What am I Qualified to Teach?

Christopher Davis
7 min readAug 11, 2022
Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Few things are as confusing and frustrating as understanding what you are qualified to teach in higher education. I have been teaching for over 25 years and been administrator in five different colleges and universities. For over fifteen years I have been a peer reviewer for two of the major higher ed accreditors, where often I had conversations with schools on this very topic.

Unfortunately, the rules are varied and subject to interpretation. The basic rules of thumb are that you should have either a terminal degree or at least one degree-level above the students that you are teaching. You should also have a graduate degree in the field you are teaching or a graduate degree in another field and 18 graduate credits in the field.

The first area of interpretation is what is a terminal degree. In many areas, the terminal degree is a doctorate, whether that is a PhD, EdD, DBA, MD, or other similar degree. In some fields, though, the terminal degree is not a doctorate and it can be ambiguous what the terminal degree is.

A JD is the terminal degree in law, and is technically a doctorate, but some will argue that it is not doctorate because it generally does not include a dissertation or other research project.

For paramedics, the terminal degree is the associate degree. I have not seen anyone offering a bachelor’s degree for paramedics or EMTs. At the same time, a medical doctor with experience in emergency medicine should be qualified to teach paramedics. Likewise, a nurse with experience in emergency medicine should be qualified to teach some EMT and paramedic courses.

In some areas, colleges and universities have to interpret what is a terminal degree. This can lead to inconsistency from school to school. Whether the school is a community college, a four-year college, or a university can also influence this interpretation even when the degree and field are the same. Universities will tend to emphasize doctorates as terminal degrees and lose the nuance that not all disciplines have a terminal doctorate.

The second area of interpretation is what is a related field. The title of degrees can vary from school to school. Unless a state or a professional association has rules that define what a degree can be called, degrees titles can vary from institution…

Christopher Davis

#HigherEd revolutionary with over twenty years experience in higher ed teaching and administration. Opinions and positions are my own.