For dentists, the era of advanced degrees (Part 1)
Today, it is more common than ever before for dentists to go back to school for advanced degrees. Why? Until the 1990s, most doctors were content to have only one advanced degree and never step foot in a school again. So why are so many individuals going back to school for advanced degrees, and is advanced education really worth the effort?
Many doctors viewed the idea of continued learning more as a need, rather than a desire, to become more educated as clinicians, educators and/or leaders. This obviously has become a reality. Then with the coming of state-required mandatory C.E. credits for licensure, Internet courses began springing up, and schools and private institutions viewed this as a new way of increasing revenue.
In 2002, 22 dental schools offered dual-degree programs. Dental schools in the United States and Canada were not encouraging potential dental scientists to follow career paths that dental education desperately needed; some dental students view dentistry only as a technical discipline, while others who are interested in teaching and research careers might pursue research degrees (PhD).
Today in 2016, almost all postgraduate orthodontic programs range from two to four years in duration; some offer certificates in orthodontics, and others confer MS and/or PhD degrees. With the progressive emphasis on evidence-based dentistry and the ongoing shortage of dental faculty, dental schools became instrumental in training future dental faculty.
Some dental schools offer clinical and graduate training concomitantly, but there are far more institutions where research training is not a priority or an easily accessible option. A concept of “dental scientist” has been described for individuals who have completed fundamental dentistry as well as rigorous formal research education leading to the PhD degree.
Adult education popularity has definitely become a reality. The need for continuing education with regard to adults in general, but especially working professional adults, is going to become even more pervasive in the future; it is more than just an intellectual exercise.
With the demand for education for adults, it is important for administrators to know how to plan for, market and accommodate this student population.
A key challenge for program planners will be to match organizational goals, delivery methods and institutional policies with the actual educational needs of adult students.
Thus, alea iacta est, the die has been cast for dentists to earn multiple graduate degrees but how, when and why?