PhD Types - Understanding Different Doctoral Degrees | (2024)




When is a 'PhD' not a PhD? When it's a DPhil, DBA, EdD or other type of doctorate degree.

The traditional PhD (or 'Doctor of Philosophy') is the best-known advanced research qualification, but several other types of doctoral degree exist. Some of these are academic qualifications in specific subject areas. Others are professional doctorates with a slightly different format.

The way in which candidates study for a PhD is also becoming more varied, with the opportunity to research part time or even pursue a joint doctorate degree, awarded by more than one university.

But there's no need to be confused. This page explains and compares the options available to you.

Not sure where to start? Read our step by step guide to finding the right PhD.

The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) Degree – A Guide

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Designed for experienced managers and business leaders, the DBA is a prestigious and highly-specialised professional doctoral degree.

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The Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree - A Guide

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Ideal for senior teachers and policy makers, an Education Doctorate combines advanced training with original research.

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Joint PhD and Cotutelle Programmes – A Guide

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Joint PhD programmes involve collaboration between two (or more) different universities. So how does that work? Who can apply? And what are the advantages (and disadvantages) of researching in this way?

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Not Just a PhD: The Other Types of Doctorate

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The PhD is the most common variety of doctorate, but others are awarded in specific disciplines or sometimes particular countries.

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Integrated PhD Programmes in the UK – A Guide

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Integrated PhD programmes consist of a one-year Masters followed by three years of PhD research. Find out more about what it's like to study an integrated PhD, how to apply and the funding options available.

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The Doctor of Engineering (EngD) – A Guide

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Thinking of applying for the Doctor of Engineering (EngD)? Our guide covers everything you need to know about the qualification, including costs, applications, programme content, and how it differs from a PhD.

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Comparing PhD types

Wondering which type of doctorate degree is right for you? The following table offers a quick overview of the most common types of PhD and other doctorates:

PhD Types
QualificationFull TitleSubjectsType
PhD / DPhilDoctor of PhilosophyAllAcademic
DBADoctor of Business AdministrationBusiness and ManagementProfessional
EngD / PhD (Eng)Doctor of EngineeringEngineeringProfessional
EdD / D.EdDoctor of EducationEducationProfessional
DSocSciDoctor of Social ScienceSocial SciencesProfessional
DProfDoctor of Professional StudiesAllProfessional
DArchDoctor of ArchitectureArchitectureProfessional
MDDoctor of MedicineMedicine and Health SciencesProfessional / Higher
Th.DDoctor of TheologyTheology and Religious StudiesAcademic
DD / DDivDoctor of DivinityTheology and Religious StudiesHigher / Honorary
Dsc / ScDDoctor of ScienceScience, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)Higher / Honorary
DLitt / LitDDoctor of ScienceArts and HumanitiesHigher / Honorary

Please note that this table doesn't include every type of doctorate. Many other subjects (and countries) award their own specific qualifications, but we've covered some of the most popular here.

You can more about some of these degree types in our guide to different varieties of doctorate.

Understanding this table

The doctorates in the above table are divided into different types, as follows:

  • Academic doctorates (such as the standard PhD) are usually awarded for original research and scholarship in traditional academic subjects. They can prepare a student for various careers, but their main focus is on broadening theoretical understanding of a subject, rather than improving professional practice.
  • Professional doctorates are awarded for work that contributes directly to knowledge or practice in a specific vocational field. They still involve original research and analysis, but also incorporate more practical training and instruction. Candidates may require appropriate experience.
  • Higher doctorates are usually awarded later in a person's career, as a means of recognising esteemed researchers or practitioners. Students do not normally enrol for these doctorates as traditional university degrees.
  • Honorary doctorates are awarded to celebrate an individual's achievements. They do not require any specific track record of academic or professional work and can be granted at the discretion of a university. Students do not enrol for these doctorates.

As a prospective postgraduate student, you only really need to concern yourself with academic or professional research degrees.

We've included higher and honorary doctorates here in order to try and prevent them being confused with more 'conventional' PhDs (and to give you some inspiration for later in your career!).

