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Is a PhD a Doctor? [The full guide]

The term “Dr” is very prestigious and projects expertise and respect in those who use it. There is a long and complicated history with the doctor title and who should (and shouldn’t) use it. Medical doctors, lecturers, and other medical professionals use it, but where did it come from and is a PhD a doctor?

Yes, a person with a PhD is a Doctor and use the “Dr” title before their name. This is not to be confused with a medical doctor. There is a complex history with this term but is currently accepted for people who hold a PhD as well as a wide range of other professions.

I have a PhD in chemistry and I call myself Doctor Stapleton in professional settings and when I want to let certain entities know that I have been awarded a PhD. In my experience, other PhD holders mainly use their titles in a similar way.

This article will cover everything you need to know about the Dr title and who can and cannot use it.

There have been people who have argued that the term doctor should be reserved for people who have studied and are practising medicine so that there is little confusion about the people suitably qualified to make health care decisions for you.

However, as you will see through this article the doctor title has a very long history that has nothing to do with the medical field at all.

Where the term Doctor comes from

For those that love a little bit of word history:

is a PhD a doctor

The word doctor comes from the Latin verb ”docere” which means to teach or is used to refer to a scholar.

In history the doctor title was invented to signify that a person was an imminent scholar. The doctorates date as far back as the 1300s and those who were able to get the doctor title in front of their name were rewarded with a lot of respect and prestige.

These people were often the lecturers of their day and would therefore teach many students in their areas of expertise.

Therefore, I think it is reasonable to conclude that the original intended use of doctor was for academics and scholars.

As time went on, the doctor title was awarded to other professions that wanted to elicit the same level of respect and prestige.

Health professionals receive an undergraduate degree in medicine and can call themselves doctor. However, these are professional degrees (undergraduate qualifications) and not really considered doctorates in the true sense of the word – it is more of an honorary title.

I don’t think that anyone with a PhD really cares about who is using it and accept that the majority of the public think that anyone with a doctor title has a medical degree.

I know that I was very excited to receive my doctor title but the excitement soon wears off when you realise that it doesn’t really matter in everyday life – but it still makes you and your parents proud.

These days, the doctor title is used by a variety of non-academic professions and it can get a little bit confusing.

So let’s have a look at who can actually use the doctor title and where it came from.

Who can use “doctor”

Even though the original use of the doctor title was for imminent scholars, nowadays there are several different professional qualifications that can use the doctor title.

It’s no surprise that more professional qualifications want to use the doctor title as it indicates many years of study, status and makes parents very proud.

A 2016 peer-reviewed publication submitted to the Canadian Medical Association Journal asks who is entitled to the title of Doctor?

Exactly who can use this term is starting to get a little bit confusing for the public.

There are many honorific doctor titles, including those found in the table below.

The use of the doctor term for many healthcare-related qualifications can cause a fair bit of confusion about what qualification the person has achieved.

That is why the title of a person is only the second most important thing to look at.

If in doubt, have a look at the letters after their name to really understand what the doctor title is referring to.

There are some interesting deviations in the doctor title and interestingly, in the UK, surgeons do not refer to themselves as doctor but rather use the term Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms etc. I had a family friend who was a brain surgeon who was a medical doctor and, after becoming a surgeon, changed back to Mr – a prestigious indicator in the medical field.

It’s strange to me how each field has its own customs to denote prestige.

There are arguments that in a professional and medical setting that the term doctor should be reserved for those who are medical doctors.

This can be difficult as many other healthcare professionals have also received doctorates in their specialisation and would want recognition for that effort and achievement.

In a 2011 article in the New York Times , physicians said that they were worried about losing control over the title of doctor because it could lead to a loss of control over the perception of the medical profession itself.

Anything that makes it more difficult for patients to make an informed decision about their healthcare could be very dangerous.

However, the fact that they are using this doctor title at all is a deviation from its original intention. Here is why the doctor title really is only meant for holders of a Doctor of Philosophy.

PhDs – the original doctors(?)

PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy and, arguably, accounts for the only true use of the doctor title.

Being awarded a PhD means that you have completed postgraduate original and/or applied research that adds a significant contribution to the knowledge in a particular field.

It could be a PhD gained at a university or a professional doctorate but should signify that the owner of the title has completed the highest qualification obtainable in their field.

I talk about this in my short YouTube video:

You don’t necessarily have to use your doctor title after you have your PhD.

I know that there are many people who only use their Dr title in professional settings or as a way to stand out in other settings.

I only use my PhD title when I am in a setting where it is traditionally used. For example, I use my doctor title if I am giving a talk at a university or I am applying for funding within my field of expertise.

Some PhD holders find it a little bit awkward using their Dr title in everyday life whilst others use it on everything from rental applications to restaurant bookings.

How people use their Dr title once they have one is completely up to personal and individual choice. Initially, I was very excited to use my doctor title in as many situations as possible but quickly became wary of using it when it wasn’t required.

However, one of my guilty pleasures is seeing my doctor title on a plane ticket – I’m not quite sure why that is!

What you should call a PhD holder/your lecturers

One of the most common questions that I get asked when I am lecturing at a university is what students should call their lecturers.

Students can get confused with all of the formalities – especially if they have never been in a university before.

Professors, associate professors, doctors, lecturers, researchers – what does it all mean and how should you refer to academics?

Ultimately, it depends on the person.

Some PhD holders who lecture in a university want to be called by their official title and surname during every interaction.

Other lecturers and PhD holders are happy with students calling them by their first name. I certainly didn’t mind people calling me Andy during my workshops or lectures.

Also, some cultures are much more formal than others and wish to show respect by always using the official title of an academic.

Feel free to use whichever mode of interaction you wish – but, as a general rule, always err on the side of caution and use the more formal term for safety. Quite often, I have seen academics prompt students to use their first name as they also feel a little bit awkward being called their professional titles.

Doctor vs professor

When you graduate from a PhD you are entitled to call yourself by the doctor title.

