says many faculty members initially opposed the programs, which someconsidered a cheapening of doctoral education. But in the end the university went ahead because it did not want to lose enrollments to institutions that were already offering them. Unhappy as they may be, Mr. Wiley says, "no one institution can afford to boycott the process." Even critics say there may well be a need for the new degrees. But they are concerned that the new programs are being introduced in a kind of a Wild West atmosphere. That was the conclusion of the first comprehensive study of the issue, carried out by a committee established by the largest of the six regional accreditors, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools' Higher Learning Commission. The regional accreditors say they are increasingly encountering the new degrees at colleges they oversee but are often unsure how to evaluate them. In a report published in June 2006, the committee said that a major source of concern was the lack of standards for the professional doctorate, in part, because the new degree programs are usually run by institutions' professional schools outside the oversight of graduate school. Many feel the problem will only be brought under control by cooperation among the professional associations, the regional accreditors, and institutions. "The key is to get a good conversation going," says Clark Hulse, dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mr. Hulse is writing the report of a committee looking at professional doctorates, this one set up by the Council of Graduate Schools and expected out this fall. According to a committee member, one of the report's main recommendations is expected to be that the new programs be brought under the supervision of institutions' graduate schools.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A