PhD Types - Understanding Different Doctoral Degrees |
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Types of PhD

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 varieties 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.


The MPhil

An MPhil (or 'Master of Philosophy') isn't a full PhD. But these less ambitious projects still provide excellent research experience.

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The DBA ('Doctor of Business Administration') is a specialised doctorate for Business & Management professionals.

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The EdD

The EdD ('Doctor of Education') is a professional doctorate for experienced teachers and other education specialists.

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Joint PhDs

Sometimes a PhD can be jointly-awarded by two or more universities: perfect if you want to access a range of facilities and expertise.

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Other doctorates

From subject-specific qualifications to higher doctorates and international degrees: learn more about different types of PhD.

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The definition of a PhD

What makes a PhD a PhD? Learn more about the criteria and objectives that define all types of doctoral degree.

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Part-time PhD study

Need to balance PhD research with other commitments? Our guide introduces the process of studying a part-time PhD.

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PhD by publication

Some universities offer the option to earn a PhD for an existing portfolio of publications. Our guide explains how this works.

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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
Qualification Full Title Subjects Type
PhD / DPhil Doctor of Philosophy All Academic
DBA Doctor of Business Administration Business and Management Professional
EngD / PhD (Eng) Doctor of Engineering Engineering Professional
EdD / D.Ed Doctor of Education Education Professional
DSocSci Doctor of Social Science Social Sciences Professional
DProf Doctor of Professional Studies All Professional
DArch Doctor of Architecture Architecture Professional
MD Doctor of Medicine Medicine and Health Sciences Professional / Higher
Th.D Doctor of Theology Theology and Religious Studies Academic
DD / DDiv Doctor of Divinity Theology and Religious Studies Higher / Honorary
Dsc / ScD Doctor of Science Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Higher / Honorary
DLitt / LitD Doctor of Science Arts and Humanities Higher / 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.

Last Updated: 08 February 2021