All PhD holders are called Doctor in their professional setting. This can be on business cards, newsletters, websites, and other official documentation.

Universities in some countries also have a graduated career progression title system which denotes the expertise and seniority of the academic.

For example, in Australia the academic system is graduated like this:

  • Senior lecturer
  • Associate Professor

Therefore, in Australia it is not always appropriate to call someone in a university professor. Even if they are teaching your subject.

Professor is reserved for those who have achieved demonstrated expertise and outcomes in a variety of academic areas such as administration, teaching, research, and community outreach.

In other countries, however, you are automatically deemed a professor if you are teaching at a university. For example, in America your students will refer to you as a professor no matter your seniority in your university.

One of the first things you should do if you want to talk to your lecturer in a university setting is ask what their preference would be to be called.

Ask your lecturer about their preference

Whenever I gave a lecture, I would always start by saying that people can call me by my name (Andy), or they can choose to use Dr Stapleton if they feel that is more appropriate.

In my experience, most academics will not mind if you call them by their first name and, in countries like Australia, it seems to be the most common way for students to interact with their teachers.

It is not uncommon for the opposite to be true – and, like I have mentioned above, always start with the formal interactions. It is likely that you will be invited to call the PhD holder by their first name.

Outside of a formal setting most PhD holders really don’t mind how you talk to them.

The things a PhD student needs to do to become a doctor

The reason a PhD can call themselves doctor is because they have been awarded the highest qualification possible in their field.

A PhD requires you to perform research and produce a thesis or dissertation. The new information must contribute significantly to the field and report novel and new findings.

The PhD thesis is examined by other experts in the field (known as peers) and these other experts are responsible for telling the university whether or not you have satisfied the criteria to become a PhD.

There are other, more modern, ways of reporting your findings including peer-reviewed journals and professional doctoral reports.

Either way, admission to a PhD requires many years of hard work and dedication to answering a unique and unanswered question in your field.

I think that this satisfies the original use of the term doctor and is a great accomplishment for anyone.

It’s hard work but with the right guidance and dedication it is achievable by almost anyone.

Wrapping up

This article has covered everything you need to know about whether a PhD is a doctor.

The original term was introduced in the 1300s to denote an imminent scholar. This scholar would teach and pass on information to their students.

In modern times, the term doctor has been used as an honorary title for other professional careers in recognition of the hard work that they have put in to achieve their position.

However, there are fears that the doctor title is slowly becoming used for too many health professional areas leading to confusion around who is a medical doctor and who has other health-related qualifications such as dentistry, naturopathy, and others.

Nonetheless, people without an understanding of the convention can still get confused between medical doctors and holders of a higher degree PhD.

what does phd doctor mean

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

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what does phd doctor mean

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abbreviation or noun

Definition of phd, examples of phd in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'PhD.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

New Latin philosophiae doctor

1839, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near PhD

Cite this entry.

“PhD.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/PhD. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

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What is a phd.

A PhD is the highest postgraduate qualification level that can be awarded in academic study. This is usually completed over three to four years of full-time study, and involves research into an original contribution in your chosen field. 

PhD is an acronym that stands for Doctor of Philosophy. The name for PhD comes from the Latin term “Philosophiae Doctor”, which roughly translates to “Lover of wisdom”.

Whether you’re finishing up from an undergraduate degree, on a masters course or even just looking to get back into education, you’ll have seen people talking about getting a PhD .

Most people know vaguely what a PhD is – it’s a university course that means you can call yourself ‘Doctor’ without having to do medicine, right? Whilst that is surprisingly close to the truth, we’re here to answer the oft-asked question of ‘what is a PhD?’.

This guide covers everything you need to know about a PhD.

What does a PhD involve?

A PhD will typically take three years to complete. If taken part time, then it will be separated into three different stages:

Year 1: This will involve you speaking with your advisor about your research ideas, finishing your research proposal and beginning to put deadlines in place for your research. You’ll also complete your literature review in this stage. During this, you’ll review the existing research done on the topic that you’re planning to research to help you determine the gaps in the research that you can target

Year 2: During this stage, you’ll begin to conduct your research to gather data. You’ll document this whole process for your thesis and begin to attend conferences where you will have the opportunity to present your current research to other professionals and researchers in the field. You can take this further and take steps to educate the public on the benefits of your research.

Year 3: The final stage of a PhD involves using the data you’ve collected and the documentation of your research to write your thesis. You may still be conducting research at this point, and that’s OK. Once you’ve finished your thesis, you’ll justify your research and decisions in a viva .

How long is a PhD?

A typical PhD will take three to four years to complete when studying full time. Studying part time can take up to six years. The good news is that the thesis can be extended by up to four years. This means that if you haven’t gotten anywhere near finishing your research by the end of the second year, you can apply to extend your thesis and continue your research for up to four more years. Many PhD students will complete their thesis in the 4th year.

How is a PhD different from other degrees?

what does phd doctor mean

To start with, describing a PhD as a university course can be a bit misleading. Whilst it is a course offered by a university, it’s incredibly different to most courses. Unlike the undergraduate level, you won’t be covering your subject broadly you’ll be focused on one very particular area. Whilst a masters degree, especially a research one, may be focused, it won’t be nearly as focused as a PhD.

That said – don’t expect this focused level of research to necessarily be groundbreaking! Though part of doing a PhD is the intent to produce original research, it’s also primarily there to train your research skills and to prove yourself as a capable researcher.

A PhD is research focused

One of the main differences between PhDs and other types of postgraduate degree is that PhDs are heavily research based. PhDs involve a lot of independent research time, where you'll study your topic in detail using academic resources – such as the university's online library and online materials. This format is different to taught postgraduate degrees, which involve a lot more taught aspects such as lectures and seminars.

Do you need a masters to study a PhD?

