A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that, in most countries, qualifies the holder to teach at the university level in the specific field of his or her degree, or to work in a specific profession. In some countries, the highest degree in a given field is called a terminal degree. The term "doctorate" derives from the Latin docere meaning "to teach".
- 1 History
- 2 Types
- 3 Doctorates by country
- 3.1 Argentina
- 3.2 Brazil
- 3.3 Denmark
- 3.4 Egypt
- 3.5 Finland
- 3.6 France
- 3.7 Germany
- 3.8 India
- 3.9 Italy
- 3.10 Japan
- 3.11 Netherlands / Flanders
- 3.12 Spain
- 3.13 United Kingdom
- 3.14 United States
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The doctorate (Latin: doctor, "teacher," from doctum, "[that which is] taught," past participle of (docere), "to teach") appeared in medieval Europe as a license to teach Latin: (licentia docendi) at a medieval university. Its roots can be traced to the early church when the term "doctor" referred to the Apostles, church fathers, and other Christian authorities who taught and interpreted the Bible. The right to grant a (licentia docendi) was originally reserved to the Catholic church, which required the applicant to pass a test, to take an oath of allegiance, and pay a fee. The Third Council of the Lateran of 1179 guaranteed the access—by that time largely free of charge—of all able applicants, who were, however, still tested for aptitude by the ecclesiastic scholastic. This right remained a bone of contention between the church authorities and the slowly emancipating universities, but was granted by the pope to the University of Paris in 1213 where it became a universal license to teach (licentia ubiquie docendi). However, while the licentia continued to hold a higher prestige than the bachelor's degree (Baccalaureus), it was ultimately reduced to an intermediate step to the Magister and doctorate, both of which now became the exclusive qualification for teaching.
At the university, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild. The traditional term of study before new teachers were admitted to the guild of "Masters of Arts" was seven years, which was the same as the term of apprenticeship for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but over time the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master's degree. A hypothesis by George Makdisi that the doctorate has its origins in the Islamic (Ijazah), a reversal of Makdisi's earlier view that saw both systems as being of "the most fundamental difference", has been rejected by Tony Huff as unsubstantiated.
Until recently, universities did not admit female students into their doctoral programs. In the year 1785, Complutense University became the first university to grant a doctorate to a female student, María Isidra de Guzmán y de la Cerda. In comparison, the University of Oxford did not accept female scholars until the year 1920, and the University of Cambridge did not grant a Ph.D. to a female student until the year 1926.
The usage and meaning of the doctorate has changed over time, and it has also been subject to regional variations. For instance, until the early 20th century few academic staff or professors in English-speaking universities held doctorates, except for very senior scholars and those in holy orders. After that time the German practice of requiring prospective lecturers to have completed a research doctorate became widespread. Additionally, universities' shifts to research-oriented education increased the importance of the doctorate. Today, such a doctorate is generally a prerequisite for pursuing an academic career, although not everyone who receives a research doctorate becomes an academic by profession. Many universities also award "honorary doctorates" to individuals who have been deemed worthy of special recognition, either for scholarly work or for other contributions to the university or to society.
Although the research doctorate is almost universally accepted as the standard qualification for an academic career, it is a relatively new invention. While the structure of U.S. doctoral programs is more formal and complex than in some other systems, the research doctorate is not awarded for the preliminary advanced study that leads to doctoral candidacy, but rather for successfully completing and defending the independent research presented in the form of the doctoral dissertation (thesis). Several first-professional degrees use the term (doctor) in their title, such as the Juris Doctor and the US version of the Doctor of Medicine, but these degrees do not universally contain an independent research component or always require a dissertation (thesis) and should not be confused with Ph.D./D.Phil./Ed.D./D.Ed. degrees or other research doctorates. In fact, many universities offer Ph.D./D.Phil. followed by a professional doctorate degree or joint Ph.D./D.Phil. with the professional degree (most often Ph.D. work comes sequential to the professional degree): e.g. Ph.D./D.Phil. in law after J.D. or equivalent in physical therapy after DPT, in pharmacy after D.Pharm. Often such professional degrees are referred to as entry level doctorate program and Ph.D. as post-professional doctorate.
The older-style doctorates (now usually called (higher doctorates in the United Kingdom) take much longer to complete, since candidates must show themselves to be leading experts in their subjects. These doctorates are now less common in some countries, and are often awarded honoris causa. The habilitation is still used for academic recruitment purposes in many countries within the EU, and involves either a new long thesis (a second book) or a portfolio of research publications. The habilitation demonstrates independent and thorough research, experience in teaching and lecturing, and, more recently, the ability to generate funding within the area of research. The "habilitation" is regarded as a senior post-doctoral qualification, many years after the research doctorate, and can be necessary for a Privatdozent (in Germany) or professor position.
A similar system traditionally holds in Russia. Already in the Russian Empire the academic degree doctor of the sciences (doktor nauk) marked the highest academic degree which can be achieved by an examination. This system was generally adopted by the USSR/Russia and many post-Soviet countries. A lower degree, candidate [doctor] of the sciences (kandidat nauk), is, roughly, the Russian equivalent to the research doctorate in most other countries.
Since the Middle Ages, there has been considerable evolution and proliferation in the number and types of doctorates awarded by universities throughout the world, and practices vary from one country to another. While a doctorate usually entitles one to be addressed as "doctor," usage of the title varies widely, depending on the type of doctorate earned and the doctor's occupation.
