What is the value of a postgraduate degree? – Tips4EyeDocs Weekend; 4-5 Feb 2012; No. 44

Postgraduate degrees after the optometry (or any professional) holds a special place of importance in career planning. Typically, only a minority of doctors will ever think of another degree.  In the face of changing social, economic and political changes, however, a second degree may enhance career opportunities outside of the traditional examination lane.

Because doctors mainly concentrate their lives in their offices or in other clinical positions immediately after graduation, there is little thought that a career away from the office is ever contemplated. And these years in the office may not be relevant to any other career opportunities. To qualify for these another career, a second degree, usually a master’s or even a another doctorate may compensate for some or even all of the requirements of that career move.

The most common second degree is a masters degree and the concentration may vary from business to public health to public administration and even to a humanities area. The career opportunity that an eye doctor seeks will usually dictate the kind of masters degree.     Most aficionados of pedigreed degrees tout the networking with other students while other more pragmatic devotees will cite the ability to continue one’s own career while seeking the masters degree.

The pedigree of a degree is also not so important because this is a second degree. That means the the degree from a full time or part time basis; on site or online; public or private will not necessarily impact the your worthiness as a candidate

A new form of postgraduate education, the certificate, is also an option worth considering. Often certificates are focused on a specialty and may be obtained in clinical affairs, clinical research management and quality control; all areas that are relevant to the second career optometrist.  These certificates are short and can be completed in as little as six months; far shorter than a masters degree.

I’ve taken the approach of obtaining both a graduate business and a public administration/policy graduate education. In the former, this allowed me to take a hiatus or sabbatical from active clinical care to work in three computer hardware and software companies; something that is in no way related to optometry.  In the latter, I have met many other governmental policy experts and have become acquainted with federal and state policy formulation and analysis in areas outside of optometry.

In summary, there is value to a second degree or certificate after your doctor of optometry degree. It may provide geographic mobility that is almost impossible with just an optometry degree. And often the clinical knowledge and experience combined with the second degree will make you a worthy candidate for any employer.

About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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