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A Doctorate is an academic degree of the highest level. Traditionally, the award of a doctorate implies recognition of the candidate as an equal by the university faculty under which he or she has studied. There are essentially three types of doctorates: research, first-professional (USA only), and honorary. Research doctorates are nearly always awarded in recognition of academic research that is of a publishable standard (even if not actually published) and represents at least a modest contribution to human knowledge. It is usually assessed by submission and defense of a doctoral thesis or dissertation, though in some cases a coherent body of published literature can be accepted instead. Honorary doctorates are awarded for a substantial contribution to a field but this need not be academic in character.

The title of Doctor is used both by and of those holding research doctorates or a first-professional doctorate, but according to convention is not used by or of those holding honorary doctorates. In some countries the term "doctor" may by used as a title of respect even if the person being addressed has no doctoral degree, e.g. holders of a bachelor's degree in Portuguese-speaking countries.

Table of contents
1 General information
2 Types of doctorates
3 Related topics

General information

USA only: First-professional doctoral degrees are first degrees in a given field and include: Chiropractic, Dentistry, Law, Medicine, Optometry, Osteopathy, Pharmacy, Podiatry, Psychology and Veterinary medicine. There are many others. While first-professional doctoral degrees such as the M.D. and J.D. do not require completion of a thesis/dissertation or publication of a coherent body of literature, actual practice within the field requires that the degree holder become licensed by the appropriate body (an organization not affiliated with the schools granting the degrees).

The most common type of research doctorate is a Ph.D (Philosophiĉ Doctor or Doctor of Philosophy), though there are many other designations, listed below. Some British universities, including York, Oxford and Sussex refer to the Ph.D. degree as the D.Phil.

Minimum periods vary considerably: In the UK, the minimum time for completing a Ph.D. is 3 years from time of enrolment (which usually takes place after the award of a bachelor's or master's degree). However, completions within this period are exceptional; most candidates spend considerably longer. In the US a similar process and time period is required for research doctorates but the normal minimum term for a first-professional doctorate can be as little as 4 years past secondary education, although many fields have longer normative times.

Although the Ph.D. is almost universally accepted as the standard qualification for an academic career, it is a relatively new invention. 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 becoming rare, and are usually only awarded as Honorary degrees. In France, the higher doctorate (doctorat d'État) was suppressed and replaced for academic recruitment purposes by the much lighter "habilitation to direct theses".

Types of doctorates

Since the Ph.D. is the most widely known of the research doctorates among university professors in the United States, there is often a perceived bias in favor of the Ph.D. over other doctoral degrees, though in certain fields outside of university teaching/research, an alternate to the Ph.D. may be preferred. The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) recognize numerous other research-oriented doctoral degrees as equivalent to the Ph.D. and do not discriminate between them.

Research oriented doctorates

Higher Doctorates in the United Kingdom

The notion of doctorates that are higher than the Ph.D. is one that is rare in the United States, but more established in the U.K., these include:

Higher Doctores in Denmark

In Denmark there are four levels of degrees: Bachelors, Masters, Ph.d. and Dr., which is the higher doctorate.


Related topics