• Episode Three – Higher Education

    by Trystan Donnelly. Last modified: 22/05/14


    Welcome to Episode Three! This week we’re going to look at the opportunities in higher education for paramedics who are interested in doing research. Often, higher education and research appear to be one and the same but that is not always true. Certainly, there is an intersection in purpose and practice between the two but they’re not the same thing.

    In writing this article, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Sandy MacQuarrie. Alex (Sandy) MacQuarrie is a lecturer in the Paramedic Program at Charles Sturt University of New South Wales, Australia. He is currently involved in research into paramedic wellness and is pursuing his Ph.D.

    Relationship with higher education

    One of the first questions Sandy and I discussed concerned the relationship between higher education and research. Sandy says that there are three categories of research being done. The first is personal interest either privately or as part of your job. Sandy, for example, is a lecturer in paramedicine but his job requires that he spend one third of his time at work doing research.

    The second category is research associated with a master’s degree. Generally speaking master’s degrees will be offered via a course-based stream and via a research based stream. Although in reality even most of the course-based master’s have a research project attached to them.

    Third is the research done in conjunction with Ph.D. or professional doctorate programs. Most Ph.D. programs are research-based. Most professional doctorates (a doctor of health sciences for example) involve research but it tends to be specific and project-based research that is intended to solve an immediate problem faced in industry.

    Where should I publish?

    Even if you are currently operating outside of academia you can and should still publish your research. Publishing your research just makes sense in terms of accomplishing your goals and affecting practice. But where should you publish? This brings us to another point that Sandy and I talked about: impact factor. Different journals have different impact factors. Basically, the impact factor is the degree of prestige that a journal has. It is largely determined by how frequently the articles in that journal are cited. A journal that is widely circulated and known to be a reliable source of properly reviewed research will be frequently cited and have a high impact factor. At some point you will want your research to be published in a peer-reviewed journal with a relatively high impact factor. But, as Sandy said, “you don’t have to start with one nor probably should you”. You can start by publishing in some of the trade magazines or maybe even right here on prehospitalresearch.eu!

    Educational Opportunities

    At this point, you are doing research and publishing it anyway so why not explore your opportunities in education? The two most common reasons given for not enrolling in a university program are time and money so, let’s address the two of these.

    Earl Nightingale once said “Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway.”

    Most of us spent between three and five years becoming paramedics whether we have a degree or not, in many cases your master’s or doctorate degree won’t take that long. If you are in Australia or a similar environment and you have already earned an undergraduate degree, fantastic! You are probably only two years away from a master’s or maybe three years (full-time) away from a doctorate. If you are in Canada and have not earned a degree, that’s really not so bad either. Universities like Charles Sturt in Australia will award you a good deal of credit toward their bachelor’s degree in paramedicine based on the learning that you have already done in your ACP education. You could probably have your bachelor’s degree by distance education in less than two years. Check out our post on Degrees for Paramedics…


    Once you have your bachelor’s degree there are a number of scenarios available to you:

    1. you can enter a master’s program and complete a master’s degree

    and if you wish to do a doctorate:

    1. you can apply from a completed master’s
    2. you can begin a master’s program and then, if you are progressing well, you can apply for conversion to a Ph.D. part way through or
    3. you can do an honours degree (one additional year after completing your bachelor’s) and apply straight to the doctorate program.

    How much will this cost me?

    So, time is a pretty poor argument but what about the expense? Education is expensive, that is a fact but this should not deter you either. A master’s degree will probably cost $15,000 – $20,000 and a doctorate might be another  $15,000 – $20,000 (This varies between institutions). The good news is that you don’t have to pay that…or at least not all of it. There are plenty of scholarships, even for people from overseas! In many cases these scholarships will pay your entire tuition, health care coverage, student visa costs and they may even pay you a considerable annual stipend!

    Next steps…

    Higher education and research are certainly separate entities but they do play well together and being involved in both simultaneously will likely further your goals more effectively. Going forward in this journey I will probably do one or two small research projects and publish them before applying to go back to school. Because I already have a degree, I’ll either apply to a master’s and convert part way through or I’ll do an honours degree and the apply directly to the doctorate program. For many of my colleagues in Canada a similar path may be feasible, possibly with the inclusion of the Charles Sturt bachelor’s degree done by distance learning.

    In all cases please check the information provided by the universities you are considering before charting your course.

    Many thanks to Sandy MacQuarrie for his patience and expertise in helping to create episode three!

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    Trystan Donnelly

    Trystan Donnelly

    Trystan is a Canadian Advanced Care Paramedic. After completing a degree in biology at the University of Victoria and the University of Alberta, Trystan returned to the UofA and studied paramedicine. After more than a decade of practice, Trystan's energies have returned to academia where he is an active educator and a nascent researcher.

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