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Melissa Engelson, Doctor of Health Professions Education; Stephen Nickell, EdD; Jason Goodman, PhD

Choosing a Program that’s Right for You: DHPE vs EdD vs PhD

Making the decision to pursue a terminal degree is a tremendous commitment, and choosing a specific program to enroll in provides another set of challenges with much to consider. Below, three Logan faculty members share their experiences in their respective terminal degree programs and how each has impacted their current careers in academia. Melissa Engelson, DHPE (’20), DC, MS, CCSP, DACBSP graduated from Logan’s Doctor of Health Professions Education program, Stephen Nickell, EdD, LAT, ATC earned his Doctor of Education at the University of Missouri and Jason Goodman, PhD, DC (’98) pursued his Doctor of Philosophy at St. Louis University.

Give us a brief overview of your background and experience.
  • Engelson, DHPE: I provided chiropractic care at a private practice for a while but just wasn’t satisfied, so I came to Logan in 2010 for the sports and rehab residency. I always loved sports science and knew I wanted to stay in the clinical setting, but I had a desire to enter into the world of academia.
  • Nickell, EdD: I spent over two decades as an athletic trainer and had a lot of experience directing AT programs at a few different higher education institutions. I came to Logan in 2018 as the director of the online sports science and rehab program, although my role has evolved a bit since then.
  • Goodman, PhD: I graduated from the DC program at Logan in 1998 and went into private practice for about ten years before I came back to begin teaching at Logan. I found my passion in education and working with students.
Describe your current role at Logan.
  • Engelson, DHPE: I’ve been in a variety of positions since coming to Logan over a decade ago and am currently an educational administrator. In this position, I support the office of the dean and teach in the College of Health Sciences for the Master of Science in Sports Science & Rehabilitation program and undergraduate courses.
  • Nickell, EdD: I am currently the sports & exercise science department chair and Master’s in Athletic Training program director. Additionally, I work with all programs at Logan to create more interprofessional opportunities for students.
  • Goodman, PhD: I am the director of external clinical rotations and an associate professor. A lot of my work focuses on helping students realize their passions and guiding them in finding a great path to success.
Why did you decide to pursue a terminal degree, and what led you to choose the program you did?
  • Engelson, DHPE: I taught for a few years while working as the assistant director of the Human Performance Center at Logan. I absolutely loved what I was doing, but I knew there was more I could learn to better serve my students, so I began looking at doctorate programs in leadership or education. I decided Logan’s Doctor of Health Professions Education program would be a perfect fit, as I was already being mentored by Dr. Cheryl Houston, the program’s founder and director at the time.
  • Nickell, EdD: I knew I wanted to stay and progress my career in higher education, which required a doctoral degree. I considered a few other terminal degree programs like a Doctorate of Athletic Training or a PhD before landing on an EdD. For me, the content of the EdD program was the most relevant to my career. It contained more hands-on application than the other programs and it made the most financial sense.
  • Goodman, PhD: When I first came to Logan, I was an academic advisor for one of the master’s degree programs, which sparked a desire to further my own education. I was in a unique position since my DC was not a terminal degree, but I began looking at doctoral programs that focused on higher education administration. I was on the fence between a PhD and an EdD. Ultimately, the PhD program I was considering offered the focus on higher education administration, which is what I knew I was passionate about.
Tell us about your experience in your terminal degree program.
  • Engelson, DHPE: I really enjoyed the practical, technology-focused courses. I was immediately able to apply what I was learning as a student, which allowed me to enhance my planning and teaching as an instructor and my duties as an administrator.
  • Nickell, EdD: The group of people I went through the program with were mostly educators, administrators and faculty in the K-12 education space. This was great because I was able to learn as much from my peers as I did from my professors, due to their diverse backgrounds, ideas and perspectives.
  • Goodman, PhD: While earning a PhD is so rewarding, it’s not for the faint of heart. You must be ready to dedicate a lot of time and effort to a program like this. But, studying alongside other professionals, many well on their way into their careers, was an incredible experience. I was able to work with other individuals who were already employed at higher education facilities, so I learned just as much from my classmates as I did from the coursework.
How has your degree helped you in your career or current role?
  • Engelson, DHPE: Through earning my Doctor of Health Professions Education, I have become a better teacher for my students. The material I learned in these courses was directly applicable to my work as a professor and as an administrator.
  • Nickell, EdD: The leadership training I received in my EdD program has been very beneficial to my current role. I also really enjoyed the educational leadership, policy analysis and assessment courses I took, which were beneficial when I was tasked with creating a new program and department.
  • Goodman, PhD: The classes I took on student development theory taught me so much about how students learn and how students of today differ from students of the past. This was so important because it helped me help students at Logan more impactfully since I understood how they learn and make decisions. Additionally, I learned so much about understanding research methods and the importance of research to higher education.
Do you have any advice for people looking to further their education by earning a terminal degree?
  • Engelson, DHPE: Choosing a doctorate program can be difficult, so it’s important to ask yourself what you want to get out of it. I wanted to be able to better educate my students. I can proudly say that Logan’s Doctor of Health Professions Education program enabled me to do so.
  • Nickell, EdD: Pursing a terminal degree is a huge commitment. It’s important to look at the program’s content and flexibility as well as the time you will have to spend working toward it. Ask yourself what you are passionate about and what you want to do with this degree. Assess the program and determine if it will help get you to your end goal. Be fully aware of what you’re getting into. The majority of your time will be spent writing, which takes a lot of focus and self-discipline.
  • Goodman, PhD: Always strive to educate your brain and continue the learning process. That doesn’t have to mean earning a degree, but if that’s the path you take, choosing a field that really interests you will make it much easier to stick with it, and it will be more beneficial to you and your career. And make sure you have a support system in place before starting a program. Having someone to always lend an encouraging word does wonders.

If you think Logan’s Doctor of Health Professions Education program is right for you, get in touch with our admissions team today!