Credential creep -- do you really NEED that doctorate

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by PsychPhD, Sep 8, 2009.

  1. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    [Moved from "Can a holder of a DBA be called Doctor"]

    Ted, while I'd agree with you that ignorance is playing a role ... I don't think it is as simple as being unaware of the Latin derivation.

    "Rabbi" and "sensei" both mean teacher as well. People aren't clamoring to claim those titles!

    Yes, it is unfortunate that many people aren't as aware of the world around them as perhaps they should be. However, I do not think it fair to blame the general public about ignorance about doctor not automatically meaning "physician."

    I'm a psychologist, having a PhD in clinical psychology which is the minimum requirement to use the title "psychologist" in any of the 50 states. I have to be careful in a medical setting to make sure that my patients are aware that I am not an MD/physician. Now, put a physical therapist, audiologist, pharmacist and nurse (none of whom need a doctorate to practice but now can earn one) alongside a psychologist and a physician at a patient's bedside. Only the latter two clinicians must have earned a doctoral degree to practice. Everyone there is entitled to be called "doctor."

    You don't see that as having the potential of inspiring serious confusion for the patient?

    Finally, my question is not about who "gets" to be called "doctor." I've said several times that if you earn a doctorate you earn the title.

    My concern is, and always has been, why have professions which never needed a doctorate to enter the profession now encouraging it? Did, for example, physical therapy get so complicated in the past few years that now a bachelor's degree is insufficient preparation for clinical practice?

    I recently received an appointment to a respected SLAC. They have ONE doctoral program ... DPT - doctor of physical therapy. Why?

    Ultimately, one facet of this discussion that has not been addressed is the reality that universities are businesses. There may be no demonstrable benefit for many of these new doctorates. But if the university can sell it, and students buy it, voila ... new profit stream for the university. However, the student seeking the "prestige" of the doctorate often discovers that after investing significant time/effort/money into acquiring the degree, s/he earns no more, has no more clinical authority, and has now a significant student loan debt to repay.

    Full disclosure -- I needed a doctorate to become a psychologist. However, Master's level clinicians (e.g. social workers, mental health counselors, nurse practitioners) have done such a good job convincing insurers that they -- with a fraction of the education of a psychologist -- can provide practically the same services as a psychologist, for less money too! For those heaping venom on me for being "disrespectful" of other professions, as a PhD psychologist I question my own decision to pursue the doctorate when I see mid-level practitioners making just about as much as I do, not being questioned when they, yes, misuse psychological diagnostic assessment tools, and having a fraction of the educational debt I do.

    This is not just about ignorance and ego. It is about needlessly saddling naively prestige seeking professionals with debt to earn credentials of dubious validity or value.
  2. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    In the case of the business doctorate, the demand has been triggered due to the supposed "shortage" of business professors. Also, the new programs make it easier to earn one. Traditional programs are 5 year full time while the online formats can be earned in 3 years while working. However, in practice, most of the holders of the 3 year part time programs really use it to teach as an adjunct where traditionally a doctorate was not required but with so many new doctorates this degree is becoming the minimum requirement. In conclusion, by marking it easier to earn one, the doctorate becomes the master so there is no real benefit but a necessity to remain employable in the teaching business.

    I teach at few schools as an adjunct and recently have noticed that about 50% of the new adjuncts have doctorates from schools discussed here as TUI, Capella, Walden, NCU, Nova, etc. It seems that it is becoming a norm to earn one for business teachers and since most people are busy professionals, the online schools seem the way to go. The real winners here are the online schools as they are probably getting most of the doctoral students that are being produced so it seems like a money making machine. However, as professionals, we are paying and working more just to get the same job that before a master would do.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2009
  3. Han

    Han New Member

    I, personally, believe that the more advanced degrees are needed in today's world. Yes, 20 years ago, less was enough (a BA, etc), but now there are so many more theories and discussion, it is necessary to become an expert. For example, ORg. Behavior was not even a stand alone business field, now there are majors and minors in the field.

    I also believe that the Masters (at least in my experience and in the business field) demanded more in depth nknowledge, but did not give the literature research enough emphasis.

    The DBA brings both together.... I think a strong profesor needs both theory and industry.... the DBA brings that together.
  4. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    Another can of worms!

    Thanks RF, this has been my suspicion all along.

