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Community College to Graduate School Pathway Most Prevalent in Health Fields

by | Nov 9, 2017 | Research Reports, Snapshot Reports |

Students who earned master’s degrees and doctoral-research degrees in health and clinical sciences were most likely to have entered higher education in a community college, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s recently released Community College to Graduate and Professional Degrees. The new data snapshot details the extent that community colleges act as a first step toward the eventual completion of graduate and professional degrees.

More than 26 percent of master’s degree earners in health and clinical sciences entered higher education through a community college, while 18.5 percent earned an associate degree from a community college. Students seeking a master’s in health and clinical science are often employed in the health care industry and may want to gain more advanced technical or leadership skills.

Meanwhile, almost 22 percent of doctoral-research degree earners in health and clinical sciences entered higher education through a community college, while more than 15 percent previously earned an associate degree from a community college. Doctoral-research degrees include the Ph.D. and other research-intensive credentials, as designated by the awarding institution.

The research also showed that students who earned professional degrees in medicine were about as likely to have entered higher education in a community college (5.5 percent) as students who earned professional degrees in law (6.2 percent). Examples of medical professional degrees include the Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry, Doctor of Optometry, and others, as designated by the awarding institution.

“Community college can be an entry point not only to a bachelor’s degree, but also to graduate and professional education,” said Jason DeWitt, Research Manager at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Within some career fields, such as healthcare, the community college pathway allows working adults to incrementally enhance their skillsets while also meeting the demands of full- or part-time employment.”

Analysis in this report is based on credentials reported to the Clearinghouse through its DegreeVerify service. The Research Center estimates that credentials being reported through the DegreeVerify service account for 89 percent of associate degrees; 98 percent of bachelor’s degrees; 95 percent of master’s degrees; and 93 percent of doctoral degrees awarded in 2016-17. These estimates are based on comparing Clearinghouse degree counts to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) degree counts for each degree level.

To learn about other fields of study and the research, see the above chart from the first Community College to Graduate and Professional Degrees snapshot report.

“Within some career fields, such as healthcare, the community college pathway allows working adults to incrementally enhance their skillsets while also meeting the demands of full- or part-time employment.”

Jason DeWitt
Research Manager at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

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