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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Sierra Fronk cuts the straps on a zone 3 extensor tendon repair orthotic for classmate Madison Deloney during class at Huntington University's occupational therapy program based at Parkview Randallia.

Thursday, June 22, 2017 1:00 am

Doctoral opportunities slim

Few area schools offer degrees outside health care

RON SHAWGO | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Grace College

Programs: Doctor of ministry, Doctor of intercultural studies

Description: “... to enhance professional competence by expanding upon an initial foundation of theological studies and ministry experience to enable those in vocational ministry to enhance current strengths, address areas of weakness, and increase overall effectiveness.”


Program: Occupational therapy

Description: Promotes “development in faith, health and wellness, leadership skills, advanced practice, research and professional service.”

Indiana Tech

Program: Doctor in global leadership

Description: Advances “ability to lead in today's multifaceted environment and to conduct cross cultural research to examine interrelationships between culture and organizational leadership.”


Program: Doctor of pharmacy

Description: “... puts students into experiential settings – community pharmacies, clinical, hospital and institutional – exposes future pharmacists to imagine a variety of career possibilities and applies real-world meaning to classroom and lab lessons.”


Program: Doctor of physical therapy

Description: Prepare students “to sit for licensure and finally practice in a clinical setting; consists of lectures, labs, and clinical education with an emphasis on real patient care experiences.”

Saint Francis

Program: Doctor of nursing practice (fall 2017)

Description: “Students perform a minimum of 2,000 operating room hours and log 600 cases spanning each specialty area, such as open heart, thoracic, obstetrical and pediatric surgery.”

Sources: School websites

Doctoral degrees, the pinnacle of a college education, are few in northeast Indiana, with most focusing on the health care industry. Jobs in health care are growing, and fields such as occupational and physical therapy pay well for those with doctoral degrees.

Why there aren't more doctoral programs likely boils down to the expense of starting one, authorities say. Outside of health care, with jobs in high demand, it might be more challenging for other doctoral programs to subsidize the cost, said Ruth Ford, director and founder of the occupational therapy programs at Huntington University.

“But I am quite surprised at how few programs there are in this greater area, and that's maybe an undermet need,” she said. “And if we would bring in more higher-level education we would have more growth opportunities here locally.”

Elaine Pontillo agrees that expense is an issue. She is director of Indiana Tech's global leadership doctoral program, one of the few not related to health care.

“I think there's a need,” she said. “We're private, so we have a little more flexibility in building it.”

Doctoral and professional degrees earn top wages and have the lowest unemployment rate compared with lower education attainment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for those degrees is projected to grow 12.2 percent by 2014, second only to a master's degree at 13.8 percent.

Nationwide, doctoral and professional degree-holders earn a median annual wage of $103,280, according to the government. Those with a high school diploma or equivalent earn $37,110.

Occupational and physical therapists earn median salaries of more than $80,000. Both jobs are projected to grow much faster than other jobs in the next several years.

A doctoral degree in occupation therapy is offered by Huntington University; Trine University offers one in physical therapy.

Huntington's occupational therapy degree is an entry-level doctorate, one of the first 12 in the nation, Ford said.

The first class graduated in May. Students are trained to work with kids with feeding problems or help with handwriting in public schools, she said. They work with behavior management. Amputees and those needing tendon repair or joint replacement are candidates for an occupational therapist. They help those dealing with substance abuse, cancer or other major disability, Ford said.

“The main thing is restoring the occupations that are meaningful to that person and to their family, how they fit back into their community, back into their work lives or just their daily activities,” she said. “So, it's all about helping a person reengage in meaningful occupations.”

Students enrolled in the Huntington program are in such demand that they can get jobs wherever they want to live, Ford said. Students come from across the country.

“The interesting thing is they're coming to town and they're really enjoying Fort Wayne,” she said. Many want to stay and are working for local hospitals, school systems, and in long-term care facilities, Ford said.

Global leadership is the only doctoral program at Indiana Tech. It is researched-based and has a research core and leadership core. Students declare concentration in organizational management or higher education leadership. The degree offers “an opportunity to advance your ability to lead in today's multifaceted environment and to conduct cross cultural research to examine interrelationships between culture and organizational leadership,” according to the Indiana Tech's website.

Courses are online, but students are required to come to three on-campus events before they graduate.

One graduate had been involved in homeland security at the airports in New York and is now working in Washington, D.C., in homeland security, Pontillo said. Another student was an assistant vice president at a state university in Nebraska and is now chief financial officer at a University of Arkansas campus. Researchers at Eli Lilly and Co. have enrolled, she said. “So, it's a very broad range.”

With the degree, most students move up in their current position or move to a different organization with more responsibility, Pontillo said.

“We are finding that having the title and the program dedicated to global leadership and looking at global competence and awareness of other cultures, cultural sensitivity and so forth, is quite popular,” she said. “People are looking for that, companies are looking for that. Many of our students are having their tuition paid by their employers because they are very interested in developing their international presence.”