Broadly speaking, doctorates may often be loosely classified into the following categories:
Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is (at least in principle) publishable in a peer-refereed academic journal. In many countries, including the United States, earning a research doctorate also requires successful completion of a regimen of coursework beyond the masters level. The best-known degree of this type, in the Anglophone world, is that of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D., or D.Phil. as it is abbreviated at the University of Oxford) awarded in many countries throughout the world. Others include the degree of Doctor of Arts, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Social Science (DSocSci), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Information Security (DInfoSec), various doctorates in engineering, such as the US Doctor of Engineering (also awarded in Japan and South Korea), the UK Engineering Doctorate and the German Engineering Doctorate Doktor-Ingenieur and the German nature-science degree of Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr.rer.nat.). The Doctor of Theology, often stylized Th.D., is also a research doctorate, in theology, awarded by universities such as Harvard Divinity School and the University of Toronto among many others. Likewise, the Doctor of Sacred Theology is also a research doctorate in theology, but particular to Catholic Pontifical Universities and Faculties.
Criteria for award of research doctorates vary somewhat throughout the world, but typically requires the submission of a substantial body of original research undertaken by the candidate. This may take the form of a single thesis or dissertation, or possibly a portfolio of shorter project reports; see also Thesis by publication. The submission will usually be assessed by a small committee of examiners appointed by the university, and often an oral examination of some kind. In some countries (such as the US) there may also be a formal component of classes that are taught, typically consisting of graduate-level courses in the subject in question, as well as training in research methodology.
The minimum time required to complete a research doctorate varies by country, and may be as short as three years (excluding undergraduate study), although it is not uncommon for a candidate to take up to six years to complete.
In the UK, an equivalent formation to doctorate is the QCF 8.
Higher doctorate and post-doctoral degrees 
In some countries, especially the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, some Scandinavian nations, the former USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries, there is a higher tier of research doctorates, awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a very high standard. Examples include the Doctor of Science (DSc/ScD) and Doctor of Letters (DLitt/LittD) degrees found in the UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, and the traditional doctorates in Scandinavia. Today, only Denmark and Sweden formally draws a distinction between higher and lower degrees at doctorate level. Denmark formally considers the PhD a successor to the Licentiate's degree (its official name prior to 2002 was "PhD (Licentiate)") and a lower degree than the "proper doctorates," and Sweden similarly awards both the Licentiate's degree as a lower-level doctorate and the proper doctorate as a higher-level degree. Norway on the contrary has abolished the Licentiate's degree completely and all Norwegian doctorates are now equal to the PhD, and thus lower degrees than the Swedish and Danish traditional doctorates, while equal to the Danish PhD (Licentiate's) degree and the Swedish Licentiate's degree.
The French, German and Polish habilitation (a formal professorial qualification with a thesis and an exam) is commonly regarded as belonging to this category. However, in some German states, the Habilitation is not an academic degree, but rather a professorial certification ("facultas docendi") that the person concerned holds all the qualifications needed to teach independently at a German university. In other German states, the "Habilitand" is awarded a formal "Dr. habil." degree. In some cases where such degrees are awarded, the holder of the degree may add "habil." to his or her research doctorate such as "Dr. phil. habil." or "Dr. rer. nat. habil." The French academic system used to have a higher doctorate, called "State doctorate" (doctorat d'État), but it was superseded by the habilitation in 1984.
Higher doctorates are often also awarded honoris causa when a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's achievements and contributions to a particular field.
Professional doctorates are awarded in certain fields where scholarly research is closely aligned with a particular profession, such as law, medicine, social work or psychology. Examples include the US and Canadian degrees of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), Juris Doctor (J.D.).
Professional doctorates originated in the United States, with the introduction of the M.D. at Columbia University in 1767, almost 100 years before the older research doctorate—that is, a PhD—was awarded in that country, at Yale in 1861. The J.D. was introduced in 1870, just a few years after the PhD.
The term Professional Doctorate is used to refer to research doctorates with a focus on applied research, or research as used for professional purposes. Among others, these include the degrees of Doctor of Public Administration (DPA), Doctor of Social Work (DSW), Doctor of Biblical Studies (D.B.S.), Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT), Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS or DProf),  and some others in various specified professional fields. Also included in this area is the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).
When a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's contributions to a particular field or philanthropic efforts, it may choose to grant a doctoral degree honoris causa (i.e., "for the sake of the honor"), the university waiving the usual formal requirements for bestowal of the degree. Some universities do not award honorary degrees, for example, Cornell University, the University of Virginia, the California Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Professorship as a higher degree
An extreme rarity among degrees are the Professorial degrees.
In modern times, the status of professor is awarded as a recognition of sustained academic excellence, equivalent in standing to an honorary doctorate, but this is not a degree per se. However, in past times, professor was sometimes awarded as a degree.
One example of this is the degree of Sacrae Theologiae Professor (STP), which was awarded by the Pontifical University. This degree is now titled Sacrae Theologiae Doctor (STD) in keeping with usual modern practices.
Doctorates by country
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In Argentina the doctorate (doctorado) is the highest academic degree. The intention is that candidates produce true and original contributions in a specific field of knowledge within a frame of academic excellence. The doctoral candidate's work is presented in a dissertation or thesis prepared under the supervision of a tutor or director, and reviewed by a Doctoral Committee. The Committee is composed of examiners external to the program, and at least one examiner external to the institution. The academic degree of Doctor is conferred after a successful defense of the candidate’s dissertation. Currently, there are approximately 2,151 postgraduate careers in the country, of which 14% were doctoral degrees. Doctoral programs in Argentina are overseen by the National Commission for University Evaluation and Accreditation, which is a decentralized agency in Argentina’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The candidate is normally required to have received a Master's degree in a related field prior to getting a Doctor's degree. In a few cases however, some institutions may admit candidates who do not hold a Master's degree, based on their individual academic merit. A second and a third foreign language are also common requirements for those willing to enroll in a doctoral program in Brazil. The admission process varies by institution. Some require candidates to take several tests prior to admission to the program and others base admissions on a research proposal application and interview only. In both instances however, a faculty member must agree prior to admission to supervise the applicant for the duration of the doctorate.
