What is the difference in a PhD degree and a professional doctorate degree?

It is a common belief that a PhD and a doctorate degree are the same thing. But are they really? Will they both help you reach your goal and why would you need one instead of the other? Since the doctorate degree sets the standard for higher learning, these are all good questions to consider when in pursuit of further education.

Perhaps first, we should consider what the term “PhD” refers to. It is an abbreviated version of “Doctor of Philosophy.” Then, that begs the next question, which is, “What if I’m not interested in pursuing a career in philosophy?” Despite the degree’s name, the good news is… if you don’t want to enter into a career in the field of philosophy, you don’t have to. In the realm of higher education, the term philosophy is used in a broad spectrum of studies. If you research the meaning of the word “philosophy” you will find that Webster defines it as “the study of ideas about knowledge, truth and the nature and meaning of life.” It doesn’t get much broader than that, does it? To summarize, a PhD umbrellas almost every profession except for the fields of law, medicine and theology.

Typically, within your chosen field, a PhD prepares the student to focus on an academic career such as a college professor, a consultant, a researcher or a scholarly writer, however, you may also pursue a clinical practice such as a psychologist or a surgeon, for example.

So, how does a doctorate degree differ, you ask? While a PhD is most appropriate for those who would like to teach, a doctorate degree focuses primarily on a professional career. A doctorate can be earned in all areas of study. For example, in the medical field, a physician is called a M.D., which is a Doctor of Medicine. Similarly, a Doctor of dentistry is called a D.D.S. In the field of law, a J.D. or “juris doctor” degree is awarded to law students in order for them to take the bar exam. Generally, earning a PhD or a professional doctorate degree will afford both students the ability to teach at the college or university level, as well as, completing clinical practice making each degree hard to distinguish any major difference. In other words, the word “doctorate” seems to be an all-encompassing term under which the distinction of PhD falls under.

Deciding which degree is the best one for you is a personal choice. However, you must first assess your career goals, for example, you should determine how you would like to use your degree, what kind of degree is needed to advance in your career and what sort of research you are most interested in.

Upon completion of your PhD or doctorate degree training, you will have received the most prestigious accolade for one’s academic studies that is available in your chosen discipline.