    Seriously, one does not need an advanced degree to teach newcomers to a profession. (Again, refer to the skilled trades.) Experience used to be more highly valued, not titles or degrees.

    Now, you've brought up yet another controversy in credential creep ... the academic career path. Tenure-track professorships are all but drying up. Those that remain are almost assuredly going to doctorates earned from well established B&M universities. The TUIs, Capellas, Waldens of the industry are creating a cadre of ADJUNCTS not professors.

    I say this as both a Capella grad and one who (by choice) teaches as an adjunct (because my doctorate also qualifies me for clinical practice, which is the focus of my work). I dare say more than a few people get into online/unconventional doctoral programs anticipating a tenure-track career only to be sorely disappointed when their degree only "qualified" them be an adjunct.
  5. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member


    To make things worst, the DBA is not longer enough. Many places are asking for certifications such as CPA, CISSP, CMA, CFA, etc on top of the DBA. I have noticed that the DBA or PhD is slowly taken for granted and new jobs are putting a lot of emphasis on certifications.

    It is a complex world!
  6. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    And yet ...

    People have pointed out that while the Bachelor's degree is perceived as the minimum to enter the job force, "everybody" has most certainly not earned one.

    By the same token, doctorates are still reported as being earned by less than one percent of Americans.

    So who's earning all these advanced degrees/certifications/etc.?
  7. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    Actually, I just learned last night that this is not the case in West Virginia. One may practice as a psychologist (using this title) upon completion of a master's degree and 5 years supervision under a licensed psychologist. In addition, the masters degree must be from a regionally accredited school and (interestingly enough) 80% of the coursework must be earned on campus (i.e. not via distance learning). The non-DL requirement does not applicants with a doctorate in psychology.


    Additional Information:
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2009
  8. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    OK. I understand the concept of "credentials creep." It works like this. In a regulated, licensed profession, a given degree is stipulated as the minimum requirement to sit for the state licensure exam for said profession. If a higher degree exists, competition dictates that there will be some in that profession that will get a degree that is higher than the minimum required to practice. Eventually, when it comes to be the case that many of those in the profession have a degree that is higher than the minimum requirement, the state licensure agencies will raise the requirement. Hence, professions that once could be entered with only an associate's now require the bachelor's, professions that formerly were bachelor's qualified now require a master's, and formerly master's-qualified professions now require a doctorate.

    Note: I knew that Rabbi and Master also mean Teacher, just as Doctor means Teacher. I didn't know that Sensei means Teacher. Thanks! The difference, however, is that physicians do not seem to be in any rush to claim monopoly rights over the titles of Master, Rabbi, and Sensei the same way that they're trying to be seen as having exclusive right to the title of Doctor. My take on it is that if someone tells you that they're a doctor, it should be up to the hearer to know that the next question is: Is your doctorate in medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, ancient Chines history, or what?
  9. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    I think the idea that "everybody has a doctorate" seems to be unique to people who frequent distance learning discussion boards.
  10. Han

    Han New Member

    I do not think that online vs B&M is the issue, I think it is the accreditation. Most professionally accredited school want their candidates to be professionally accredited. Most professionally accredited doctorates are not online.

    Second, I did not fina a shortage of TT openings. At the last AoM meeting there were thousands. I didn't even go that route, just applied via the job posting and received many interviews, then found a position within one AY of receiving my doctorate. I think it is dependent on the field.

    Lastly, there are 2 professors that I know that have RA doctorates (online school), they secured a non-tenured track position, but will not get the TT position (and the two I know don't want it).
  11. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Everybody means that in that 20 years ago, there were few people with doctorates. At few of the faculties that I teach, many of the older faculty have only master's degrees and work as tenure professors.
    Adjuncts were expected to have only a MBA, however, I have noticed that the new generation of adjuncts have for the most part doctorate degrees. Not only the typical DL doctorate but also a lot of them with European doctorates. In the last news letter that I received from the continuing education faculty at one of the schools that I teach, I noticed that there were few people that reported ongoing doctorates from distance learning schools.