The requirements for the Doctor's degree usually include satisfactory performance in a minimum number of advanced graduate courses, passing an oral qualifying exam, and submitting a doctoral thesis that must represent an original and relevant contribution to existing knowledge in the field of study to which the thesis topic is related. The thesis is examined in a final public oral exam administered by a panel of at least five faculty members, two of whom must be necessarily external examiners. After completion of the program, which normally lasts around 4 years, the candidate is commonly awarded the degree of Doutor (Doctor) followed by the name of the main area of specialization in which his/her research was conducted, e.g. Doutor em Direito (Doctor of Laws), Doutor em Ciências da Computação (Doctor of Computer Sciences), Doutor em Filosofia (Doctor of Philosophy), Doutor em Economia (Doctor of Economics), Doutor em Engenharia (Doctor of Engineering), Doutor em Medicina (Doctor of Medicine), and so on. The generic title of Doutor em Ciências (Doctor of Sciences) is normally used to refer collectively to doctorates in the natural sciences (i.e. Physics, Chemistry, Biological and Life Sciences, etc.)
All graduate programs in Brazilian public universities are tuition-free as mandated by the Brazilian constitution. Several graduate students with good academic standing are additionally supported by institutional scholarships granted by federal government agencies like CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento do Pessoal de Ensino Superior). Personal scholarships are also provided by the various FAP's (Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa) at the state level, especially FAPESP in the state of São Paulo, FAPERJ in the state of Rio de Janeiro and FAPEMIG in the state of Minas Gerais. Competition for graduate financial aid is very intense though and most scholarships support at most 2 years of Master's studies and 4 years of doctoral studies. The normal monthly stipend for doctoral students in Brazil is between 500 and 1000 USD.
A degree of Doutor usually enables an individual to apply for a junior faculty position equivalent to that of Assistant Professor in the United States. Progression to full professorship at the rank known as Professor Titular requires however that the candidate be successful in a competitive public exam and normally takes many years. In the federal university system, individuals who hold a doctorate and are admitted as junior faculty members may progress (usually by seniority) to the rank of Associate Professor and, then, become eligible to take the competitive exam for full professorship provided that a professorship is available. In the São Paulo state universities however, progression to the rank of Associate Professor and subsequent eligibility to apply for a full professorship is conditioned on an individual's obtaining first the qualification of Livre-docente, which is similar to the Habilitation in the German university system and requires, in addition to a previous doctoral degree, the submission of a second thesis or cumulative portfolio of peer-reviewed publications, a public lecture before a panel of experts (including external members from other universities), and also passing a written exam.
In Denmark, there are four levels of degrees: 1) a three-year Bachelor's degree (e.g. Bachelor of Arts = B.A.); 2) a two-year Candidate's degree (e.g. candidatus/candidata magisterii = cand.mag.), respectively a three-year extended research graduation, leading to the Magister's Degree (e.g. magister/magistra artium = mag.art.), the latter of which has recently been phased out in order to meet the international standards of the Bologna Process – both the cand.mag. and the mag.art. are generally compared to a Master's Degree (MA); 3) a ph.d. degree, which replaced the licentiate in 1988, and finally; 4) a Doctor's degree (e.g. doctor philosophiae = dr.phil.), which is the higher doctorate.
For the ph.d. degree, the candidate writes a major thesis and has to defend it orally at a formal disputation. In the disputation, the candidate defends their thesis against three official opponents as well as opponents from the auditorium (ex auditorio). As opposed to the PhD/Ph.D. degree from English speaking countries, the Danish ph.d. degree does not give the owner the right to use "Dr." in front of their name.
For the higher doctorate, the candidate writes a major thesis and has to defend it orally at a formal disputation. In this disputation, the candidate (called præces) defends this thesis against two official opponents as well as opponents from the auditorium (ex auditorio).
In Egypt, the Doctorate degree – abbreviated as MD – is equivalent to the Ph.D. degree. To earn an MD in a specialty of science, one must have a Master degree (M.Sc.) (or two diplomas before the introduction of M.Sc. degree in Egypt) before applying. Earning the MD degree involves studying a course in the specialization, and presenting and defending a dissertation thesis. It usually takes on average from three to five years.
Many postgraduate medical and surgical specialties students earn a Doctorate degree in their specialties. After finishing a 6-year medical school and one-year internship (house officer), physicians and surgeons earn M.B. B.Ch. degree, which is equivalent to the MD degree of medical schools in the United States. They can then apply to earn a Master degree or a speciality diploma then an MD degree in a specialty.
The MD degree in Egypt is written with the name of one's specialty afterward. For example, MD (Geriatrics) means a Doctorate Degree in Geriatrics, which is equivalent to a Ph.D. degree in Geriatrics.
In the Finnish education system, the requirement for the entrance into the doctoral studies is a Master's degree or equivalent qualification. All universities have the right to award doctorates in their assigned fields. The ammattikorkeakoulu institutes (institutes of higher vocational education that are not universities but often called "Universities of applied sciences" in English) do not award doctoral or other academic degrees. The aim of the studies for the doctoral degree is threefold:
- The student must obtain sublime understanding of their field and its meaning to the society, while becoming prepared to use the methods of scientific or scholarly study in their field, creating new scientific or scholarly knowledge.
- The student must obtain a good understanding of development, basic problems and research methods of their field
- The student must obtain such understanding of the general theory of science and letters and such knowledge of the neighbouring research field that they are able to follow the development of these fields.
The way to show that these general requirements have been met is also threefold:
- The graduate coursework required by the university.
- a show of critical and independent thought in the research field
- preparation and a public defence of a dissertation, which may be a monograph or a compilation thesis, i.e. a collection of peer-reviewed articles with an extended summary. In the area of fine arts, the dissertation may be substituted by artistic merits and performances as decided by the degree-awarding faculty.