In order to study a PhD, you’ll need to have a masters degree and a bachelors degree with a 2:1 or higher. Though self-funded students and students with professional experience in the field may be admitted with lower grades

Some students may begin with a MPhil (Masters of philosophy) or a Mres ( Master of research) and upgrade to a PhD by the end of their studies.

Where can I study a PhD?

Most universities offer PhD programs across a variety of disciplines. It is possible to study a PhD at almost any university and in almost any subject. Since a PhD is an independent research-based program, there is a lot of flexibility in regard to what you’ll study. 

PhD students often choose their own study topics and carry out independent research into that topic. This makes it possible to study your intended PhD at almost any university. 

Although, it is important to check which specific subject areas the university specialises in. For instance, if a university specialises in linguistics, then it would be a good idea to complete a linguistics PhD at that university as opposed to one that specialises in another subject.

It can be difficult to find the perfect course at the right university. That’s why we’ve put together advice on how to find a PhD .

It’s important to remember that a PhD is different from a typical university course. Rather than going to lectures, you’ll be conducting independent research, and so the application process will be quite different. Learn how to apply for a PhD  with our expert guide.

A PhD means attending ‘optional’ lectures and conferences

PhDs do involve some aspects of taught study, including lectures and conferences, although these are often optional and take place less often than on lower level courses.

Now of course, the university doesn’t just accept you, your project and tell you to have fun. You’ll work with a supervisor, and there will be conferences, lectures, and other such things that you can attend. Unlike lower level courses, however, although you won’t necessarily be examined on these things that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Conferences are a great way to meet people, get your name out and network . For any career, but especially one in academia, networking is well worth it.

A PhD is a high standard qualification

But what does having a PhD show, other than the fact you spent three to four years working on research and can now call yourself Dr [Your surname here]? 

A PhD is a globally recognised, high standard qualification. This means that if you choose to move elsewhere in the world, your PhD will be recognised as a credible postgraduate qualification.

In addition, a PhD can open up a whole world of new job opportunities! This includes academic roles , such as postdoctoral research posts, or even possibly fellowships. 

Regardless of which career path you choose to take, a PhD is regarded as the highest level postgraduate qualification – reflecting your impressive work ethic, knowledge, and workplace skills.

How to get a PhD

Getting a PhD is not easy by any means. But, if it’s something you truly want to do, it’s well worth it. So let’s take a look at just how to get a PhD!

Choose your research area

Before getting started with your PhD, you want to make sure you know what area you’d like to do it in. Don’t just pick something on a whim – this is something you’re going to be studying for the next four years of your life, and something that, once you finished your PhD, you’ll have your name attached to. So, for arts and humanities students, find an area of your subject that fascinates you enough that you’ll want to spend the next few years writing about it. For scientists, find an area you’d be happy to be working on in a team, and wouldn’t mind moving into as a career!

Find a good supervisor

Once you’ve selected your topic, it’s time to start looking for a supervisor . Depending on what you’re currently doing, asking tutors for contacts or recommendations can be well worthwhile, but if you can’t do this, check out what research your potential supervisor has done. 

In addition, try and arrange an in-person meeting – or at least, a phone conversation. Email can make communication difficult and given this is the person you’ll be working under for the foreseeable future, you want to ensure you get on.

Then, assuming you’re accepted and have appropriate funding, you’ll be considered a probationary PhD student . At the end of your first year, you’ll be expected to prove you’re capable of the full course, so you’ll be tested in the form of writing a report. Once you pass this, you’re good to go!

Your next few years will be spent attending conferences, working on the research and your thesis. Your thesis will talk about what you’ve spent your time doing, how you dealt with any difficulties that arose, and generally show what your contribution to your subject is! Once that’s out the way, you get the fun job of having a viva – that is, talking about your thesis to a bunch of academics.

Pass the viva? Then you’ve succeeded.

So that’s how to get a PhD!

UK Research Councils

There are a selection of UK Research Councils, each of whom are part of the  UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) organisation. Collectively, these UK research councils provide an average of £380 million in PhD studentship funding every year – acting as the largest PhD funding body in the UK. 

Here’s an overview of UK research councils:

  • Science and Technology Facilities Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council  
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council  

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what does phd doctor mean

What is a PhD?

A PhD, which stands for “doctor of philosophy”, is the most advanced academic degree. It’s earned through extensive research on a specific topic, demonstrating expertise and contributing new knowledge to the field.

What does “PhD” mean?

The term “PhD” is often used as a synonym for any doctoral-level qualification. Doctorate degrees can often be split into two categories: MPhil and PhD.

An MPhil is similar to a PhD as it includes a research element (which is usually shorter and less in-depth than a PhD thesis, and often more akin to a dissertation undertaken at undergraduate or master’s level). 

MPhil students focus more on interpreting existing knowledge and theory and critically evaluating other people’s work rather than producing their own research. The precise nature and definition of an MPhil can vary among institutions and countries. 

A PhD, meanwhile, follows a more widely known and traditional route and requires students, often referred to as “candidates”, to produce their own work and research on a new area or topic to a high academic standard.

PhD requirements vary significantly among countries and institutions. The PhD, once completed, grants the successful candidate the title of “doctor of philosophy”, also called PhD or DPhil.

What is a professional doctorate?

A professional doctorate is a kind of degree that helps people become experts in their fields. Instead of focusing mainly on theory and research like a regular PhD, a professional doctorate is all about practical skills and knowledge.

This kind of doctorate is great for students who want to get better at their jobs in areas like teaching, healthcare, business, law or psychology. The courses and projects in these programmes are designed to tackle real problems you might face at work.

For example, you might have heard of the doctor of education (EdD), doctor of business administration (DBA), doctor of psychology (PsyD) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). These programmes combine learning, hands-on projects and sometimes a thesis paper or essay to show you’re skilled at solving on-the-job challenges.

How long does it take to study a PhD?

The time required to complete a PhD can vary significantly based on several factors. Generally, a full-time PhD programme takes around three to six years to finish. However, it’s important to take into account individual circumstances and the nature of the research involved.

