A Beginning Trend: Multiple Doctorates

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by EsqPhD, Jun 18, 2001.

  1. EsqPhD

    EsqPhD member

    It seems like the academic and professional bars keep going up. I encounter more people with multiple doctorates these days than say 20 years ago. Is this a reasonable trend? Is there a point where society says enough with overqualification?
  2. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    I vaguely remember John or somebody mentioning that there was at one point, the mention of the "Chancelorette" degree or some such, that was to be the degree-to-end-all-degrees that one gets after earning a doctorate.

    The question in my mind is, do people do multiple doctorates because they feel they need them for work or profession, because they are perpetual students and want to avoid the "real world", because they are insecure and feel like they need the education, or for yet another reason?
  3. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member


    The best case for a double-doctorate I've ever seen is Stacey Ake of Metanexus. In 1994, she earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology. She found herself drawn to the philosophies of religion and science, so in 1999 she chased it with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Penn State and she is now an authority (quite naturally) in the interdisciplinary field of religion-and-science. I will not be overwhelmingly surprised if, at some point within the next ten years, she decides to add on a third doctorate, in theology.

    So I can think of a number of cases where a "doctoral cocktail" might be beneficial. For my part, I've always kind of mulled on the idea of earning a Th.D. after I earn my Ph.D., assuming I earn my Ph.D. in a field other than theology (which is actually how things look at this point). So I guess someone might earn a second doctorate for the same reason they might have earned the first one: because it looked like a good idea at the time.


    Tom Head
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Two observations. The first is that I have often seen this with individuals whose first doctorate is a professional doctorate. They want the Ph.D or Th.D.

    The second is that we do have degree inflation. We discussed that in my undergraduate sociology course in the 80's. I have seen this in the work place as well. One of the factors making the market better for Ph.D's is the fact that (according to US News) industry is recognizing the ability of Ph.D.'s to fit in outside of academia. They are becoming prized for fortitude and analytical ability. This makes it safer to go on and get a doctorate (or two). My brother in law got his M.S. in Criminology and is looking for a Ph.D. program.


  5. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    It is the University of Chicago that proposed, and still hasn't let go of, the notion of a degree higher than the doctorate.

    And at a much lower level . . . I had dinner this evening with the director of graduate admissions of Golden Gate University. He said that high school grade inflation is a real issue for people like him. Many (but not all) US high schools are now giving grades as high as 5.0 (and even a few at 6.0) on a four point scale! So the formerly perfect 4.0 straight-A average is now not even high enough to be seriously considered, when most applicants have between 4.5 and 5.0 (on that 4-point scale). What (dare I say) nonsense.
  6. Lewchuk

    Lewchuk member

    I knew of a fellow with both a doctorate in Accounting and a doctorate in Philosophy, his specialty... business ethics!

  7. Guest

    Guest Guest

    If this logic is used in college/grad school settings, then I guess one could theoretically graduate from a four-year program with such a high GPA, they would immediately be awarded a doctorate! Complete a four-year program with a 6.0 GPA, and earn the BA, MA, Ph.D. all at once.

    I wish I had thought of this first, but alas, Northwestern International University, Ltd., has been doing this for some time---the only difference is that one can do it there in six months. [​IMG]

  8. EsqPhD

    EsqPhD member

    What do you think of this? In Germany, each doctorate brings a title on its own--so, if you have two doctorates, you can be called "Dr. Dr. Schweitzer." Think that the rest of the world will ever follow?
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    People change careers much more commonly today than they once did. I expect that many cases of multiple doctorates are associated with that. The English lit doctor that can't find a teaching post, seizes a business opportunity out of necessity, and fifteen years later is a DBA.

    As North points out, another possibility might be a combination of a practitioner-oriented and a research-oriented doctorate (a Pharm.D. with a Ph.D. in pharmacology, perhaps). M.D.'s often do Ph.D. dissertations in biomedical sciences. There are many dual degree programs that allow that.

    But all in all, I'd be far more impressed by a person with one garden-variety doctorate plus accomplishments than by somebody with multiple doctorates and no accomplishments. One's resume starts to speak louder than one's degrees at some point in a career.

    A doctorate means that one is expected to be able to do original work. Two doctorates don't make that work any more important.
  10. Dan Snelson

    Dan Snelson New Member

    So if you earn 2 PhD's do you get to put Dr. in front and PhD at the back???? [​IMG]

    Dr. Joe Ray Billy Bob, PhD
  11. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The one that cracked me up was the one listed in Walston's Guide (may have come from Bear's first) that was a Bishop with everything inclduing Civil service rank thrown in. Zeesh!

    One of the differences between the US and Canada is the listing of degrees after one's name. We (Canada) list all degrees.
    eg. John Yurchuck, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    At the University level, not uncommon to see fellowships thrown in. I guess it is kind of a self affirming thing. It says "I am somebody".


  12. Bill Highsmith

    Bill Highsmith New Member

    A new protocol is needed. In your example, a P/TH.D might do. For serial Ph.D.ers, perhaps Ph.3D. would be a hat-trick Ph.D. An M/Ph.D. would be a medical and academic doctor. Perhaps other information could be embedded. A B->Ph.D would be someone who skipped the master degree. Ph. [​IMG] would be a Doctor of comedy.
  13. EsqPhD

    EsqPhD member

    I studied up at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) for a few years--always wondered why some Canadian professionals include all their lower degrees also when listing academic credentials.

    One of my New Testament professor (at another school in Edmonton) told me it was proper for Ph.D.'s (but not M.D.'s) to write their names as "Dr. John Canada, Ph.D."--but by American etiquette, only the Ph.D. should go behind or the Dr. before--but not both. Can anyone confirm if the Dr. John Canada, Ph.D. is really permissible in Canada and/or England (it might be England also since this professor studied at the University of Manchester under F. F. Bruce).

