What’s a Terminal Degree?

What’s a Terminal Degree?
06 Sep 2012

Depending on how you approach the question of “what’s a terminal degree?” you may get two or more answers that appear from a surface-level perspective to conflict with one another. Whether you are a student who is now researching the steps to obtain your MBA in Online Healthcare or you are currently in the healthcare administration field and are pondering returning to school for an advanced degree, taking the time to stop and carefully consider each angle will only serve to benefit you in your long-term educational planning.

From the perspective of your specific field, finding your terminal degree may sometimes feel like chasing a moving target. As you begin to assess the educational path that can lead you towards the achievement of your ultimate career goals, the bullseye will be a lot clearer.

Understanding the Phrase “Terminal Degree”

Because studying towards an advanced degree is a big step, whether you are in school currently or you are planning to return, you must be prepared to answer two questions before making the leap: what is a terminal degree in your field overall and what is a terminal degree for your particular career aspirations? Once you know the answer to each of these two questions, you can make your decision about pursuing higher education in healthcare administration – or any field, for that matter – with confidence. It is also helpful here to keep in mind the general working definition of the term “terminal degree.” In nearly every country around the world, a terminal degree basically translates as “the highest educational degree a student can obtain in their chosen field.”

A Terminal Degree is Different in Different Fields

Keeping this general definition in mind, you must now move on to consider the terminal degree relevant to your particular field. Your task will be to look all the way up the educational ladder and determine where it stops in your specific area.  Whether it is healthcare administration, human resources, accounting, nonprofit management, nutritional science or another, your first step is to determine, were you to continue all the way up the ladder until you locate the highest degree, what would that degree be? In most fields, a terminal degree is found when you arrive at the doctorate level. One field might award an M.D. (medical doctor), while another field might award a Ph.D. (Doctorate of Philosophy). In the field of healthcare administration, if you obtain your mba healthcare administration degree, you will still need to step up one more rung to earn your D.H.A. (Doctorate in Health Administration) before you reach your terminal degree.

Your Terminal Degree Destination May Differ From That of Others

Now, it is time to consider how will this potential terminal degree affect your overall career aspirations. It may also be helpful here to seek out a mentor or career counselor who can guide you. They can assist you in thinking through the type of intellectual, financial, time management, quality of life, retirement and other considerations you may need to ponder before making a firm decision. At one stateside university, a professor polled her advanced degree students. She discovered that, on average, the students who wrote down their goals were 33 percent more likely to achieve those goals than the students who did do so. Part of being able to record your goals is also to first know what, exactly, your goals are. This is where examining the investment of time and money versus potential career growth opportunities comes into play. Obtaining an online healthcare mba degree or other advanced degree can facilitate your reach. It will help you make a clear decision; a decision about what your specific career aspirations are and what you need to do to achieve them.

There is one final wrinkle left to consider. In today’s marketplace so many educational paths tend to twist, intertwine and overlap. A degree that may be considered a terminal degree in one career path may be just a stepping stone on the road towards a terminal degree for a complementary career path. This is why, ultimately, doing your research and homework is the only approach to determine the level of education you need to achieve your personal career goals.


Zach Sanchez

A recent MBA graduate who just completed an internship in London, Zach knows an excessive amount about the extensive world of education.

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