1. Full-time vs. part-time: If you’re studying full-time, dedicating most of your time to your studies, it usually takes about three to four years to complete a PhD. However, studying part-time while managing other commitments might extend the duration. Part-time PhDs can take around six to eight years, and sometimes even longer.

2. Nature of research: The complexity of your research proposal can influence the time required. Certain research questions may involve intricate experiments, extensive data collection or in-depth analysis, potentially leading to a longer completion timeline.

3. Field of study: The subject area you’re researching can also affect the necessary time. Some fields, such as sciences or engineering, might involve more hands-on work, while theoretical subjects might require more time for literature review and analysis.

4. Supervision and support: The guidance and availability of your academic supervisor can affect the pace of your research progress. Regular meetings and effective communication can help keep your studies on track.

5. Thesis writing: While the research phase is crucial, the stage of writing your thesis is equally significant. Organising and presenting your research findings in a clear and cohesive manner can take several months.

6. External commitments: Personal commitments, such as work, family or health-related factors, can influence your study time. Some students need to balance these alongside their PhD studies, potentially extending the duration.

7. External Funding: The availability of funding can also affect your study duration. Some funding might be linked to specific project timelines or research objectives.

So, although a PhD usually takes between three and six years of full-time study, with potential variations based on research complexity, enrolment as part-time or full-time, field of study and personal circumstances. It’s vital to have a realistic understanding of these factors when planning your PhD journey.

How long is a PhD in the UK?

In the UK, the length of a PhD programme typically ranges from three to four years of full-time study. As explained above, there are many factors to consider.

How long is a PhD in the US?

Similarly to the UK, in the United States, the duration of a PhD programme can vary widely depending on the field of study, research topic and individual circumstances. On average, a full-time PhD programme in the US typically takes between five and six years to complete.

Why does it take longer to study a PhD in the US?

PhD programmes generally take longer to complete in the US than in the UK due to various factors in the education systems and programme structures of each country:

1. Programme structure: UK PhD programmes often emphasise early, focused research from the first year, leading to shorter completion times. In contrast, US programmes commonly include more initial coursework in your first and second year and broader foundational training, which can extend the overall duration.

2. Course work requirements: Many US PhD programmes require a lot of course work, which can lengthen the time needed to finish. UK programmes tend to have fewer or no course work demands, allowing students to concentrate primarily on research skills.

3. Research funding: In the UK, PhD funding is often awarded with specific timeframes in mind, motivating completion of the research degree in the agreed duration. In the US, funding approaches can vary, requiring students to secure funding from multiple sources, potentially affecting their progress and completion time.

4. Teaching responsibilities: Some US PhD students take on teaching roles as part of their funding, dividing their time and potentially prolonging their studies.

5. Research approach: Differences in research methodologies and project scopes can affect the time needed for data collection, experimentation and analysis.

6. Academic culture: The US education system values a well-rounded education, including coursework and comprehensive exams. This can extend the time before full-time research begins. UK PhD programmes often prioritise independent research early on.

7. Part-time and work commitments: US PhD candidates might have more flexibility for part-time work or other commitments, which can affect research progress.

8. Dissertation requirements: US PhD programmes generally include a longer and more comprehensive dissertation, involving more chapters and a broader exploration of the research topic.

These variations in programme structures, funding models and academic cultures contribute to the differing completion times between the two countries.

What qualifications do you need for a PhD?

To be eligible for a PhD programme, certain educational qualifications are generally expected by universities. These qualifications serve as indicators of your readiness to engage in advanced research and contribute to the academic community.

First, an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is typically the most common requirement. This degree provides you with a foundational understanding of the subject and introduces you to basic research methodologies. It serves as a starting point for your academic journey.

Do you need a master’s degree to get into a PhD programme?

In addition to an undergraduate degree, many PhD programmes also require candidates to hold postgraduate or master’s degrees, often in fields related to the intended PhD research. A master’s degree offers a deeper exploration of the subject matter and enhances your research skills. Possessing a master’s degree signifies a higher level of expertise and specialisation.

The combination of both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees demonstrates a solid academic background. This background is crucial before you engage in doctoral study because pursuing a PhD involves more than just knowledge; it requires advanced research abilities, critical thinking and the capacity to provide an original contribution and new insights into the chosen field of study.

While these qualifications are usually requested, there are exceptions. Some institutions offer direct-entry programmes that encompass bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in a streamlined structure. This approach is often seen in scientific and engineering disciplines rather than humanities.

In exceptional cases, outstanding performance during undergraduate studies, coupled with a well-defined research proposal, might lead to direct entry into a PhD programme without requiring a master’s degree.

Admission requirements can vary between universities and programmes. Some institutions might have more flexible prerequisites, while others could have more stringent criteria. Make sure that you thoroughly research all admission requirements of the PhD programmes you’re interested in to ensure you provide the right information.

Are PhD entry requirements similar in other countries?

PhD entry requirements in Canada and Australia can be somewhat similar to those in the UK and the US, but there are also some differences. Just like in the UK and the US, having a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree is a common way to qualify for a PhD in Canada and Australia. However, the exact rules can vary, such as how much research experience you need or the grades you should have.

In Canada and Australia, as in the UK and the US, international students usually need to show their English language skills through tests like IELTS or TOEFL. And, like in other places, you might need to give a research proposal to explain what you want to study for your PhD.

But remember, even though there are some similarities, each country has its own rules.

PhD diary: Preparing for a PhD Nine things to know before doing a PhD Women in STEM: undertaking PhD research in cancer Studying for a part-time PhD: the challenges and the benefits Is it possible to do a three-year PhD as an international student? Looking for PhD tips? Why not check Twitter PhD diary: Where do I begin? How to do a PhD on a budget

How much does it cost to study a PhD?

The cost of pursuing a PhD can vary significantly between international and home (domestic) students, and it depends on the country, university and programme you choose.

