An entry-level MS degree in clinical laboratory science: is it time?Clin Lab Sci 2002; 15(3):167-76CL
The study was undertaken to address the following questions: 1) Does the scope of practice of the clinical laboratory scientist require an entry-level master's (MS) degree? 2) How would a change to an entry-level MS degree in clinical laboratory science (CLS) affect educational programs, the practice field, and students? and 3) Based on this study, what recommendations can be made to CLS educators?
Surveys were developed to assess the opinions of educators, managers, and practitioners on the need for an entry-level MS degree in CLS. Surveys were also sent to students to assess their interest in an entry-level MS degree and their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of program. Surveys sent to educators included questions addressing the effect of a change to an entry-level MS degree in CLS on enrollment and program viability. Managers were asked questions concerning job expectations and compensation for graduates with an entry-level MS degree and practitioners were asked about their interest in this type of program.
The sample for the survey included 280 directors of National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) educational programs, 600 managers randomly selected from the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) mailing list, 600 practitioners randomly selected from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) mailing list, and 1400 CLS students selected by program directors.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Educators, managers, and practitioners were asked to read 12 statements related to educational preparation for entry into CLS and indicate their level of agreement on a five point scale. Mean responses to these questions were compared for educators, managers, and practitioners, for educators in hospital-based and university-based programs, and for managers with BS and advanced degrees. Responses to demographic and other forced-choice type questions related to entry-level MS programs were counted and reported.
Response rates of 58% (educators), 28% (practitioners), 39% (managers), and 40% (students) were obtained. Educators, managers, and practitioners all agreed that the scope of practice of CLS does not require an entry-level MS degree and that the MS degree is appropriate for those practitioners who wish to further their education. There were no major differences in educators', managers', and practitioners' responses to questions on the need for an MS in CLS. Students indicated that they would be interested in an entry-level MS program if the additional education would give them higher salaries and more job opportunities. Students who entered their CLS program with a baccalaureate (BS) degree were more interested in the entry-level MS option than students who entered with an associate degree or high school diploma. Managers indicated that they would not pay a graduate with an entry-level MS degree more than a graduate with a baccalaureate degree.
There is currently no support for an overall change from the BS degree to the MS degree as the entry-level requirement for CLS practitioners. Entry-level MS programs in CLS may be attractive to students who already have BS degrees.