In Finland, the entrance into the graduate studies is not as controlled as in undergraduate studies, where a strict numerus clausus is applied. Usually, a prospective graduate student discusses his plans with a professor of his choice. If the professor wishes to accept the student, the student applies the faculty for a study place. Nonetheless, in some cases, the professor may recruit the student to his group after a successful completion of a master's thesis, for instance. In any case, a formal graduate study place does not guarantee funding. The student must obtain funding either by working in a research unit or through scholarships handed out by private foundations. Typically, it is easier to obtain funding for graduate studies in natural and engineering sciences, while graduate studies in letters are more difficult to finance. Sometimes, it may be possible to combine normal work and research activity.
Prior to introduction of Bologna process, Finland required at least 42 credit weeks (1800 hours) of formal coursework of doctoral students. The general requirement was removed in 2005, leaving the decision on the scale of coursework needed to individual universities, which may delegate the authority to faculties and even to individual professors. In fields of Engineering and Science, the required amount of coursework varies between 60 and 70 ECTS.
The time for the completion of graduate studies varies, as there are no fixed time limits written into the law or to most university regulations. It is possible to graduate even in three years after the master's degree, while much longer periods are by no means uncommon. In any case, the study ends with the completion of a dissertation, which must make a substantial contribution to the field by presenting new scientific or scholarly knowledge. The dissertation can either be a monograph or it can be edited from a collection of 3 to 7 journal articles, including an introduction tying together the individual parts. If a student is unable or unwilling to write a dissertation, he may qualify for licentiate degree of his field by completing the coursework requirement and writing a shorter thesis, usually worth of one year of research.
After the dissertation is ready, it is submitted to the faculty, which names two pre-examiners with doctoral degrees from the outside of the university. These pre-examiners must be noted experts of the field. Their acceptance of the work is necessary for the permission to defend the work. During the pre-examination process, the student may receive comments on the work and if necessary, requirements to modify it. After the pre-examiners approve, the doctoral candidate applies the faculty for the permission to print the thesis. Simultaneously with the printing permission, the faculty names the opponent for the thesis defence, who must also be an outside expert of the field, with at least a doctoral degree. In all Finnish universities, an archaic tradition requires that the printed dissertation must hang on a chord by a public university noticeboard for at least ten days after the printing permission has been given in order for the defence of the dissertation to be possible.
The doctoral dissertation takes place in public, usually in a university auditorium, with the opponent and the candidate conducting a very formal debate, usually wearing white tie, under the supervision of the thesis supervisor. It is customary for the family, friends, colleagues and the members of the research community to attend the defence proceedings. After a formal entrance, the candidate begins the proceeding by a c. 20-minute popular lecture (lectio praecursoria), which is meant to introduce the laymen present to the topic of the thesis. After this, the opponent gives a short talk on the topic of the defence, after which the pair critically discusses the dissertation. The proceedings take two, maybe three hours. At the end of the proceeding, the opponent presents his final statement on the work, and reveals whether he/she will recommend that the faculty accept it. After the opponent has finished, any member of the public has an opportunity to raise questions on the dissertation, although such opponents extraordinary are rare. Immediately after the defence, the supervisor, the opponent and the passed candidate drink coffee with the public. Usually, the attendees of the defence are handed out the printed dissertation and leave with it. In the evening, the passed candidate is obligated to host a dinner (Finnish: karonkka) in the honour of the opponent. Usually, the candidate invites his family and colleagues and collaborators.
In France, the doctorate (doctorat) is always a research-only degree. It is a national degree and its requirements are fixed by an official text of the minister of higher education and research. Except for a very small number of private institutions, only public institutions of higher education and research can award the doctorate. It can be awarded in any field of study. The master's degree is a prerequisite for pursuing a doctoral program. The official normal duration of the doctoral work is three years. The redaction of a comprehensive thesis constitutes the bulk of the doctorate's work. While the length of the thesis varies according to the discipline, it is rarely less than 150 pages, and often substantially more. There are ~15,000 new matriculations for the doctoral program every year and ~10,000 doctorates awarded.
Doctoral candidates can apply for a three-year fellowship, the most well known being the allocation de recherche du ministère de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche (4000 granted every years, gross salary of 19,740 euros in December 2012).
During the preparation of the doctorate, the candidate has had, since 2002, to follow a limited number of courses, but there is no written examination for the doctorate. The candidate has to write an extensive thesis which is read by two external reviewers designated by the head of the institution. According to the reports of the reviewer, the head of the institution decides whether the candidate can defend his thesis or not. The members of the jury are designated by the head of the institution and must be composed of external and internal academics. The supervisor of the candidate is generally a member of the jury, as well as the reviewers of the thesis. The maximum number of members in the jury is 8. The defense lasts generally 45 minutes in scientific fields and are followed by 1h – 2h30 of questions from the jury or other doctors present in the assistance. Defense and questions are public. At the end of the series of questions, the jury deliberates in private for 20–30 min and comes back to declare the candidate admitted or "postponed". "Postponement" is very rare. The admission of the candidate is generally followed by a distinction: "honourable", which is not highly considered, "very honourable", which is the usual distinction, and "very honourable with the congratulation of the jury" (Très honorable avec félicitations). Because there exist no national criteria for the award of this last distinction, many institutions have decided not to award it. New regulations concerning this distinction were set in 2006. Many institutions have decided not to award any distinction, as it is now permitted by the law.
Confusingly the title of doctor (docteur) is used only by the medical and pharmaceutical practitioners who hold not a doctorate but a doctor's state diploma (diplôme d'État de docteur), which is a first-degree and professional doctorate obtained after at least 9 years of studies. As they do not pursue research studies, they are not awarded a doctorate.
Before 1984 three research doctorates existed : the state doctorate (doctorat d'État, the old doctorate introduced in 1808), the third cycle doctorate (doctorat de troisième cycle), created in 1954 and shorter than the state doctorate, and the diploma of doctor-engineer (diplôme de docteur-ingénieur), created in 1923, for technical research. Since 1984, there is only one type of doctoral degree, simply called "doctorate" (Doctorat). A special diploma has been created called the "accreditation to supervise research" (habilitation à diriger des recherches), which is a professional qualification to supervise doctoral work. (This diploma is similar in spirit to the older state doctorate, and the requirements for obtaining it are similar to those necessary to obtain tenure in other systems.) Before only professors or senior full researchers of similar rank were normally authorized to supervise a doctoral candidate's work. Now the habilitation is a prerequisite to the title of professor in university (Professeur des Universités) and to the title of Research Director (Directeur de recherche) in national public research agency such as CNRS, INRIA, or INRA.