United Kingdom (UK)

Home students in the UK often pay lower tuition fees compared with international students. Home students might also have access to government funding or subsidised tuition rates.

International students typically pay higher tuition fees, which can vary widely depending on the university and programme. Fees can range from around £10,000 to £25,000 or more per year.

United States (US)

PhD programme costs in the US can be quite high, especially for international students. Public universities often have lower tuition rates for in-state residents compared with out-of-state residents and international students.

Private universities in the US generally have higher tuition fees, and international students might be charged higher rates than domestic students.

Canadian universities often charge higher tuition fees for international students compared with domestic students.

Some universities offer funding packages that include tuition waivers and stipends for both domestic and international doctoral students.

In Australia, domestic students (Australian citizens and permanent residents) usually pay lower tuition fees than international students.

International students in Australia might have higher tuition fees, and costs can vary based on the university and programme.

Apart from tuition fees, other aspects play a role in the overall financial consideration:

PhD studentship: Many universities offer PhD studentships that provide financial support to research students, covering both tuition fees and a stipend for living expenses.

Stipend and housing: Stipends are designed to cover living expenses. Stipend amounts can vary depending on the university and location. If you’re studying in London in the UK, stipends might be higher to account for the higher living costs in the city. Some universities also offer subsidised or affordable housing options for doctoral students.

Tuition and stipend packages: Some PhD programmes provide funding packages that include both tuition waivers and stipends. These packages are to help relieve the financial burden on students during their doctoral studies.

Research the financial support options provided by the universities you’re interested in to make an informed decision about the cost of your PhD journey.

What funding options are available for PhD candidates?

PhD candidates have various funding options available to support their studies and research journeys. Some of these options include:

PhD scholarships: Scholarships are a common form of financial aid for PhD candidates. They are awarded based on academic merit, research potential or other specific criteria. Scholarships can cover tuition fees and provide a stipend for living expenses.

Bursaries: Bursaries are another form of financial assistance offered to students, including PhD candidates, based on financial need. They can help cover tuition fees or provide additional financial support.

In the UK, specific funding options are available:

Regional consortium: Some regions have research consortiums that offer funding opportunities for doctoral candidates. These collaborations can provide financial support for research projects aligned with specific regional needs.

UK research institute: Research councils in the UK often offer stipends to PhD candidates. These stipends cover living expenses and support research work.

University-based studentship: Many UK universities offer studentships. You can read more about these above.

In the USA, there are also funding options available:

Research assistantships (RAs): Many universities offer research assistantships where PhD candidates work on research projects under the guidance of faculty members. In exchange, they receive stipends and often have their tuition waived.

Teaching assistantships (TA): Teaching assistantships involve assisting professors in teaching undergraduate courses. In return, PhD candidates receive stipends and sometimes tuition remission.

Fellowships: Fellowships are competitive awards that provide financial support for PhD candidates. They can come from universities, government agencies, private foundations and other institutions. Fellowships can cover tuition, provide stipends and offer research or travel funds.

Graduate assistantships: Graduate assistantships include a range of roles, from research and teaching to administrative support. These positions often come with stipends and sometimes include tuition benefits.

External grants and fellowships: PhD candidates can apply for grants and fellowships from external organisations and foundations that support research careers in specific fields. Examples include the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Fulbright Programme.

Employer sponsorship: In some cases, employers might sponsor employees to pursue PhDs, especially if the research aligns with the company’s interests.

You can read about the current available scholarships for international students of all education levels on our website .

What does a PhD Involve?

How does a PhD work?

A PhD includes thorough academic research and significant contributions to your chosen field of study. The timeline for completing a PhD can significantly vary based on the country, college or university you attend and the specific subject you study.

The duration of a PhD programme can vary based on factors such as the institution’s requirements and the academic discipline you’re pursuing. For instance, the timeline for a PhD in a science-related field might differ from that of a humanities discipline.

UK PhD timeline example

Looking at a typical PhD degree in a London higher education institution, we can consider this example timeline.

In the initial year of your PhD, you’ll collaborate closely with your designated academic supervisor. This collaboration involves refining and solidifying your research proposal, which lays the foundation for your entire doctoral journey.

This is also the time to establish a comprehensive plan, complete with well-defined milestones and deadlines. A crucial aspect of this year is conducting an extensive literature review, immersing yourself in existing academic works to understand the landscape of your chosen research area. It’s important to make sure that your research idea is original and distinct from prior studies.

As you begin the second year, you’ll actively collect data and gather information related to your research topic. Simultaneously, you’ll initiate the process of crafting your thesis. This involves combining your research findings and analysis into sections of your thesis document.

This is also the phase where you might have opportunities to share your research insights at academic meetings, conferences or workshops. Depending on the programme, you might even engage in teaching activities. Some PhD candidates also begin contributing to academic journals or books, showcasing their findings to a broader audience.

The third year of a PhD programme often marks the final stage of your research efforts. This is when you dedicate substantial time to writing and finalising your complete thesis. Once your thesis is completed to the highest standard, you’ll submit it for thorough evaluation.

A significant milestone in the third year is the viva voce, an oral examination where you’ll defend your thesis before a panel of experts in your field. The viva voce is an opportunity to showcase your deep understanding of your research and defend your findings.

Why should you do a PhD?

For many people, acquiring a doctorate degree is the pinnacle of academic achievement, the culmination of years of commitment to higher education.

However, the act of pursuing a PhD can be a complex, frustrating, expensive and time-consuming exercise. But with the right preparation, some sound advice and a thorough understanding of the task at hand, your years as a doctoral student can be some of the most rewarding of your life. 

People choose to work towards a doctorate for many reasons. If you are looking to pursue an academic position, such as university lecturer or researcher, then a PhD is usually required.

Many people obtain a PhD as part of a partnership with an employer, particularly in scientific fields such as engineering, where their research can prove useful for companies.

In some cases, however, PhDs are simply down to an individual’s love of a subject and their desire to learn more about their field.

