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 two types of doctorates: research, and first-professional. 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.
First-professional doctoral degrees are first degrees in a given field and include: Chiropractic, Dentistry, Law, Medicine (Allopathic, including surgery), Optometry, Osteopathy, Pharmacy, Podiatry, and Veterinary Medicine. There are many others.
The most common type of research doctorate is a Ph.D (Philosophię 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, the normal minimum 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.
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 (as opposed to first-professional, see below) doctoral degrees as equivalent to the Ph.D. and do not discriminate between them. These are:
Doctor of Arts (D.A), Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch), Doctor of Applied Science (D.A.S.), Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.), Doctor of Chemistry (D.Chem.), Doctor of Criminal Justice (D.C.J.), Doctor of Comparative/Civil Law (D.C.L.), Doctor of Criminology (D.Crim.), Doctor of Environmental Design (D.E.D.), Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) , Doctor of Environment (D.Env.), Doctor of Engineering Science (D.E.Sc./Sc.D.E.), Doctor of Forestry (D.F.), Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.), Doctor of Geological Science (D.G.S.), Doctor of Hebrew Literature/Letters (D.H.L.), Doctor of Health and Safety (D.H.S.), Doctor of Hebrew Studies (D.H.S.), Doctor of Industrial Technology (D.I.T.), Doctor of Library Science (D.L.S.), Doctor of Music (D.M.), Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A, A.Mus.D.), Doctor of Musical Education (D.M.E.), Doctor of Ministry (D.Min./D.M.), Doctor of Modern Languages (D.M.L), Doctor of Music Ministry (D.M.M.), Doctor of Medical Science (D.M.Sc.), Doctor of Nursing Science (D.N.Sc.), Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.H.), Doctor of Physical Education (D.P.E.), Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.), Doctor of Professional Studies (D.P.S.), Doctor of Design (Dr.DES.), Doctor of Religious Education (D.R.E.), Doctor of Recreation (D.Rec./D.R.), Doctor of Science (D.Sc./Sc.D), Doctor of Science in Dentistry (D.Sc.D.), Doctor of Science and Hygiene (D.Sc.H.), Doctor of Science in Veterinary Medicine (D.Sc.V.M.), Doctor of Sacred Music (D.S.M.), Doctor of Social Science (D.S.Sc.), Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W), Doctor of Education (Ed.D), Doctor of Canon Law (J.C.D.), Doctor of Juristic Science (J.S.D.), Doctor of the Science of Law (L.Sc.D.), Doctor of Rehabilitation (Rh.D.), Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.), Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), Doctor of Theology (Th.D.)
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 United Kingdom.
Higher Doctorates in the U.K.:
- DD (Divinitatis Doctor or Doctor of Divinity)
- LL.D (Legum Doctor or Doctor of Laws, mostly honourific)
- D.Sc (Doctor of Science)
- D.Litt (Doctor of Letters)
- D.Mus (Doctor of Music)
- D.Tech (Doctor of Technology)
- MD (Medicinę Doctor or Doctor of Medicine) (UK)
- D.B.A (Doctor of Business Administration)
- D.Bus (Doctor of Business)
- D.Eng (Doctor of Engineering)
- Ed.D (Doctor of Education)
- J.D. (Juris Doctor or Doctor of Law)
- MD (Medicinę Doctor or Doctor of Medicine) (US)