    A trivia question--I'm pretty sure this applies not only to America--but also to England and Canada also. Assume all doctoral degrees only. If one earned an M.D. in 1980, a Ph.D. (in Theology) in 1984, and a J.D. in 1988, what is the most proper order for listing those credentials behind one's name?

  14. ahchem

    ahchem New Member

    Interesting question...

    I would think something like:
    Over Achiever, M.D., J.D., Ph.D
    Because the first two are professional degrees, and technically the Ph.D. would be slightly higher on the academic snob scale.

    But the question that comes to my mind upon thinking about this: why would one have all these degrees? What do they have in common that they could be used together?

    There is some precedent for medical doctors become lawyers to work on medical law/malpractice. But I have no clue how a Ph.D. in theology would fit into that mix.

    Jeff Welch
  15. Caballero Lacaye

    Caballero Lacaye New Member

    Hello again, North!

    North, this is the first time I am hearing of this. In my experience with Latin America and some parts of Europe, teachers always (or most of the time) disclose all academic credentials, from associates (titulados) to doctorates (doctorados). So, in the United States, if someone hypotetically earns an unacredited (or DETC/California accredited) bachelor and master, and then this same person earns a regionally-accredited PhD, I guess this person doesn't need to disclose his/her other lower degrees if he/she chooses to do so. Am I right?

    Take care,

    Karlos Alberto Lacaye
    [email protected]
  16. David Williams

    David Williams New Member

    I work in a teaching hospital where I have frequent, daily actually, contact with resident physicians. What I see more and more often is those people who have an eye on going into medical education taking an MD-PhD combination. For example, someone who wants to have a specialty in oncology will take a PhD in cell biology. There is even a nickname for these types: mudfudd. You also see a parallel for veterinarians who plan on entering the world of academia. Some medical schools, the University of Illinois for example, have arrangements for aspiring mudfudds. U. of I. students are directed toward the Champaign-Urbana campus. I am also familiar with some clinical psychology programs that partner with JD and MBA departments. It does seem as if the bar keeps rising for entry into academia.
  17. the_synergist

    the_synergist New Member

    ladies (I assume there are some here) and gentlemen,

    this subject brings to mind a discussion that I have had on numerous occasions with a number of people - with and without postgraduate degrees. This question mainly applies to undergrad. quals...

    Which is more important - the knowledge attained in achieving the qualification or the piece of paper itself and when did the piece of paper cease to be just the award that represented the level of skills and knowledge attained?

    I teach at a technical college/school for Printing and Graphic Arts in Australia and am a sessional lecturer at one of the Universities here.

    I have noticed consistently that my adult students, at both vocational and tertiary level and almost without exception, seek the knowledge as their prime goal. They are usually dissatisfied with anything less than a high distinction. This of course sees them attain both the knowledge AND the qualification.

    On the other hand, many of my young students (17 to 23yo) focus on only doing enough to achieve the qualification and, I believe, subsequently rob themselves of the joy of learning and acquisition of knowledge.

    Are we sending the wrong messages to them or should young people see the world before pursuing higher education?


    "it's what we learn
    when we think we
    know it all that counts"
    author unknown
  18. Guest

    Guest Guest

    The hypothetical person in question began his/her career in medicine, but was sued by a practicing New Age astrodynamic interplanetary crystal gazer. The basis of the litigation was that the New Ager felt he was discriminated against on religious grounds.

    The MD, therefore, earned a Ph.D. in theology (New Age theology), to understand the bizarre nuances of crystal gazers. He then went on to earn the JD so he might work in the specific field of medical law/malpractice on religious grounds.

    By the way, he still practices medicine on Tuesdays. [​IMG]

  19. EsqPhD

    EsqPhD member

    The Ph.D. in Theology has a reason for being in there. Though people often list degrees however they like best...there is a proper etiquette in America and I would also assume, consistent with most English speaking nations. A caveat in that etiquette changes and that in subcultures (within the larger culture), things may have a life on their own. I am only giving generalities. One can review a brief summary of http://www.ars.usda.gov/afm2/ppweb/261-2mc-6-7.htm#_1_12 (under section 3b.)which is one of many places that render opinions on etiquette.

    When listing the M.D. (1980), Ph.D. in Theology (1984), and J.D. (1988), historically and current etiquette has it that:

    1. Theological degrees preceed other academic and professional degrees.
    2. Other academic/professional degrees are placed in chronological order (first to last).

    Thus, in our example, the most proper way is:
    Over Achiever, Ph.D., M.D., J.D.

    Assume the Ph.D. in Theology was an M.Div., D.Min., or Th.D. (1984 after 1980 M.D.)--it would still be:

    Over Achiever, M.Div., M.D., J.D.
    , D.Min., M.D., J.D., etc.

    Another twist in this etiquette (but probably only applies here to American culture) is that no more than two academic degrees should be listed after a person's name (except in bio's of course). Hence, we then modify as follows:

    Over Achiever, Ph.D., M.D.

    and drop the J.D. (unless Over Achiever is practicing law more than medicine--in that case, we would drop the M.D. and replace it with the J.D.).

    Does anyone know of any contrary etiquette procedures to this?

  20. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    If I were in some situation where it was appropriate to list all the degree abbreviations after my name (and if I had the degrees to list), I'd list them in relevancy order. If I were a physician I'd list M.D. first. If I were an attorney, J.D., and if I were a professor, Ph.D.

    That would probably cause shock and disgust, like eating with the wrong fork, but that's how I'd do it. I certainly wouldn't list a theological degree first unless I was acting as a theologian.

    And frankly, I can't think of too many occasions (here in the informal US) where it wouldn't be sort of pompous to list a string of abbreviations. I'd just sign my name sans titles.

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