In Germany, a doctorate is usually a research doctorate and is awarded in the context of the so-called promotion. Its duration depends strongly on the field in which it is taken. While a doctorate in medicine may take less than a full-time year to complete, it takes between three and six years in engineering. In Germany, most doctorates are awarded with specific designations for the field of research instead of a general "PhD" for all fields, the most important ones being:
Dr. rer. nat. (Doctorate in Natural Sciences, i.e. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Psychology often also Computer Science and Information Technology),
Dr. phil. (Doctorate of philosophy, i.e. the humanities like Philosophy, philology, History, and social sciences like sociology or Psychology),
Dr. iur. (Doctorate in Law),
Dr. oec. (Doctorate in Economics),
Dr. rer. pol. (Doctor Rerum Politicarum, aka Doctorate in Political Science),
Dr. med. (Doctorate in Medicine),
Dr.-Ing. (Doctorate in Engineering).
There are over fifty such specific designations, many of which are highly specialized and rarely awarded. The degree can be written in front of the first name for addresses (within texts, the abbreviations "Dr." and "Dr.-Ing." are common) and accompanies the person's name (unlike in German-speaking Switzerland, where some doctoral programs issue a PhD). Although the "Dr." does not become part of a person's name one can demand naming the title in official documents. However, naming the title even in these documents is not mandatory. The "Dr." (but not the specification of the field) is commonly used to address someone with this title for instance in formal letters. If someone holds other titles, as in "Prof. (Professor) Dr. Dr.-Ing. [Surname]", it is common to use only the highest title in formal letters, as in "Prof. [Surname]".
Upon the completion of the habilitation thesis (Habilitationsschrift) a different type of a doctorate (Dr. habil. or only: habil.) is awarded. This doctorate is known as the Habilitation. It is not considered a formal degree but an additional academic qualification. It qualifies the owner to teach at (German) universities ("facultas docendi"), plus the holder of the "habil." can apply for the authorization to teach a certain subject ("venia legendi"). This has been the traditional prerequisite for attaining the title Privatdozent (PD) and employment as a full Professor at universities. With the introduction of Juniorprofessoren – around 2005 in Germany – as an alternative track towards becoming a professor at universities (with tenure), this has changed partially, and the Habilitation is no longer the only career track at universities.
In India, doctorate level degrees are offered by the universities or institutions of national level importance deemed to be universities. Entry requirements for doctorate degrees by most of the universities include good academic background at masters level(post graduate degree). Some universities also consider undergraduate degrees in professional areas such as engineering, medicine or law for entrance to doctorate level degrees. Entrance examinations are held for almost all the universities for admission to doctoral level degrees. The duration of the coursework and thesis for award of the degree is, in most North Indian universities the minimum required time to submit your theses after registration is 2 academic years and in most of the universities in south India its 3 years after PhD registration .
The most commonly awarded doctoral level degree is PhD. There are some other doctoral level degrees such as DBA (Doctorate of Business Administration), DIT (Doctorate of Information Technology), LLD (Doctorate in Laws) and D. Sc (Doctorate in Science). Some of the institutions of the national level importance such as Indian Institute of Management call their doctoral level programmes as fellow programme. Recently Pharmacy Council of India has permitted few colleges for Pharm D course (Doctorate in Pharmacy). Entry to professional fields such as medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy and physical therapy is at the bachelor's level that are usually of longer duration than a regular bachelor's degree (e.g. BSc, BCom, BA). The Pharm. D degree (Doctor of Pharmacy) takes the longest with 6 years to complete.
According to the European Higher Education Area Academic Degrees stated by the Bologna Process and to the Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR), Italy uses a three-level degree system. The first-level degree, called a "laurea triennale" (Bachelor's degree), is obtained after three years of study and a short thesis on a specific subject. The second-level degree, called a "laurea magistrale" (Master's degree), is obtained after two additional years of study, specializing in a particular branch of the chosen subject (e.g. particle physics, nuclear engineering). This degree requires more complex thesis work, usually involving some academic research or an internship in a private company. The final degree is called a "dottorato di ricerca" (Ph.D.) and is obtained after three years of academic research on the subject and a thesis.
Alternatively, after obtaining the laurea triennale or the laurea magistrale one can complete a "Master's" (first-level Master's after the laurea triennale; second-level Master's after the laurea magistrale) of one or two years, offered by universities and private organisations in a variety of subjects, lengths and costs and usually including a final internship in a private company. An Italian "Master's" is not to be confused with a Master's degree; it is intended to be more focused on professional training and practical experience than standard degrees.
Regardless of the field of study, the title for Bachelor Graduate students is Dottore/Dottoressa (abbrev. Dott./Dott.ssa, sometimes abbreviated as Dr., meaning Doctor), not to be confused with the title for the Ph.D.-level graduate, which is instead Dottore/Dottoressa di Ricerca. A laurea magistrale grants instead the title of Dottore/Dottoressa magistrale. Graduates from the fields of Education, Art and Music are also called Dr. Prof. (or simply Professore) or Maestro. On the other hand, many professional titles like ingegnere (engineer) are not automatically awarded upon the graduation on the corresponding field of study but instead are given upon passing a post-graduation examination (esame di stato), and the subsequent registration in the relative professional association.