DPhil vs PhD

Many people believe that the DPhil and PhD are different degrees. This is not true. ‘DPhil’ is an abbreviation of ‘Doctor of Philosophy’. Essentially, ‘DPhil’ and ‘PhD’ are two different ways of referring to the same doctoral degree.

‘DPhil’ is traditionally a British term and so only a few universities (most notably, the University of Oxford) still use it. Most universities around the world use the term ‘PhD’. While you might have to explain to a foreign employer what a DPhil is, you can be safe in the knowledge that both degrees are the same prestigious Doctor of Philosophy award.

PhD Types - Understanding Different Doctoral Degrees | (7)

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PhD Types - Understanding Different Doctoral Degrees | (2024)


How many types of PhDs are there? ›

As we've mentioned before, there are two types of doctorate degrees: the academic degree (PhD) and the applied degree (Doctorate).

What is the difference between a PhD and an integrated PhD? ›

The most significant difference between an Integrated PhD and a regular PhD is the addition of the one-year Masters degree at the beginning of the programme. This results in an Integrated PhD typically lasting four years, as opposed to the three years as with regular PhDs.

What is the difference between structured PhD and individual PhD? ›

Structured doctoral programmes often have a strong international orientation with English as the team language. Unlike the individual doctorate model that can be freely structured to suit the individual research project, here doctoral students and their research proposals have to fit in with an existing PhD programme.

What does MPhil PhD mean? ›

The University will award the degrees of Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) to registered students who successfully complete approved programmes. All proposed research programmes will be considered for research degree registration on their academic merits.

Who has 7 PhDs? ›

Bruce Banner is a renowned scientist, physicist, and medical doctor with seven Ph. D.s.

What are the three PhDs? ›

There are three categories of doctoral degrees recognized by the AQF: research doctorates, professional doctorates and higher doctorates.

Is a PhD higher than a doctorate? ›

No, a PhD is not a higher degree than a professional doctorate. If you're wondering what's better than a PhD, both PhDs and professional doctorates are the highest level of college education that can be earned.

What is the hardest PhD to get? ›

Some of the most difficult PhD programs include those in the fields of mathematics, physics, and engineering. These programs require a high level of mathematical and analytical skills, as well as a strong ability to think abstractly and creatively.

Can you use Dr. if you have a doctorate? ›

If, when meeting people with doctorates, you're unsure how to address them, "Dr." is always correct. If they'd rather the title be dropped, they will let you know.

Do you need a master's to get a PhD? ›

This depends on the country. In the United States, you can generally go directly to a PhD with only a bachelor's degree, as a master's program is included as part of the doctoral program. Elsewhere, you generally need to graduate from a research-intensive master's degree before continuing to the PhD.

What is the difference between a PhD and a doctorate degree? ›

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is a specific type of doctorate degree that focuses on research in a particular field. It is highly theoretical and involves extensive research to generate new knowledge. On the other hand, a doctorate degree is an umbrella term for any doctoral-level degree.

What does MSc mean? ›

Put simply, an MSc (Master of Sciences) is a postgraduate degree in the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, and healthcare, while an MA (Master of Arts) is a postgraduate degree typically covering the fields of arts, humanities, social sciences, and business.

Are all PhDs 4 years? ›

On average, a Ph. D. may take up to eight years to complete. A doctorate degree typically takes four to six years to complete—however, this timing depends on the program design, the subject area you're studying, and the institution offering the program.

Who has 5 PhDs? ›

Meet Dr Abdul Karim, world's most educated man with 5 PhD, speaks 18 languages. Dr Abdul Karim went to Independence Primary and Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone before going to the US to become a naturalized citizen of the US.

Which is higher a PhD or a doctorate? ›

No, a PhD is not a higher degree than a professional doctorate. If you're wondering what's better than a PhD, both PhDs and professional doctorates are the highest level of college education that can be earned.

What is the highest degree in PhD? ›

A PhD is a doctoral research degree and the highest level of academic qualification you can achieve. The degree normally takes between three and four years of full-time work towards a thesis offering an original contribution to your subject.

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