Over the past decade, new types of doctorates – new “professional practice” doctorates – have emerged in a number of fields, ranging from physical therapy and nursing to information management and bioethics. Nationally, programs in these new professional practice doctoral fields have skyrocketed from near zero to over 500 programs today, with about 10,000 degrees awarded just in the past year and roughly 35,000-40,000 students now enrolled. Many more programs are in the planning stages. Many of these new programs are being offered at institutions that a decade ago had no doctoral studies. These institutions are necessarily facing significant challenges as – or if – they transition into doctoral education.
These trends raise significant policy questions, for example: What has driven the growth of professional practice doctorates? (an increasingly complex work environment? an unnecessary ratcheting of credential requirements? institutional prestige-seeking?) Will these programs produce professionals who can serve their clients and organizations better? Will they limit access to the profession? How will these professional practice doctorates affect traditional institutional missions, especially at teaching-oriented institutions? What are the resource implications for institutions and for higher education more broadly?
My study uses both national data and selected case studies to address the following questions: (1) What have been the trends in the spread of new professional practice doctorates in the U.S. over the past decade? (2) What is driving the increased credential requirements in these fields and subsequent emergence of new types of doctorates? (3) How have new professional practice doctoral programs impacted institutions, especially those that had not previously offered doctorates?
Ami Zusman is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley. Before retiring, she served as Coordinator of Graduate Education Planning and Analysis for the University of California system, where she directed long-range planning, policy, and student-outcomes assessment of graduate academic and professional programs for the UC system. She authored or co-authored a number of reports for the UC system, including analyses of professional doctorates, self-supporting graduate programs, interdisciplinary graduate education, and workforce projections for graduate degree recipients. She has published on a variety of higher education issues, including university/state conflicts, current challenges facing higher education, and school/college collaborations. She received her Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy from UC Berkeley.