The first institution in Italy to create a doctoral program (Ph.D.) was Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in 1927 under the historic name "Diploma di Perfezionamento". Further, the research doctorates or Ph.D. (Italian: Dottorato di ricerca) in Italy were introduced with law and Presidential Decree in 1980 (Law of February 21, 1980, No. 28 and the Presidential Decree No. 382 of 11 July 1980), referring to the reform of academic teaching, training and experimentation in organisation and teaching methods.
Hence the Superior Graduate Schools in Italy (Grandes écoles) (Italian: Scuola Superiore Universitaria), also called Schools of Excellence (Italian: Scuole di Eccellenza) such as Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies still keep their reputed historical "Diploma di Perfezionamento" Ph.D. title by law and MIUR Decree.
Until the 1990s, most doctorates in the natural sciences and engineering in Japan were earned by industrial researchers in Japanese companies. These degrees are awarded by the employees' former university, usually after many years of research in industrial laboratories. No matriculation is necessary, only submission of a dissertation with some articles published in well-known journals . This program, called ronbun hakase (論文博士?), represented the majority of engineering doctoral degrees from national universities. With the expansion of university-based doctoral programs called katei hakase (課程博士?), however, the proportion of these degrees earned is decreasing. By 1994, more doctoral engineering degrees were earned for research within university laboratories (53%) than industrial research laboratories (47%). Since 1978, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) provides tutorial and financial support for promising researchers in Asia and Africa to earn their PhD degrees through this route. The program is called JSPS RONPAKU.
The only professional doctorate in Japan is the Juris Doctor, known as Hōmu Hakushi (法務博士) The program generally lasts two or three years. This curriculum is professionally oriented, but unlike in the United States the program does not provide the education sufficient for a license, as all candidates passed bar exam (Shihou shiken) for a bar license must attend the Legal Training and Research Institute and pass the practical exam (Nikai Shiken or Shihou Shushusei koushi).
Netherlands / Flanders
The traditional academic system of the Netherlands provided four basic academic diplomas and degrees: propaedeuse, kandidaat, doctorandus (drs.) and doctor (dr.). After successful completion of the first year of university, the student was awarded the propaedeutic diploma (not a degree). In some studies, this diploma was already abolished in the 1980s: in physics and mathematics, the student could obtain directly a kandidaats degree in two years. The kandidaat (candidate) degree, which was all but abolished by 1989, used to be attained after four or five years of academic study, after which the student was allowed to begin work on his doctorandus thesis. The successful completion of this thesis allowed one to use the doctorandus title, attainment of which means one's initial studies are finished. In addition to these 'general' degrees, a number of specific titles for certain subjects are available, each of which is equivalent to the doctorandus degree: for law: meester (master) (mr.), and for engineering at a technical university like Delft: ingenieur (engineer)(ir.). In the last few years, the Dutch have incorporated the Anglo-Saxon system of academic degrees into their own. The old candidate's degree has been revived as bachelor's degree, the doctorandus' by the master's degree. However, Dutch regular university programmes tend to include subject matter which, e.g., at Harvard is only taught in PhD-courses (for instance advanced quantum mechanics or general relativity in a Dutch course for the master's degree in theoretical physics).
Those who choose to can enroll in a doctorate system after achieving a masters degree (or equivalent) recognised by the Dutch government. The most common way is to be hired as promovendus/assistent in opleiding (aio)/onderzoeker in opleiding (oio) (research assistant with additional courses and supervision), perform extensive research, and write a doctoral dissertation consisting of published scientific articles (this course is normally four years, although the average duration to completions is about 5.5 years). It is also possible to conduct research without the research assistant status, for example through a business sponsored research laboratory, or in spare time.
Every PhD thesis has to be promoted by a full university professor who has the role of principal advisor. The promotor (professor) decides whether the work can be supported, i.e. whether the quality suffices. Thus the principal supervisors decide when the thesis can be submitted. The written thesis is then subjected to review by a committee of experts in the relevant academic field; who either approve or reject the submitted thesis. Failures at this stage are rare as the supervisors will hold back submission (causing delay beyond the 4 years) rather than allow a substandard thesis to be submitted. The supervisors, and especially the promotor lose face with her/his colleagues allowing a substandard thesis to be submitted; thus gaining supervisor approval is in practice the more demanding requirement.
After approval by the reviewers, the candidate will print typically 100-300 copies of the thesis and send it to colleagues, friends and family with an invitation to the public defense. The doctoral degree is awarded in a formal, public, defense session, where the thesis is defended against critical questions of the "opposition" (the review committee). Failure during this session is in theory possible but in practice this never happens. The defense lasts exactly the assigned time slot (45 minutes or 1 hour exactly depending on the University) after which the defense is stopped by the pedel (proctor) who interrupts ongoing questioning by entering the room and announcing that the time is past in Latin (Hora Est). At this stage the candidate is allowed to stop the defense even midsentence, although in practice a short one sentence wrap up is usually given. If one of the examiners is still phrasing a question, no answer will be given.
The doctor's title is the highest academic degree one can attain in the Netherlands. In research doctorates the degree is always PhD and no distinction between disciplines is made. Three Dutch universities of technology (Eindhoven University of Technology, Technical University Delft, and University of Twente) do award a Professional Doctorate in Engineering (PDEng).
In the Netherlands, although the title doctor (dr.) is informally called PhD, there is no such thing as a PhD degree; there is the title doctor (dr.) in stead of PhD. Seeing that all other university titles (BSc/BBa/LL.B/BA M.Sc/MBA/LL.M/MA) are protected by law but PhD is not it follows that any person can call himself PhD in the Netherlands without having obtained that title. Calling oneself "Doctor" without having a doctorate is fraud though. For people who obtained a degree in a foreign country to be allowed to use the Dutch title drs. mr. ir. or dr. a request has to be made at the Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs though according to the opportunity principle there is little incentive to punish such fraud. Dutch doctors may use the letter D behind their name instead of the shortcut dr. (no capital) before their name.
