PhD vs. Professional Doctorates

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Boethius, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    We have a plethora of professional doctorate programs offered in the US, both in traditional and online formats, but I just learned they are very popular outside of the US.

    Here is a sampling of professional doctorates in the US:

    Doctor of Economic Development (DED)
    Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
    Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
    Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS); Online in Information Management
    Doctor of Audiology (D. Aud.)
    Juris Doctor (JD)
    Doctor of Arts (DA)
    Etc. etc.

    This web article does a good job at explaining the difference between a PhD and Professional Doctorate:

    A Brief History on the Doctorate.”
  2. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    In the United States, a professional doctorate has historically been classified as a doctorate that does not require a dissertation, such as a JD or an MD. However, it appears that the new trend, particularly in British circles, is to classify all non-PhD doctorates as professional doctorates, such as the DBA, EdD, DPA, et al.
  3. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    I should have checked the archives on this topic - my apologies! Aside from quality concerns, my point is that maybe the USA is joining the rest of the world in what it perceives on the value of professional doctorates other than JDs and MDs? After all, the ubiquitous PhD does have a defined purpose. It's not like these other professional doctorates are in competition with the PhD in terms of goals and expectations.
  4. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    The DBA was created in Australia as an alternative to the PhD that was meant to give a progression to MBAs that were looking to further their education. The admission requirement for a PhD in Business in Australia is a Bachelor with honors or a Master of philosophy or any other masters that requires a thesis or dissertation.

    MBAs are course based masters so they wouldn't satisfy the admission requirement for a PhD. MBAs were required to complete a M.Phil before enrolling in a PhD. This extra master was not very appealing to existing MBAs.

    The DBA was created to admit MBAs into a doctoral level education. The DBA was not meant to educate future academics but professionals interested to remain in industry.

    For what I have seen, most DBA alumni from Australian schools work as academics, university administrators, consultants, adjuncts but very few in high level management (e.g. CEO, CFO).
  5. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Not quite. True about the trend towards professional doctorates in the UK, but it is also very strong elsewhere. Australia, South Africa, and--of course--the USA have been awarding such doctorates for decades.

    Also, not quite right regarding your definition. That is not a "professional doctorate." (Not requiring a dissertation.) What you are describing (JD, MD, DMV, DC, etc.) are first professional doctorates. That's another beast entirely.

    Finally, not quite regarding your distinction between professional doctorates and the Ph.D. In the UK, professional doctorates typically have two distinctions. First, there is usually a "taught" component, consisting of a series of prescribed courses. This is combined with a smaller thesis (typically 50K words vice 80-100K for the Ph.D.). The other distinction is that in the professional doctorate, the work can be applied in a practice area and, thus, not necessarily be suited for publication. That isn't so with the Ph.D.

    In the U.S., however, these distinctions are not always present. As our colleague, Tony Pina, reminds us, there is normally no difference between the Ph.D. and other "professional" doctorates (like the Ed.D.)

    I write about this all the time on this board. Anyone is free to look it up.
  6. Pjmaxwell

    Pjmaxwell New Member

    Thanks all for this thread. Personally, I never even heard of a DBA until a few years ago when a friend (with an MBA) began work on a DBA. I appreciate the info.
  7. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    You are failing to make a distinction between professional doctorates and first-professional degrees.
  8. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    1. The first post in this thread lumps professional "doctorates" and professional "degrees" together.

    2. I have always said that doctorates that require a dissertation are not "professional doctorates" nor "professional degrees." However, the trend is to classify the PhD as a doctorate and the other dissertation doctorates (DBA, EdD, DPA, et al) as professional doctorates.

    3. People are also classifying JDs and MDs as professional doctorates (not professional degrees) and are lumping the DBA and EdD in the same category.

    4. People believe what they believe. Refer back to #1 as proof.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2012
  9. michellepinto

    michellepinto New Member

    Ok....the last post is well summarized. Till recently I didn't know there existed any other doctorate other than the regular ones who do a post graduation PhD
  10. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    "Professional Doctorate" is a relatively new term. The term "First Professional Degree" (FPD) has been around a lot longer and has a specific meaning: a professional degree required to practice in a particular profession. Traditionally, these degrees were in law (JD), medicine (MD), and ministry (M. Div).

    Now, there are a lot more first professional degrees like Master in Social Work (MSW), Bachelor in Engineering (BE; along with a professional certification), etc. Noitice, a FPD isn't always a doctorate, but some professional doctorates can be FPDs.