What are some benefits of studying a PhD?

Pursuing a PhD can have many benefits that extend beyond academic achievement, encompassing personal growth, professional advancement and meaningful contributions to knowledge.

One of the most notable benefits of a PhD is the potential for tenure in academia. Attaining tenure provides a level of job security that allows you to delve into long-term research projects and make enduring contributions to your field. It signifies a stage where you can explore innovative ideas and pursue in-depth research, fostering your academic legacy.

While not obligatory, the opportunity to collaborate on research projects with your supervisor is another valuable aspect of a PhD pursuit. These collaborations might even come with financial compensation, offering real-world experience, skill development and practical applications of your research. Engaging in such collaborations can enrich your research portfolio and refine your research methodologies.

A pivotal aspect of a PhD journey is the chance to publish your original research findings. By disseminating your work in academic journals or presenting it at conferences, you contribute to the expansion of knowledge within your field. These publications establish your expertise and reputation among peers and researchers worldwide, leaving a lasting impact.

The pursuit of a PhD can provide a unique platform to build a diverse network of colleagues, mentors and collaborators. Engaging with fellow researchers, attending conferences and participating in academic events offer opportunities to make valuable connections. This network can lead to collaborations, expose you to a spectrum of perspectives and pave the way for future research endeavours.

What is a PhD thesis? And what is a PhD viva?

A PhD thesis will be produced with help from an academic supervisor, usually one with expertise in your particular field of study. This thesis is the backbone of a PhD, and is the candidate’s opportunity to communicate their original research to others in their field (and a wider audience).  PhD students also have to explain their research project and defend their thesis in front of a panel of academics. This part of the process is often the most challenging, since writing a thesis is a major part of many undergraduate or master’s degrees, but having to defend it from criticism in real time is arguably more daunting.  This questioning is known as a “viva”, and examiners will pay particular attention to a PhD’s weaknesses either in terms of methodology or findings. Candidates will be expected to have a strong understanding of their subject areas and be able to justify specific elements of their research quickly and succinctly.

In rare cases, students going for a PhD may instead be awarded an MPhil if the academic standard of their work is not considered fully up to par but still strong enough to be deserving of a qualification.

Can you do a PhD part time? 

Many PhD and MPhil candidates choose to pursue their qualification part time, in order to allow time to work and earn while studying. This is especially true of older students, who might be returning to academia after working for a few years. 

When applying, you should always speak to the admissions team at your university to ensure this is possible and then continue to work with your supervisor to balance all your commitments. 

Can I do a PhD through distance learning?

This is something else that you will need to check with your university. Some institutions offer this option, depending on the nature of your research. 

You will need to be clear how many times you will need to travel to your university to meet with your supervisor throughout your PhD. 

Your PhD supervisor

Choosing the right PhD supervisor is essential if you want to get the most out of your PhD. Do your research into the faculty at the institution and ensure that you meet with your proposed supervisor (either virtually or in person) before fully committing. 

You need to know that not only do they have the right expertise and understanding of your research but also that your personalities won’t clash throughout your PhD. 

Remember, to complete your PhD, you will need a strong support network in place, and your supervisor is a key part of that network. 

Coping with PhD stress

If you do decide to embark on a doctorate, you may well encounter stress and anxiety. The work involved is often carried out alone, the hours can be long and many students can suffer from the pressure they feel is on their shoulders.

Ensuring that you check in regularly with your emotions and your workload is crucial to avoid burnout. If you have other commitments, such as a job or a family, then learning to balance these can feel overwhelming at times. 

Give yourself regular breaks, speak to your supervisor and ensure that you know what university resources and support systems are available to you in case you need to access them. 

Post-doctorate: what happens after you finish your PhD?

Many PhD graduates pursue a career in academia, while others will work in industry. Some might take time out, if they can afford to, to recover from the efforts of PhD study.

Whatever you choose to do, undertaking a PhD is a huge task that can open up a range of doors professionally. Just remember to take some time out to celebrate your achievement. 

How does a PhD affect salary and earning potential?

How much does a professor with a PhD make a year?

Professors with PhDs can earn different amounts depending on where they work and their experience. In the UK, a professor might make around £50,000 to £100,000 or more each year. In the US, it's between about $60,000 and $200,000 or even higher. The exact salary depends on things like the place they work, if they have tenure, and what they teach.

How much does a PhD add to salary?

Having a PhD can make your salary higher than if you had a lower degree. But exactly how much more you earn can change. On average, people with PhDs earn more than those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees. The increase in salary is influenced by many things, such as the job you do, where you work and what field you’re in.

In fields such as research, healthcare, technology and finance, your knowledge and skills from your PhD can potentially help you secure a higher salary position.

In the end, having a PhD can boost your earning potential and open doors to well-paying jobs, including professorships and special roles in different areas. But the exact effect on your salary is influenced by many things, so ensure you weigh the cost against the benefit.

How to choose a PhD programme?

Choosing a PhD programme involves defining your research interest, researching supervisors and programme reputation, evaluating funding options, reviewing programme structure, considering available resources, assessing networking opportunities, factoring in location and career outcomes, visiting the campus if possible and trusting your instincts.

How can I find available PhD programmes?

You can find available PhD programmes by visiting university websites, using online directories such as “FindAPhD”, checking professional associations, networking with professors and students, following universities on social media, attending career fairs and conferences, contacting universities directly and exploring research institutes’ websites.

How to apply for a PhD programme?

To apply for a PhD programme:

Research and select universities aligned with your interests.

Contact potential supervisors, sharing your proposal, CV and references.

Prepare application materials: research proposal, CV, recommendation letters and a writing sample.

Ensure you meet academic and language-proficiency requirements.

Complete an online application through the university’s portal.

Pay any required application fees.

Write a statement of purpose explaining your motivations.

Provide official transcripts of your academic records.

Submit standardised test scores if needed.

Some programmes may require an interview.