In Belgium's Flemish Community (i.e. Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) the system is very similar, except the doctorandus title was only used by those who actually started their doctoral work. Doctorandus is still used as a synonym for a PhD student. The licentiaat (licencee) title was in use for a regular graduate until the Bologna reform changed the licentiaat degree to the master's degree (the Bologna reform also abolished the two-year kandidaat degree and introduced a three-year academic bachelor's degree instead).
Doctor degrees are regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 778/1998), Real Decreto (in Spanish). They are granted by the University on behalf of the King, and its Diploma has the force of a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National Registry of Theses called TESEO. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), less than 5% of M.Sc. degree holders are admitted to Ph.D. programmes.
All doctoral programs are of research nature. A minimum of 5 years of study were required, and were divided into 2 stages:
- A 3-year (or longer) period of studies, which concludes with a public dissertation presented to a panel of 3 Professors. If the project receives approval from the university, he/she will receive a "Diploma de Estudios Avanzados" (part qualified doctor, equivalent to M.Sc.).
- A 2-year (or longer) period of research. Extensions may be requested for up to 10 years. The student must write his thesis presenting a new discovery or original contribution to Science. If approved by his "thesis director", the study will be presented to a panel of 5 distinguished scholars. Any Doctor attending the public defense is allowed to challenge the candidate with questions on his research. If approved, he/she will receive the doctorate. Four marks used to be granted: Unsatisfactory (Suspenso), Pass (Aprobado), Remarkable (Notable), "Cum laude" (Sobresaliente), and "Summa cum laude" (Sobresaliente Cum Laude). Those Doctors granted their degree "Summa Cum Laude" were allowed to apply for an "Extraordinary Award".
Note that since September 2012 and regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 99/2011) (in Spanish), three marks can be granted: Unsatisfactory (No apto), Pass (Apto) and "Cum laude" (Apto Cum Laude) as maximum mark. In the public defense the doctor is notified if the thesis has passed or not passed; if the doctor is granted the Apto Cum Laude mark, this will be notified by letter or e-mail after the public defense as it is the result of a private votation (even between the panel members): closed votes are checked and verified by the University after the public defense. Doctors granted "Apto Cum Laude" can be nominated for an "Extraordinary Award" (Premio Extraordinario de Doctorado) if all the panel members vote so. There is also a numeric mark up to 50 (10 points per scholar in the panel), but it is only communicated to the candidate, the thesis director and the department.
Also, since the same Royal Decree (R.D. 99/2011) the initial 3-year period of studies is substituted by a Research Master Degree (one or two years; Professional Master Degrees do not grant direct access to Ph.D. Programs) which concludes with a public dissertation called "Trabajo de Fin de Máster" or "Proyecto de Fin de Máster". If the project receives approval from the university, he/she will receive a Masters Degree that grants access to become a Ph.D. Candidate and initiate the period of research.
A Doctor degree is required in order to apply to a teaching position at the University.
Complutense University was the sole university in Spain authorised to confer the Doctor degree on any scholar. This law remained in effect until 1954, when the authorization was extended to the University of Salamanca in commemoration of its septecentenary. This made the degree of Doctor all the more unique and prestigious in social circles. In 1970, the right was extended to all Spanish universities, ending the monopoly of Complutense University over this distinction.
All Doctorate Degree holders are reciprocally recognised as equivalent in Germany and Spain ("Bonn Agreement of November 14, 1994").
Except for those awarded honoris causa, all doctorates granted by British universities are research doctorates in the sense described above, in that their main (and in many cases only) component is the submission of an extensive and substantial thesis or portfolio of original research, examined by an expert panel appointed by the university. The Quality Assurance Agency (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland) states:
Doctorates are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
- the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication;
- a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
- the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
- a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.
— Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Annex 1
The professional doctorates such as the EngD, EdD, DSocSci, DSW, DInfoSec, DCrimJ and DClinPsych requires the submission of a body of original research of a similar length to a PhD thesis. In the case of the EngD, however, this might be in the form of a portfolio of technical reports on different research projects undertaken by the candidate as opposed to a single, long monographical thesis. Another important difference is that traditional PhD programs are mostly academic-oriented, whereas, in an EngD programme, the candidate typically works full-time for an industrial sponsor on application-oriented topics of direct interest to the partner company and is jointly supervised by university faculty members and company employees.
Higher doctorates are awarded in recognition of a substantial body of original research undertaken over the course of many years. Typically the candidate will submit a collection of work which has been previously published in a peer-refereed context and pay an examination fee. The university then assembles a committee of academics both internal and external who review the work submitted and decide on whether the candidate deserves the doctorate based on the submission.
Most universities restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing. The most common doctorates of this type are those in Divinity (DD), Laws (LLD), Civil Law (DCL), Music (DMus or MusD), Letters (DLitt or LittD), Science (DSc or ScD) and DSc(Med). In the United Kingdom, the degrees in medicine or dentistry that permit licensure are bachelors' degrees; these correspond roughly with the MD in the USA or the Dr.med. in Germany. The MD in the United Kingdom (in most universities) is an unsupervised doctorate by thesis, usually ranking below the supervised PhD and the DSc(Med) and requiring two to three more years of supervised research to achieve the PhD level.
Of these, the DD historically ranked highest, theology being the senior faculty in the mediaeval universities. The degree of Doctor of Canon Law was next in the order of precedence, but (except for a brief revival during the reign of Mary Tudor) did not survive the Protestant reformation, a consequence of the fact that the teaching of canon law at Cambridge and Oxford was forbidden by Henry VIII, founder of the Church of England. The DMus was, historically, in an anomalous situation, since a candidate was not required to be a member of Convocation (that is, to be a Master of Arts). The DLitt and DSc are relatively recent innovations, dating from the latter part of the 19th century.
Most British universities award degrees honoris causa in order to recognise individuals who have made a substantial contribution to a particular field. Usually an appropriate higher doctorate is used in these circumstances, depending on the achievements of the candidate. However, some universities, in order to differentiate between honorary and substantive doctorates, have introduced the degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) for these purposes, and reserve the higher doctorates for formal academic research.
