What is a Professional Doctorate Degree? How is it different from PhD?

A professional doctorate degree is a highly sophisticated, dedicated and specialized degree that prepares the candidate to work in a specific profession, for instance, doctor of medicine. 

Not all PhD degrees are professional doctorate, not all the professional doctorates are PhD.  

Simply put, professional doctorates are trained ‘professionals’ or ‘practitioners’ in a specific field of study. Much like the other doctor of philosophies, the criteria to get in might be the same but the process of getting the doctorate honor will be different. 

And hence the professional doctorate degree is way ahead specialized than the general PhD degree. It not only provides knowledge but also prepares candidates to do practice in their field. 

Now simply understand what a general PhD degree is!

The PhD acronym as the doctor of philosophy, uppermost honor in academia is given to candidates for providing excellent, original and new knowledge. A candidate can apply for PhD after completing their master’s degree in a relevant field, sometimes an undergraduate can also apply. A person needs to submit their findings in the form of a dissertation thesis and also have to publish a research work to appear in thesis defense. 

Related article: Is PhD worth it in 2021?

In the present article we will try to answer present questions:

  • What is a professional doctorate? 
  • How is the professional doctorate degree different from a PhD? 
  • How to get a Professional doctorate degree? 
  • Is the professional doctorate degree the same as the PhD? 
  • Professional doctorate vs PhD 
  • Does a professional doctorate make a candidate doctor? 

What is the professional doctorate? 


A professional doctorate degree is a specialized, advanced level of PhD, qualifies candidates to work in a specific field as a professional. 

Let’s understand it with an example. A professional degree in medicine is given to students of medicine, they not only serve knowledge but also prepare for doing practice in the real medical field.  

They prepare themself for general medical practice, surgeries and specialized expertise in their field. 

The professional doctorate actually applies the existing knowledge and their experience- of course, to solve the real-world problem. The degree is not much similar to PhD and is given in the field of psychology, medicine, education, information technology, public health, business administration and social work, etc. 

To understand the concept of professional degrees, let us compare it with a PhD degree. 

How is the professional doctorate degree different from a PhD? 

A professional PhD is different from a PhD in many senses. First, a professional candidate prepares themself to apply knowledge, while the PhD holder prepares themself to discover knowledge. 

The professional doctorate works with the real problem (to solve it), the doctor of philosophy with the hypothesis or theory to solve it and improve or discover new knowledge which helps to solve real world problems

The experience of the professional degree holder helps to solve the existing problem in a better way while the knowledge of PhD helps the professional to use it to do the same. 

Usually, training and practice are highly valuable in a professional degree while research and knowledge are highly valuable in PhD. 

A dissertation or thesis is not mandatory to award the professional doctorate while a thesis is required to award the PhD degree. 

Also, the personal interview and thesis defense are not needed in a professional one, both, personal interview and thesis defense are needed in the PhD.  

Conclusively, the professional degree is more a practical degree whilst the PhD is more a research degree. 

An experienced candidate can apply for a professional doctorate and use their work experience to solve problems, any newbie or master’s degree holder can apply and do a PhD. 

Related articles: What are the Differences and Similarities between MPhil vs PhD?

What are the criteria to get or award a professional degree? 

An experienced person can apply for a professional doctorate degree in their related field but freshers are commonly not eligible for it. 

A candidate needs to do practice or internship for at least 3 or 4 years until they get mastery in their technique. 

Sometimes a publication in a peer-reviewed journal is required but not mandatory, however, a thesis is not required to award a professional degree. 

Once the candidate gets a higher level of expertise and specialization in their technique, a guide recommends awarding the degree. Although a short report of their work is definitely needed. 

The rules and regulations of professional degrees are not as strict as the PhD. 

Does a professional doctorate make a candidate doctor? 

The professional doctorate is indeed a PhD degree, but it is given for mastering a skill and therefore a person is a doctor and can use Dr above their name like any other doctorates. 

Read further: 10 PhD Programs You can choose to Study- A Comprehensive Guide.

Is the professional doctorate degree the same as the PhD? 

Yes, broadly it is a type of PhD but a highly specialized one. It is similar to PhD but the criteria to get admission and award the degree are different, which we already had discussed in the above section. 

Now take a look at some of the PhD and doctorate degrees. 

PhD in Education vs EdD

Any master degree candidate can apply for a PhD in education and discover new knowledge in the field of education by doing extensive research on what the PhD in education is. 

On the other side, the EdD acronym as a doctor of education is a specialized degree in education awards to an experienced person for applying knowledge  and solving problems in the existing education system.  

Read more: PhD in Education vs EdD

PhD in Psychology vs PsyD 

A PhD in Psychology degree given to students of masters, the fields included for the degree are clinical psychology, forensic psychology, Educational psychology, neuropsychology etc. 

Again, the objective to award the degree is finding new knowledge in the field of psychology. 

The PsyD- doctor of psychology degree is awarded to the trained person for doing clinical practice in psychology and related interdisciplinary field. The objective of PsyD is to solve psychological problems by using existing knowledge. 

Read more: PhD in Psychology vs PSyD

PhD in medicine vs doctorate of medicine 

PhD in medicine and doctorate of medicine is sometimes considered as the same but there are some differences in both. 

PhD in medicines prepare the prospective candidate to do extensive research in the field of medicine and hence are more involved in doing research than clinical practice while the doctorate of medicine prepares the prospective students for doing clinical practices and prepares them for surgeries and OPDs. 

Read more: PhD vs doctorate.

Doctor of business administration 

The doctor of business administration is a specialized professional doctorate in business studies that prepares prospective candidates to apply their knowledge for improving business strategies. 


Doctor of philosophyProfessional doctorate
Who can apply Freshers as well as experienced person Only reserved for an experienced person
Requirement Master’s degree and/or clearing entrance exam Good experience in the related field and master’s degree. 
Tenure 3 to 7 years 3 to 5 years 
Thesis or dissertation Required to award the degree Not mandatory to award the degree
Objective To provide new knowledge in the related field To prepare candidates for applying knowledge to solve real-world problems
Financial aids Provided Generally are not provided
Career options Academics as well as research Clinician, practitioner and counselor. 
Salary Good Excellent 
Other criteriaResearch publicationA short report of findings 


Higher levels of degrees are for those who are passionate about studies and research; whatever the degree is either PhD or professional doctorate, dedication, motivation, expertise and knowledge in the related field is required to achieve a degree. 

However, the professional doctorate is only reserved for those who are experienced and hence it is awarded to master a skill or technique. A PhD degree holder can also apply for the professional doctorate as well but a PhD degree is useless for the professional degree holder. 

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