PhD vs Professional Degree: Which One's for Me?

Within the past 10 years or so, the number of professional degrees has dramatically increased.  This is particularly true in medical fields, which offer degrees such as DPT, DOT, and DNP; in fact, even an MD is considered a professional degree.

What is the difference between a PhD and a professional degree? 

A PhD is first and foremost a research degree that is intensely focused on both scholarly and professional development. In contrast, a professional degree focuses more specifically on skills and knowledge necessary for success a particular profession, without as intense of a focus on research and other scholarly work.

Do I need a PhD to have the title of doctor?

In many cases, both PhDs and professional degrees come with the title of doctor.

Which degree is “better”?

Some people consider a PhD to be the highest level of education, which may make it a more prestigious degree; however, only you can determine which degree is superior to the other in terms of which degree would be better for you. Therefore, you should spend some time reflecting on your wants and needs for your degree. 

What’s the difference between a professional degree and a professional school?

Some people may be confused about the difference between professional schools and professional degrees. A professional school is a for-profit educational institute. There are many examples of really good professional schools; however, if you are choosing to go to a professional school, there are a few things you might want to consider. First, the cost of professional schools is often higher than the cost of graduate school at a classic university. Additionally, you may have trouble finding government financial aid for professional schools. Finally, not all professional schools are accredited, which means that licensing boards, employers, etc., may or may not acknowledge a degree from a professional school.

In contrast, a professional degree refers to the type of degree and not to the type institution (i.e., professional school). Many public and private universities that are not professional schools offer professional degrees in addition to academic degrees. Again, you will have to decide whether a professional or an academic degree is most appropriate for you and your goals.

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