    So although not 100% of the population, I believe that there is a noticeable increase in doctorate degree holders due to distance education and also due to executive formats of some European schools. AACSB reports that there is a shortage of professors, but most of the available positions are not being offered to the "new age" doctorates. Most schools still expect the typical 5 year PhD graduate from a traditional school, many would rather hire foreign graduates than local candidates with non traditional education.
  12. distancedoc2007

    distancedoc2007 New Member

    I think we should remember that there are also some more personal reasons for pursuing a doctorate, beyond the credential itself.

    For many who have had a masters degree for decades, the doctorate is the next logical step up - a chance to dust off the old brain and research something that is personally interesting.

    Plus, I think there is an intuitive attraction to having the "full set" right from kindergarten all the way up. The masters is like having 49 of a deck of 52 cards. Mind you, I was an obsessive collector of Batman cards when I was young, so maybe that's a personal thing.

    So I guess what I am saying is it isn't all about careerism or credentialism. Frankly, when I am applying to be a Walmart greeter in my senior years, I doubt I will even mention my advanced education! In the meantime, it is a fun challenge...
  13. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    No doubt

    Absolutely ... as many of us here are educators of some rank or level, I would hope that we are always seeking to expand our own knowledge and encouraging others to do so.

    [Personal note: When I got my appointment to the local SLAC, I sought a "rank bump" for two reasons: 1) I am significantly more qualified than their minimum requirements; and 2) at the next rank, I am entitled to a free class. My wife -- who has a Master's degree -- is eager to use the benefit to take a class -- ANY class just so long as is interesting!]

    Be that as it may, while I applaud anyone who seeks advancing education for personal enrichment, I remain concerned by the "academic industry" which seems more focused on creating entirely new credentials more for feeding "prestige ego" and/or institutional profit.than for societal/professional benefit.
  14. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    And SLAC means ....? :confused:
  15. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I don't think that most of the PhD online learners at accredited schools just do it for "ego". It is a real expensive piece of paper just to call yourself Doctor.
    Most people doing online PhDs do it for professional development and for future teaching positions. The ego seekers go for Breyer State, Rushmore, Century type of school that barely gives the right to call yourself Dr.
    I have seen few Centry and Breyer State people bragging about their Dr. status in different discussion boards and few in business. I know about one accountant that brags to his clients about his Doctorate from Breyer State. The ego seekers are not willing to pay and do the amount required to get a real doctorate so they go for a cheaper and barely legal option.
  16. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    Sorry ...

    SLAC = small liberal arts college

    as opposed to

    HBCU = historically Black college/university


    R1 (research 1) university
  17. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    I if was going through all this for ego, I would be really twisted. Call it what you want - parttime PhD, online, PhD, working mans PhD, it is still a real and earned PhD. When I am done (and I will finish it), I will be very proud of my degree.
  18. PsychPhD

    PsychPhD New Member

    Maybe it is just healthcare

    OK, guys ... you've convinced me!

    Credential creep is not a universal construct! :)

    Still -- and not dismissing the ego/turf protection motive of physicians -- I am still concerned that, at least in the healthcare fields, there seems to be a impetus for every discipline to "go doctoral" and expand their scopes of practice.

    Indeed there are shortages of physicians, particularly those who provide PRIMARY care, because of the exodus to the higher paying specialties. Nurse practioners (and physician assistants who we don't hear much about nowadays) exploited that "undefended" opening. By and large, when NP/PAs focused on the basics of primary care, the evidence is strong they do provide a valid and valuable service.

    However,what used to be known as "allied health professions" are all designing doctoral programs and insinuating they too need to specialize, why? (And, sorry to bring it up again, but look at the curricula of advanced level nurses -- there is an awful lot of public policy/advocacy coursework and not as much clinical training as you'd think.)

    In the pursuit of advancement, those who were qualified to enter said professions leave behind the direct/primary care positions (like physicians did). Now we have bunches of clinicians all wanting to be 'the doctor' but who's actually providing the care?

    And I do sincerely believe it will leave healthcare consumers confused and befuddled as more people at the bedside are all doctors.
  19. Malajac

    Malajac Member

    I don't know much about the medical practice, in US or elsewhere, but if there is no real need for the DNP, why are the likes of Columbia and Johns Hopkins playing along?
  20. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    Perhaps all healthcare providers (especially those with doctorates) should have their credential printed in large block letters on their uniform or coat (e.g. Dr. Jane Doe, PHYSICAL THERAPIST). This would certainly remove any ambiguity about what kind of doctor they are.

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