Why Choose A Dual Degree?
Ariana Tabing, VMS ‘15
The number of medical students pursuing dual degrees has increased considerably over the last few years. As you can see by the remarkable list on the left, many medical students here at Vanderbilt take the opportunity to supplement their medical education by pursuing graduate or professional degrees. Students can pursue degrees in nearly any discipline, including public health, business administration, education, law, the humanities, and basic sciences.
Obtaining an additional degree requires an investment of time, money, or both but can be incredibly rewarding and provide an added richness to the MD. For many, obtaining a degree just to enhance a resume or “add more letters” may not be worth the additional years and thousands of dollars. However, there are many instances where a dual degree is invaluable. For example, if you know you want to work in global health policy, then an MPH is almost essential for many positions.
There are a few questions to consider before undertaking a dual degree such as: “Is now the best time?” “Am I compromising my education by combining degrees?” “Can I afford it?” “Is a second degree necessary to my career goals?” To answer specific financial questions and other questions you may have, it’s best to talk directly with medical students who have decided to pursue the dual degree you are interested in.
Waiting until after medical school may actually be attractive to students who are not certain that an additional degree is required for their career goals. Many residency programs allow residents to work towards a master’s degree while completing their training. However, certain Vanderbilt joint programs, such as the MBA and the JD, allow MD students to complete the additional degree with only 1 or 2 additional years instead of 2 and 3, respectively. Taking a year during medical school also gives students more time to consider their career goals and delay their decision to choose a specialty. Some students also find that the year off prevents burn out and allows them to step back and gain new perspective on their medical education. Here are some of the more popular programs here at Vanderbilt.
MD/MPH: “The global physician.” The MD/MPH is particularly useful for students interested in preventative health, global health, and healthcare policy. At Vanderbilt, the program is approximately 15 months for medical students - one semester of didactic courses in basic MPH skills, one semester of global health (or epidemiology) specific coursework, and then a practicum and thesis work. Students can apply in any year, and the MCAT is accepted in place of the GRE. Mary DeAgostino, a current MD/MPH student, states, “The new global health track of the MPH program here at Vanderbilt was particularly attractive to me as it allows me to get foundational skills of MPH research as well as complete a practicum in my area of interest.”
MD/MBA: With the enormous focus on healthcare reform and the business of healthcare, demand for medical students with training in healthcare management continues to increase. At the Owen School of Management, the first three years are spent in medical school, the fourth year at the Owen School, and the final year is a mix between the two. If a student is interested in pursuing the MBA at a different institution, it typically requires two additional years. Students must take the GMAT or the GRE and apply at the beginning of their third year. One popular concentration is the Health Care MBA, which is of interest to students who want to understand how the myriad pieces of the health care system and its delivery, finance, medical and information technology, entrepreneurship, regulation and policy fit together. Graduates of MD/MBA programs can find careers in healthcare consulting, pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical devices, managing private practices, and leading healthcare organizations.
MD/M.Ed.: Students who are interested in having educational responsibilities as a significant part of their career may benefit from this degree. Double counting of credits allows both degrees in five years, three and a half years in medical school and one and half years in Peabody. The last year is split between the two, similar to the MBA. Medical students have the opportunity to define an area of interest for the M.Ed. degree. Jake DeVolder hopes, “I chose medicine to make a difference, and this degree will potentially put me in a position to make positive change in how we educate future physicians.”