Using "PhD Candidate"

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Boethius, Jul 2, 2014.

  1. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    This past weekend I presented at my first academic conference. You're right. No one uses "PhD" or says they have a doctorate or that they are a candidate or student. It is assumed that everyone has a PhD or that you're smart enough to present a worthwhile topic. Plus, in the PhD world, you have a totem pole starting from neophyte scholar to complete badass, well-known published scholar.

    When the plenary session leader introduced me, she said I had graduate degrees in this and that, that I am economist for more than 20 years, and that I was a pursuing a doctorate at Universitat Abat Oliba. I did get banged up a little in the question and answer period but came out ok. Many scholars told me they liked my thesis and presentation. I thanked the scholars who gave me a hard time during the Q&A but they told me they liked my presentation and wanted to give me a hard time. (My topic was about philosophy and economics.)

    No one asked me if I was pursuing my PhD via DL because no one cared. It was all about my contribution to the conference's theme. My paper will be published in the proceedings of an international journal.

    I have to tell ya - I'm ready for another academic conference! It's a contact sport but you learn a lot! :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2014
  2. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Well done! Sending you a p.m. about the topic...
  3. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member

    I've spoken to a lawyer friend of mine who also got his Ph.D. online. He shared that it is illegal to call yourself anything along the lines of "candidate," etc. What I did when in my program was to call myself a "doctoral student" which is accurate. "Candidate" is a very debatable concept. You are nothing until you get the actual degree.
  4. foobar

    foobar Member

    Your friend is wrong (and I'm suppressing the urge for a lawyer joke for the moment).

    Many institutions formally recognize the advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. Google "Candidate in Philosophy" for some examples.
  5. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    What I really like are the sig lines with not only completed degrees, but also projected one's as well. For example:

    John Doe,

    PhD Candidate, MNO University (Enrolling in Fall, 2014; Plan to Graduate, Spring 2020)
    MA, XYZ Tech (2005)
    MBA, University of DEF (1999)
    BA, ABC University (1992)
  6. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member

    Not so fast. :eek13:

    With that Google search, I found that the "candidacy" was applied to a specific degree offered by some California schools, the D.Phil. Another school, Union Seminary, calls their non-graduated Ph.D.'s as a "candidate." That does not mean it is universal in application. It may be school specific. My lawyer friend explained that "Candidate" can be a misleading term and similar to false advertising. It is not a legitimate official title and is poorly defined. What is permissible is "ABD" (All But Dissertation") when all academic coursework and comprehensives are done for the doctorate.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2014
  7. foobar

    foobar Member

    The search term "admission to candidacy" provides far more and geographically diverse examples that show that degree candidacy is formalized at many institutions.

    Some schools award certificates indicating this status, others send emails or letters confirming the status to the student and adviser.

    When I was advanced to candidacy, that status allowed me to have a private carrel in the library.

    ABD is a synonym in most cases and works to describe candidacy at institutions that don't formally recognize the status.
  8. NorCal

    NorCal Active Member

    You might as well just say you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night . . .:silly:
  9. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    Hey folks! After a year of coursework, I finally got accepted into my PhD program. I am now a PhD candidate. Now I have to embark on the scary part which is writing a 350 to 400 page doctoral thesis. It will take about 3 years to write if all goes well.

    You guys here at are a big part of the reason of where I'm at today with my continuing education . Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2014
  10. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member

    Boethius, Wow! Congrats but at the same time, that sure is a very long time to get a dissertation done! :crying: That is just my opinion. I know that universities can give you a lot of problems and it is like a gauntlet to get past your dissertation. Mine took around 2 years. A good friend of mine who did his in Latin American History took about 2.5 years because he was trying to milk it for "student status" that qualified him to apply for many grant$$$$ that supported him. Just my take on the matter.
  11. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    Blackbird, thank you very much! 3 years is the time limit my department sets. If I need extra time, I'd have to request it. As a part-time student, I would have a good chance of getting it. However, I would like to complete my dissertation as soon as possible. I don't know if I can complete it in less than 3 years. I'll have to analyze my work plan again. I'll appreciate any suggestions.

    The Europeans are really into that Big Book Thesis. My director's thesis was 380 pages. One of my other professor's thesis was about 600 plus pages - his school is in Rome.

    One thing I see can slow me down are reading works in other languages. So far, I'm reading works in Spanish, Italian, and can get through Latin. I have to brush up on my ancient Greek - can only do word studies there. I also have to read Catalan (not too bad), French (yeah, I need some work here), and German (forgettabouditt!!).

    I try to limit my research to the languages I'm comfortable with but then you come across that one or two sources that will help you make a case and it's not written in those languages! Maybe that's why humanities theses are long.
  12. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Congratulations Boethius! Feel free to message me if you have specific questions.
  13. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member

    I have a Ph.D. friend of mine who also is a lawyer and he says it is wrong and unethical to say you are a Ph.D. Candidate. He said it was OK to say you are a doctoral student. Ph.D. candidate can be misleading and is vague.
  14. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    It would be interesting to know why it is unethical. Candidate does not seem misleading to me. It means that one is done with all the coursework and is writing the thesis. Doctoral student connotes one who is still receiving instruction from another ( as in taught courses). Maybe the term candidate is used to make one appear they are further along in their PhD then they really are.
  15. BlackBird

    BlackBird Member


    Of what I remember, it is a legal thing. You don't have any title until it is legally given to you. "Doctoral Candidate" is not a legal title given by the university. Also, it could be because there is no such thing as "Candidacy"... either you have the doctorate or you don't. No in-between status. In light of these angles, it then becomes unethical to present oneself falsely. There could be more reasons I don't have command of.

    For these reasons, I put on my business cards, "Doctoral Student" until I actually graduated and had the degree officially conferred. That was accurate self-representation when I did not have my doctorate at any point of the process.

    Best regards.
  16. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    It's up to the school, and different schools define candidacy differently. Therefore, the best thing to do is ask the school so that there's no uncertainty.
  17. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    Steve is right that the process can vary at different universities, but based on my personal experience in two education systems:

    “PhD candidate” is not a degree title conferred by the university, but is an accurate and ethical description of someone in a particular phase of their doctoral program. In UK doctoral programs, one becomes a PhD candidate when the first year review or “mini-viva” is passed. In US doctoral programs, one becomes a PhD candidate when coursework is completed and comprehensive exams are passed. Prior to this thread, the only time I’ve ever seen someone look askance at using “PhD candidate” was when the person in question was in an earlier phase of their doctoral program.

    Best to focus on finishing!

    Helpful, PhD
  18. Boethius

    Boethius Member

    Great point! And thank you. Don't want to become a statistic so I have to get back to work! "
  19. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    It's true that one either has a doctorate or one doesn't, and one doesn't officially/technically have a doctorate until the degree is conferred at graduation-whether present or in absentia. However, while the content of doctoral programs differs between institutions, and while each university has its own requirements and phases that must be completed in the PhD process, most institutions follow a pedagogical paradigm that includes PhD candidacy. So, there is such a thing as "candidacy."
  20. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    NCU sent me a letter when I completed a certain phase (forgot what it was) stating I was a PhD Candidate.

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