The admissions committee reviews applications and decides.

Apply for scholarships or assistantships.

Upon acceptance, review and respond to the offer letter.

Plan travel, accommodation and logistics accordingly.

Remember to research and follow each university’s specific application guidelines and deadlines.

How to apply for a PhD as an international student?

Many stages of the PhD application process are the same for international students as domestic students. However, there are sometimes some additional steps:

International students should apply for a student visa.

Take language proficiency tests such as TOEFL or IELTS if required.

Provide certificates if needed to validate your previous degrees.

Show evidence of sufficient funds for tuition and living expenses.

Check if you need health insurance for your chosen destination.

Translate and authenticate academic transcripts if necessary.

Attend orientation sessions for cultural adaptation.

Apply for university housing or explore off-campus options.

Familiarise yourself with international student support services.

Ben Osborne, the postgraduate student recruitment manager at the University of Sussex explains in detail how to apply for a PhD in the UK .

Giulia Evolvi, a lecturer in media and communication at Erasmus University, Rotterdam explains how to apply for a PhD in the US .

Finally, Samiul Hossain explores the question Is it possible to do a three-year PhD as an international student?

Q. What is a PhD? A. A PhD is the highest level of academic degree awarded by universities, involving in-depth research and a substantial thesis.

Q. What does “PhD” mean? A. “PhD” stands for doctor of philosophy, recognising expertise in a field.

Q. What is a professional doctorate? A. A professional doctorate emphasises practical application in fields such as education or healthcare.

Q. How long does it take to study a PhD? A. It takes between three and six years to study a full-time PhD programme.

Q. How long is a PhD in the UK? A. It takes around three to four years to study a full-time UK PhD.

Q. How long is a PhD in the US? A. It takes approximately five to six years to complete a full-time US PhD.

Q. Why does it take longer to study a PhD in the US? A. US programmes often include more course work and broader training.

Q. What qualifications do you need for a PhD? A. You usually need an undergraduate degree as a minimum requirement, although a master’s might be preferred.

Q. Do you need a master’s degree to get into a PhD programme? A. Master’s degrees are preferred but not always required.

Q. Are PhD entry requirements similar in other countries? A. Entry requirements are similar in many countries, but there may be additional requirements. Make sure to check the university website for specific details.

Q. How much does it cost to study a PhD? A. The cost of PhD programmes vary by country and university.

Q. What funding options are available for PhD candidates? A. Scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, grants, stipends are all funding options for PhD candidates.

Q. What does a PhD involve? A. PhDs involve research, seminars, thesis, literature review, data analysis and a PhD viva.

Q. Why should you do a PhD? A. There are many reasons to study a PhD including personal growth, research skills, contributions to academia and professional development.

Q. What are some benefits of studying a PhD? A. Benefits of graduating with a PhD include achieving tenure, collaborations with colleagues, publication of your work, and networking opportunities.

Q. What is a PhD thesis? A. A PhD thesis is a comprehensive document that showcases the original research conducted by a PhD candidate.

Q. What is a PhD viva? A. A PhD viva, also known as a viva voce or oral examination, is the final evaluation of a PhD candidate’s research and thesis where the panel asks questions, engages in discussions and assesses the depth of the candidate’s understanding and expertise.

Q. Can you do a PhD part-time? A. Yes, part-time options are available for PhDs.

Q. Can I do a PhD through distance learning? A. Some universities offer online PhDs; you can find out more on their websites.

Q. How to choose a PhD programme? A. You can find PhD programmes through research, by contacting faculty, checking resources and considering location.

Q. How can I find available PhD programme? A. You can find available PhD programmes on university sites, through directories and by networking.

Q. How to apply for a PhD programme A. To apply for a PhD programme, research suitable universities and programmes, get in touch with potential supervisors, gather required documents like transcripts and reference letters, complete the online application, pay any necessary fees and submit a statement of purpose and research proposal. If needed, meet language-proficiency criteria and attend interviews. After acceptance, explore funding choices, confirm your spot and get ready for the programme’s start.

Q. How to apply for a PhD as an international student A. To apply for a PhD as an international student, follow similar steps to domestic students, but you need to include securing a student visa and passing language requirements.

Q. What is a PhD dropout rate? A. The dropout rate from PhDs varies but is approximately 30-40 per cent.

Q. How does a PhD affect salary and earning potential? A. A PhD can boost earning potential, especially in research, technology, healthcare and academia. Impact varies by job, industry and location. Experience, skills and demand also influence salary.

Q. How to address a person with a PhD? A. When addressing someone with a PhD, it’s respectful to use “Dr”, followed by their last name, whether they have a PhD in an academic field or a professional doctorate. For instance, “Dr. Smith”.

Q. Is there a difference between a PhD and a doctorate? A. The terms “PhD” and “doctorate” are often used interchangeably, though a PhD is a specific type of doctorate focused on original research. A doctorate can refer more broadly to any doctoral-level degree, including professional doctorates with practical applications.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD and an MD? A. A PhD is a doctor of philosophy, awarded for academic research, while an MD is a doctor of medicine, focusing on medical practice. They lead to different career paths and involve distinct areas of study.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD and a professional doctorate? A. A PhD is an academic research-focused degree, while a professional doctorate emphasises applying research to practical fields such as education or business. PhDs often involve original research, while professional doctorates focus on real-world application.