    I needed a Bachelor of Arts to begin my career in government. Now I have an Master of Public of Administration (MPA) and I'm applying to a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) program. The DPA is a professional doctorate but not a FPD.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2012
  11. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    That's an excellent distinction that shows the current trending.
  12. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Actually, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) was invented at Harvard University as a direct result of Harvard's rule that only the College of Arts & Sciences could award the Ph.D. degree. This is why the Harvard School of Education created the Ed.D. degree in 1920 and the Harvard School of Business created the Doctor of Commercial Science (DCS) degree in 1928. The DCS was never popular and was replaced in 1953 by the DBA.

    The distinction between the DBA and the Ph.D. in business is much more pronounced outside of the U.S. than it is within the U.S. The same holds true for the Ed.D.
  13. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    The term "professional doctorate" has always been problematic, for reasons cited by my colleagues above. The U.S. Department of Education has had no classification of professional doctorate, only first professional degrees and research doctorates. The J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., M.Div., O.D., D.O., D.V.M., D.P.M., D.D.S., D.M.D., etc., are examples of the former. The Ph.D., D.B.A., S.J.D., Ed.D., Th.D., etc., are examples of the latter. The term "professional doctorate" has become a popular way to designate non-Ph.D. doctorates for the benefit of universities who want to offer doctoral degrees and who do not want to seem to be in direct competition with flagship research universities.

    This was true in California, where the California State University System wanted to offer its own doctoral degrees (rather than having to partner with a University of California campus or a private university). For years, the U.C. successfully defended against the claims that the CSU "professional doctorates" would be fundamentally different than the U.C.'s Ph.D.s. Unfortunately for the U.C.s, the CSUs were able to coerce some legislators and now the CSUs offer doctorates. The other benefactor was the DETC. The U.S. Department of Ed. orginally gave the DETC authority to accredit institutions offering first professional degrees. Later, in a stunning case of institutional amnesia, the Dept. of Ed. gave the DETC authority to accredit "professional doctorate" programs (a classification that did not exist at the Dept of Ed.)
  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    The distinctions I offered regarding professional doctorate vs. research degrees are that in the UK the professional doctorates tend to have a taught (coursework) portion--unlike the research-only PhD--and that the subject matter can be in an applied (practice) area; it doesn't have to be purely theoretical. (Meaning it doesn't have to advance the scholarship in the field.)

    Those two distinctions are blurred in the U.S. First, the U.S. PhD is always a taught degree with a "little book" dissertation. This is also true with professional doctorates (education, business, etc.); there is virtually no difference in the approach. The second distinction--academic vs. practice--is also blurred. Many U.S. PhD students do applied dissertations.
  15. michellepinto

    michellepinto New Member

    I never knew that there was something like a professional doctorate. I still don't get what is the difference between a PhD and a professional doctorate. There are some who get the "Dr." tag for excellence in their field. What is that called?
  16. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    Honorary doctorates.
  17. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Most people understand "professional doctorate" to mean any doctoral degree other than the Ph.D. This causes confusion among many, since a degree like a DBA or EdD has much more in common with the PhD than it does with first professional degrees like the JD, MD, DDS or PharmD.
  18. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Very true. In my research into the DBA and EdD versus the PhD, I have stuck with U.S. institutions, since there is much more variation with degrees outside the U.S. (taught degrees, degrees by research, degrees by publication, etc.)
  19. vadro

    vadro New Member

    Good Explanation about the so-called professional doctorates and PhD's, although I would add that in UK the "professional doctorates" are research degrees. PhD's are considered conventional research degrees, whilst the former are professional practice research degree with an emphasis on applied area ( practice). Here a self explanatory link :

    Research degrees

    Here the letter I've received when I was awarded the Doctorate in Professional Studies from the Middlesex University (London, UK), as you can read a research degree. letter
  20. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    Vadro – impressive. Thank you for sharing. I was doing some research on Professional Doctorates and found out that most journal articles are written by UK and Australian scholars. As you know, US scholars on this forum have been shedding light on the differences and similarities ad nauseam.

    Here’s a question for all: what is up with the US on not embracing professional doctorates as in the UK, Australia and elsewhere??? Does the USA have a PhD guild system?

    I understand the quality concerns but it seems to be more than that. Why can’t we just agree that the PhD is in a class of its own? Professional doctorates are not replacing PhDs; they offer another focus. It seems to me that this situation is very much like the textbook example in economics of PhDs wanting to control the supply of doctorates. There is all ready a glut of PhDs in the USA so why mess with professional doctorates that have a different focus? This thinking is kind of crazy.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2012

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