Higher and Higher Education

Many people currently in allied health jobs worry that state standards will now require more and more academic credentials. The more credentials are required, the more difficult it is to enter the field, especially since academic degrees are expensive to obtain.

According to an article by Ellie Ashford in Community College Times:

If attempts to require nurses and respiratory therapists to have a bachelor’s degree succeed, community college leaders are concerned that “degree creep” will hit other areas in the health professions.

Similar discussions are under way for nuclear medicine technology professionals, radiographers, dental hygienists and dieticians. Degree creep—mandating higher degrees than are needed to perform a job—is happening at the upper levels, too. In the past, physical therapists needed a bachelor’s degree to practice; today, they need a doctorate.

A better educated workforce seems to make some degree of sense. The problem, however, is that no one really knows if this education, which students pay for themselves, really matters at all. There’s virtually no evidence that bachelor’s degrees in nursing and respiratory care, or doctorates in physical therapy, improve care at all.

Evidence suggests that health professionals with bachelor’s degrees do no better than associate degree holders on licensing exams. They’re also no better at the job later on, once they’re hired for the same position. So what’s the point of all this?

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer