First Professional Doctorate

PCOM allowed me to grow and express myself creatively. I had attended many different schools in search of my calling, but none held my interest like PCOM. On the first day of school, I distinctly remember the feeling of finding my niche, and it held for all four years. This feeling endured, and upon completing my master’s, I went straight into the doctoral program with only one week between.
Dr. Uchenna Egwuonwu, LAc

First Professional Doctorate

PCOM Receives Approval from WASC to Offer FPD

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) is well into the process of developing and offering what has become known as the first professional doctorate in acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine. The College has received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) to offer the program. At the same time, the College's academic leadership team is using this as an opportunity to review its master's of science programs with the goal of reducing repetition, increasing efficiency, and creating better articulation with the College's post-graduate doctorate (DAOM).

What is the First Professional Doctorate (FPD)?

PCOM's current doctoral degree, the Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM), is a post-graduate degree. It requires students to first complete a master's degree in acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine. The post-graduate DAOM does not provide entry-level training. Pacific's DAOM is designed for existing practitioners to become leaders through specialization; language skills; research; advanced, integrative clinical training; and the study of Chinese Classics. On the other hand, students can enter FPDs directly from undergraduate programs without prior acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine training and receive a doctoral degree upon graduation.

The FPD should be distinguished from the common term "first professional or entry level degree", which is the first professional degree leading to entry into a profession. Pacific College already has that. It is the master's degree. There is currently no movement to alter the minimum entry-level degree requirement on a nationwide basis and it is not expected to change in California, New York, or Illinois.

What is presently proposed for the FPD is a degree that expands on the minimum ACAOM standards for master's programs. For some schools that will be quite an expansion. However, Pacific College's MSTOM exceeds ACAOM's minimum master's training standards by approximately 900 hours and exceeds the first professional doctorate degree standards by approximately 500 hours.

The ACAOM FPD standards allow for separate Oriental medicine and acupuncture degrees, paralleling the MSTOM and MSAc degrees currently offered by Pacific College (the MSAc is offered in NY only at this time).

Will the professional doctorate (FPD) require a bachelor's degree?

No. The proposed admissions standards require three years (90 semester credits) of undergraduate education, which must include courses in biology, psychology, and chemistry. This is in contrast to the current two-year prerequisite for the master's programs.

Will the FPD graduates receive a different license to practice than those who graduate from MSTOM program?

No. Graduates of the Pacific College's MSTOM and MSAc programs would be eligible to sit for the same state and national licensing exams as they are now, and it is expected that FPD graduates will have the same right. However, the NCCAOM has no public statement yet regarding FPD graduates. There are no state initiatives to change the entry-level degree requirements or change the scope of practice for someone holding an FPD.

How will I earn a doctorate if I'm already in a master's program or have already graduated?

PCOM has developed a principle, "No Master's Left Behind", which it will advocate to ACAOM. Given the nearly identical content of the College's comprehensive master's degree and the FPD, Pacific College believes that 100% transfer credit should be awarded to master's students and graduates and that they should be required to take only those few credits that are different.

Will the professional doctorate (FPD) replace the post-graduate doctorate (DAOM)?

No. Even if the FPD is widely adopted, which is uncertain and may take a generation, the DAOM will serve the vital function of training advanced clinicians, specialists, researchers, and teachers for our profession.

What does this mean for the profession and what other professions have undergone a standard degree title change?

Many professions have gone through what has been commonly referred to as "degree creep," an increase in degree titles without significant changes to curriculum. Usually graduates who earned the earlier degree titles do not change their degrees. Examples of this include our own profession. Some of your more experienced teachers graduated from non-degree programs in the 1980s or 90s and do not have a master's degree, yet have all the rights and privileges to practice acupuncture. Another is the field of pharmacy, where students used to earn a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, while current students earn a Doctor of Pharmacy, with added time largely making room for general education. Both have the same right to practice. The entry-level education for physical therapists used to be a Master's of Physical Therapy. It is now a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). The physical therapy profession designed a transitional doctorate that enabled those with master's degrees to easily earn a doctorate. Our profession is exploring the option as well since many practitioners did not graduate from a master's program as comprehensive as PCOM's and may need significantly more courses to bridge the difference between the degrees.

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