Assessment of the Graduate Studies

Assessment of the Graduate StudiesOBJECTIVE: To identify the degrees held and the graduate majors or fields of study for faculty teaching full-time and part-time in university-based, baccalaureate-degree clinical laboratory science/medical technology (CLS/MT) programs.

DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: A survey and letter of project explanation was sent electronically to the 110 program directors of NAACLS-accredited university-based CLS/MT programs in the United States in May, 2003. Program directors were requested to provide for each full-time and part-time faculty member the following information: Faculty programss for all degrees held, major/field of study for each degree held, all specialist certifications held, all other formal degrees or certificates held, and all courses/areas taught in the CLS curriculum.

RESULTS: Information was provided on 288 faculty in 52 CLS/MT programs, for a response rate of 47%. The majority of faculty (75%) described were full-time. A doctorate was held by 43% of the reported faculty, while 46% held a master's degree as their highest degree, and 11% only a BS in CLS or in biology plus a certificate from a hospital-based CLS/MT program. Graduate degrees in a science major or field represented 52% of the degrees held by the reported faculty, while 48% of the graduate degrees were in education, public health, or administration. Only 13% of the reported faculty held master's degrees specifically in CLS. Detailed results are provided for degrees held, majors/fields of study, and specialist certifications by specific courses/areas of the curriculum taught.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this survey indicate that many faculty teaching in university-based CLS/MT programs are extending their preparation as scientists to the graduate level. This should prepare these faculty for their responsibilities in not only teaching but also research. A case cannot be made that a doctorate, as opposed to a master's degree, is viewed as the 'terminal degree' as less than half of the reported faculty in this study as well as others, held a doctorate. The results reported provide a national perspective on the graduate backgrounds of CLS faculty for comparison to an individual program's faculty during programmatic or institutional accreditation reviews.

ABBREVIATIONS: CLDir = Clinical Laboratory Director; CLS = clinical laboratory science; CLS/MT = clinical laboratory science/medical technology; CLSpH = Clinical Laboratory Specialist in Hematology; CLSup = Clinical Laboratory Supervisor; DABCC = Diplomat of the American Board of Clinical Chemistry; DHS = Doctor of Health Science; DLM = Diplomat in Laboratory Management; DrPH = Doctor of Public Health degree; DSc = Doctor of Science degree; EdD = Doctor of Education degree; MAEd = Master of Arts in Education; MAT = Master of Arts in Teaching; MBA = Master of Business Administration; MEd = Master of Education; MPH = Master of Public Health; MS = Master of Science; MSEd = Master of Science in Education; MSPH = Master of Science in Public Health; MT = medical technology; NAACLS = National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences; SACS = Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; SBB = Specialist in Blood Bank; SC = Specialist in Chemistry; SH = Specialist in Hematology; SM = Specialist in Microbiology.

Note: The term clinical laboratory science is used to be synonymous with medical technology, and the abbreviation CLS is used to be synonymous with MT.

INDEX TERMS: CLS faculty; CLS faculty graduate degrees; CLS programs.

Clin Lab Sci 2004;17(4):209


The impetus for conducting this study was East Carolina University's reaccreditation site-visit by a team representing the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). More specifically, the SACS team's review of faculty educational backgrounds and graduate degrees institution-wide was the catalyst for the assessment of graduate studies of CLS faculty teaching in baccalaureate-degree, university-based programs in the U.S.

SACS, as well as other organizations that award regional accreditation to institutions of higher education, have specific standards that must be met to maintain accreditation. The standards related to the graduate backgrounds of faculty teaching in baccalaureate degree programs vary among the regional accrediting bodies. Based on the author's review of these standards for six such organizations that are themselves accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the SACS standards seem to be slightly more specific and stringent.1

The SACS faculty standards include guidelines that state: "[For] faculty teaching baccalaureate degree courses: a doctoral or a master's degree in the teaching discipline (minimum of 18 graduate semester hours in the teaching discipline). At least 25% of the discipline course hours in each undergraduate major are taught by faculty members holding the terminal degree - usually the earned doctorate - in the discipline."2

The other regional accrediting associations that were reviewed have faculty guidelines that could have a more liberal interpretation. The other associations' faculty guidelines include the following: "It employs a faculty that has earned from accredited institutions the degrees appropriate to the level of instruction offered by the institution."3; "The institution has an instructional staffing plan that includes a sufficient number of fulltime faculty with appropriate backgrounds by discipline and degree levels."4: "...faculty and other professionals appropriately prepared and qualified for the positions they hold, with roles and responsibilities clearly defined, and sufficiently numerous to fulfill these roles appropriately".5; "The faculty is adequate in number and qualifications to meet its obligations toward achievement of the institution's missions and goals."; ".. .faculty are qualified by academic background, degree(s), and/ or professional experience to carry out their teaching assignment..."6; and "The preparation and qualifications of all faculty are suited to the field and level of their assignments. Qualifications are measured by advanced degrees held, evidence of scholarship, advanced study, creative activities, and relevant professional experience, training, and credentials."7

The three full-time Department of Clinical Laboratory Science faculty at East Carolina University (ECU) all hold their graduate degrees in fields other than CES or MT, with two of the full-time faculty holding a PhD, and the third fulltime faculty holding a MS. All three part-time faculty hold a BS in CES as their highest degrees. Consequently, none of the CES faculty was viewed by the site-visitors as being "in compliance" with the SACS faculty background requirements. In essence, the Department was being asked to justify to SACS why none of the CES faculty holds a doctorate in his/her teaching field, i.e., specifically in CES or MT. secondary to this question was the requirement to justify the appropriateness of each faculty's "alternate qualifications" for teaching in CES and for the specific courses he/she taught. To address these issues, the author sought to obtain information that could be used to compare ECUs CES faculty with faculty teaching in the same type of CES programs, i.e., BS degree and university-based in the U.S.


Several approaches to obtaining relevant information were pursued. First, an assessment of the availability of CES doctoral programs in the U.S. was conducted. A search of the Thomson/Peterson website for Peterson's Guide to Graduate Programs was performed using the descriptors "clinical laboratory science" or "medical technology".8 Only two doctoral programs specifically in CES were found: a PhD in Biomédical Sciences/Track in Medical Eaboratory Sciences at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, and a PhD in Clinical Eaboratory Science at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Many doctoral degree programs were listed in the fields of "clinical chemistry" and "clinical microbiology" throughout the U.S. Only one doctoral program was found using the descriptors "hematology" or "immunohematology" which was a Doctor of Science program in Hematology and Transplantation Science at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Eexington. Over 20 PhD programs in pathology with tracks in various CES fields including clinical chemistry, clinical microbiology, immunology, and toxicology most frequently, and occasionally hematology or immunohematology, were also found. Interestingly, most of the PhD in pathology programs appeared to aim their student selection at predominantly biology and chemistry majors, though a few also listed CES majors.