The most common research doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D./D.Phil.). This degree was first awarded in the U.S. at the 1861 Yale University commencement. The University of Pennsylvania followed shortly thereafter in 1871, while Cornell (1872), Harvard (1873), and Princeton (1879) also followed suit. Unlike the introduction of the professional doctorate M.D., there was considerable controversy and opposition over the introduction of the Ph.D. into the U.S. educational system, even through the 1950s, as it was seen as an unnecessary artificial transplant from a foreign educational system (that of Germany), which corrupted a system based on the Oxbridge model of England.
The requirements for obtaining Ph.D.s and other research doctorates in the U.S. typically entail successful completion of pertinent classes, passing of a comprehensive examination, and defense of a dissertation.
The median number of years for completion of doctoral degrees for all fields in the U.S. is seven. Furthermore, doctoral applicants were previously required to have a master's degree, but many programs will now accept students immediately following their undergraduate studies. Many programs simply gauge the potential of a student applying to their program and will give them a master's degree upon completion of the necessary Ph.D. course work. When so admitted, the student is expected to have mastered the material covered in the masters degree even though the student does not officially hold a masters degree. Once the person has finished Ph.D. qualifying exams, he/she is considered a Ph.D. candidate, and may begin work on his/her dissertation.
The International Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Education lists over 20 frequently awarded research doctorate degree titles accepted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as representing degrees equivalent in research content to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, DPhil) degree. They are:
- Doctor of Arts (DA/DArts)
- Doctor of Biblical Studies (DBS)
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
- Doctor of Canon Law (JCD/DCL)
- Doctor of Church Music (DCM)
- Doctor of Design (DDes)
- Doctor of Education (EdD)
- Doctor of Engineering (DEng/DESc/DES)
- Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA)
- Doctor of Health Science (DHSc)
- Doctor of Hebrew Letters (DHL)
- Doctor of Industrial Technology (DIT)
- Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD/SJD)
- Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS)
- Doctor of Management (DM)
- Doctor of Music (DM)
- Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA/AMusD/DMusA)
- Doctor of Music Education (DME)
- Doctor of Modern Languages (DML)
- Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)
- Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Doctor of Physical Education (DPE)
- Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
- Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
- Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)
- Doctor of Science (DSc/ScD)
- Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
- Doctor of Theology (ThD)
In the United States, numerous fields of study have professional doctorates, such as medicine/osteopathic medicine, public health, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, health science, advanced practice registered nurse, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, law, education, teaching, business, and many others that usually require such degrees for licensure. Some of these degrees are also termed "first professional degrees," since they are also the first degrees in their fields.
Professional doctorates were developed in the United States in the 19th century during a movement to improve the training of professionals by raising the requirements for entry and completion of the degree necessary to enter the profession. These first professional degrees were created to help strengthen professional training programs. The first professional doctorate to be offered in the United States was the M.D. in 1767 by Columbia University which was nearly one hundred years before the first Ph.D. was awarded in the U.S. in 1861. The Juris Doctor (J.D.) was subsequently established by Harvard University for the same reasons that the M.D. was established. A Doctor of Pharmacy is awarded as the Terminal/Professional degree in Pharmacy replacing BS in Pharmacy. It is the only Professional Pharmacy Degree awarded in the US and the Pharmacy School needs accreditation of American Council on Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Pharmacy programs vary in length between 4–6 years depending if a matriculating student has earned a BS/BA or not.
Recently there has been a trend for introducing professional doctorates in other fields as well, including the Doctor of Audiology in 2007. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are expected to completely transition to the Doctor of Nursing Practice by 2015, and physical therapists to the Doctor of Physical Therapy by 2020. Most often professional associations play a central role in this transformation, and there are criticisms on the lack of proper criteria to assure required rigor in the new doctorate program. In many cases Masters level programs are relabeled as doctorate degrees.
|Profession||Doctorate in the United States||Abbreviation||First awarded|
|Audiologist||Doctor of Audiology||AuD||1996|
|Behavioral Health||Doctor of Behavioral Health||DBH||2010|
|Business||Doctor of Business Administration||DBA|
|Chiropractor||Doctor of Chiropractic||DC|
|College Teaching||Doctor of Arts||DArts, DA|
|Computer Science||Doctor of Computer Science||DCompSci, DScComp,
|Counseling||Doctor of Professional Counseling||DPC|
|Dentist||Doctor of Dental Surgery
Doctor of Dental Medicine
|Doctor of Environmental Science||DEnv|
|Health Administration||Doctor of Health Administration||DHA|
|Health Science||Doctor of Health Science||DHSc|
Doctor of Law
Doctor of Jurisprudence
|Management||Doctor of Management||DMgt, DM|
|Minister (clergy)||Doctor of Ministry
Doctor of Practical Theology
Doctor of Biblical Studies
|Music||Doctor of Musical Arts||DMusA, DMA|
Practice Registered Nurse)
|Doctor of [Nursing / Nurse Anesthesia] Practice||DNP / DNAP||2005|
|Occupational Therapy||Doctor of Occupational Therapy||OTD|
|Optometrist||Doctor of Optometry||OD|
|Osteopathic Physician||Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine||DO||1892|
|Pharmacist||Doctor of Pharmacy||PharmD|
|Physical Therapy||Doctor of Physical Therapy||DPT|
|Physician||Doctor of Medicine
|Physician Assistant||Doctor of Science Physician Assistant||DScPA|
|Podiatrist||Doctor of Podiatric Medicine||DPM|
|Psychologist||Doctor of Psychology||PsyD, PhD|
|Public Administration||Doctor of Public Administration||DPA|
|Public Health||Doctor of Public Health||DrPH|
|Social Work||Doctor of Social Work||DSW|
|Veterinarian||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
(Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris)
- Compilation thesis
- Doctor (title)
- Executive DBA Council
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