Two Masters Better than A Doctorate?
October 30, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

If all goes well, in Spring 2011 I will have finally completed my Masters in Mental Health Counseling. But I want to apply my degree to higher education.

My Masters doesn't grant me all the credits needed for licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Clinician in my state. I would need to do another year to earn the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in order to have enough credit hours to sit for the licensure exam. And I am positive that I don't want to do that. Rather, I want to continue working in Higher Ed (I'm currently a lowly assistant in an academic department) and move into a Dean of Students office, Diversity Services office, or a Student Success program.

I am considering, after completing my MS in Counseling on getting a second Masters in Higher Ed administration with a focus on student affairs or a Masters in Student Affairs (same thing, labeled differently). I am wondering though, if an Ed.D. of some sort would be a better for my ultimate goals. I am not questioning the work that would go into an Ed.D and the time to do so --- those are serious considerations that I am weighing in on and I am well aware of all of those associated issues, so I would like this to avoid becoming about the process of a doctorate degrees. I actually turned down doctorate programs in another field a few years ago for a variety of reasons. I'm well aware of what goes into completing a doctorate, and now I'm a different place in my life and far more sure about what I want to do, it is something to consider again. But what I am wondering is if two Masters degrees that I consider interrelated and useful to my career goals would be better or equal to a doctorate in terms of achieving my career goals. Would I be able to be hired as an Assistant Dean of Students, for example, with two masters degrees and a couple of years of administration experience? Or would a doctorate give me a better chance at that?

I would be interested in keeping up with research after finishing a doctorate if that is the route I decide to go, but what's important here is that I want to work in an applied setting most of all. Teaching a couple of classes here and there would be great, but mostly I want to work with students outside of the classroom, work on improving institutional policies and creating a campus environment conducive to student success outside of the classroom and academic components of student life. I'm very much interested in the intersection of a student's academic and personal life, and how the two are often entwined and inseparable for students and what higher ed institutions can do when something personal in a student's life is affecting the academics.

So, AskMe, how would you consider two Masters degree v.s a doctorate for career goals such as mine? Which, in your esteemed opinion, would be the route best for my career goals?
posted by zizzle to Education (3 answers total)
I do not think the second Masters degree will get you where you want to go at all. Typically higher education environments care more about the level of degree you have and less about what it is in. Your second Masters would not be at all equal to having an Ed.D, and for positions that require PhD level work to apply (Deans and such) your second Masters would not qualify you.

I have a Masters in Education Admin/Student Services and lots of people who do the same work I do (Career/Academic Advising) have degrees in Counseling. I think at this point, if you are interested in being an Assistant Dean or something like that, the best avenue to pursue is getting a few years of student contact and administrative experience. Educationally, you are probably fine with the Masters in Counseling
posted by mjcon at 9:40 AM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I work in Higher Ed, with a Masters in Counseling and Psychology. mjcon is pretty much spot on.

You need to get into the work force and get some experience first. Depending on your final career goals, and the type of institution that you want to work for, the Ed.D. may not be needed. However, if you get the Ed.D. now, you will probably "over qualify" yourself out of the entry level jobs you need in order to start working up the ladder. You can't become a Dean of Students in a couple of years (in most places...very small or less "traditional" colleges may look at it differently) need experience in how the different areas of Student Affairs works before you can become Dean over those areas. Besides, many of us go back to get our doctorate...either at the school we are working for or at a nearby school (so it turns out to be free). There's plenty of time for the doctorate.

You don't need the Higher Ed/Student Affairs Masters either. Most of the jobs out there call for "Masters in Higher Ed, Student Affairs, Counseling, or a related field." So you can very well get a job once you finish your Counseling degree, but keep in mind that it may not be at a major university with a Higher Ed grad program of their own. My first job in the field was at a small institution where they were more interested in my actual skills and how I would apply them rather than what my degree said.

I do suggest reading up on Student Development Theory, and some of the current stuff going on in Higher Ed so that you will be knowledgeable during your interviews. Check out or . If you are interested in a particular area (Residence Life, Fraternities and Sororities, Student Activities, Career Development, etc) there are associations out there for those specific populations as well. Also, don't discount the idea of becoming a counselor at a University Counseling Center. Once again, depending on the institution you choose, you can be a counselor but also work with student organizations or other areas.

Good Luck!
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreed with the other two posters. A second master's (unless you have a doctorate as well) makes you seem as though you either fear or resist going to the next level.

Doctorates are surprisingly easy to earn... you've done the hardest part by getting through the bachelor's and master's programs. A great book is by Robert L. Peters, "Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or a Ph.D." He has a doctorate from Stanford and he did a ton of research on this. Great book.
posted by fortunaa at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2009

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