Q. What is the difference between UK and US PhDs? A. The difference between UK and US PhDs lies mainly in structure and duration. UK PhDs often have shorter durations and a stronger emphasis on independent research from an early stage. US PhDs typically include more initial coursework and broader foundational training before full-time research begins.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD student and a candidate? A. A PhD student is actively studying and researching in a doctoral programme, while a PhD candidate has completed programme requirements except for the dissertation and is close to completion.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an EdD? A. A PhD and an EdD (doctor of education) differ in focus. A PhD emphasises research and academic contributions, while an EdD focuses on applying research to practical educational issues.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and a DBA? A. A PhD and a DBA (doctor of business administration) differ in purpose. A PhD emphasises theoretical research and academia, while a DBA is practice-oriented, aimed at solving real business problems.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and a PsyD? A. A PhD and a PsyD (doctor of psychology) differ in emphasis. A PhD focuses on research and academia, while a PsyD emphasises clinical practice and applying psychological knowledge.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an LLD? A. A PhD and an LLD (doctor of laws or Legum doctor) are distinct. A PhD is awarded in various disciplines, while an LLD is usually an honorary degree for significant contributions to law.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an MD-PhD? A. A PhD and an MD-PhD differ. An MD-PhD is a dual degree combining medical training (MD) with research training (PhD).

Q. What is the Cambridge PhD? A. A Cambridge PhD involves original research guided by a supervisor, resulting in a thesis. It’s offered at the University of Cambridge .

Q. What is the Oxford DPhil? A. An Oxford DPhil is equivalent to a PhD and involves independent research leading to a thesis. The term “DPhil” is unique to the University of Oxford .

Q. What is the PhD programme acceptance rate? A. PhD acceptance rates vary by university, field and competition. Prestigious universities and competitive fields often have lower acceptance rates.

Q. What is a PhD supervisor? A. A PhD supervisor guides and supports a student’s research journey, providing expertise and feedback.

Q. What is a PhD panel? A. A PhD panel evaluates a candidate’s research, thesis and oral defence. It consists of experts in the field.

Q. What is a PhD stipend? A. A PhD stipend is a regular payment supporting living expenses during research, often tied to teaching or research assistant roles.

Q. What is a PhD progression assessment? A. A PhD progression assessment evaluates a student’s progress, often confirming their continuation in the programme.

Q. What is a PhD defence? A. A PhD defence, or viva, is the final oral examination where a candidate presents and defends their research findings and thesis before experts.

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Is a PhD Degree for Me? This is What it Means

Is-a-PhD-Degree-for-Me-This-is-What-it-Means

Wherever you are in your educational journey, you’ve likely heard of the graduate degree called a PhD degree. You may be wondering what is a PhD degree, what are PhD requirements, and what it means to earn a PhD. At this point, you may be questioning if getting a PhD is the right next step for you.

To receive a PhD, you will add the title “Dr.” to you name, but there is much more to it than that. Here, we will dive into what a PhD means, what it takes to earn one, the different kinds of PhD degrees that exist, and the reasons why you may choose to take the path to graduate with one.

What is a PhD?

First thing’s first, let’s define all the ins and outs of what a PhD means. PhD is an abbreviation for “Doctor of Philosophy.”

A PhD is the ultimate academic degree you can earn in a field of choice. To earn a PhD, you must complete original research and evaluate a theory. More often than not, this includes data analysis. This fact is true no matter where you are in the world.

Unlike undergraduate degrees, a PhD is heavily focused on research. As such, lectures are not all that common when working towards earning the degree, but they do still exist. Rather, students will focus particularly on an aspect of the subject choice to create a dissertation. Along with a written thesis, students must present their work orally (known as a “viva voce”) to a group of examiners.

A PhD is recognized around the world as the highest academic achievement. Therefore, no matter where you go, it bears with it an international standard of understanding and a level of respect. It allows for you to be a professor in academia and work in a highly specialized position within the field.

Requirements and Length of Time

While the payoffs of a PhD may seem enticing, the journey to earn your PhD is not an easy or short one.

More often than not, a PhD comes after a master degree. Yet, that’s not always true. Some institutions allow students to skip the master degree and move straight from a bachelor degree into a PhD program.

The time length of a PhD program can vary, but it generally takes three to four years to complete. If a student chooses to study part-time, it could take upwards of six or seven years to graduate.

In order to be accepted into a PhD program, there are a variety of PhD requirements. The most important requirement tends to be proof of high academic standing from your master degree. Some schools may also factor in your bachelor degree grades.

Grades also play a role in assessing the type of funding you may receive. If you have low grades, but still want to pursue a PhD, you’ll likely have to self-fund.

Along with grades, most institutions will also require the following:

1. Proof of language proficiency in the language you will pursue your PhD.

2. resume of work experience and transcript of academic courses., 3. a personal statement sharing your reasons why you want to pursue a phd in your respective field and perhaps why you are choosing the institution., 4. a phd research proposal, which includes:.

  • Your proposed research topic
  • Experience regarding the subject matter
  • Gaps in current knowledge, your understanding of current findings
  • Your research methodology
  • How your research and its implications will affect the world

Student working on a dissertation for a PhD

Photo by  Wadi Lissa  on  Unsplash

How to get a phd.

Getting a PhD requires planning, research, and commitment. Some schools vary in their requirements to apply, so it’s best practice to create your list of desired schools and research their needs.

You can choose to get a PhD at any age, but it’s best to start thinking proactively when you are moving along your graduate degree program.

Here are the main steps it takes to get a PhD:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree

2. complete the gre, 3. apply to graduate schools, 4. begin master’s or phd program, 5. if master’s, graduate and then apply again for a phd program, 6. complete phd coursework, 7. start research and write a dissertation, 8. share dissertation and get published, 9. graduate with a phd, types of phd.

There are different categories of PhD degrees. However, students only choose between professional and academic. Higher and honorary PhDs are awarded later in one’s career.

These include:

Granted in traditional subjects by performing academic research (PhD/Doctor of Philosophy/Th.D – Doctor of Theology)

Professional

These contribute directly to a specific vocational field (Doctor of Business Administration, Doctor of Engineering, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Social Science, Doctor of Architecture, etc.)

Higher/Honorary

To honor esteemed researchers and professionals, an honorary PhD may be rewarded (Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Science – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Doctor of Science – Arts and Humanities)

Reasons to Get a PhD

Everyone has their own reasons for why they want to get their PhD. Here are some motivations behind why you may choose to pursue the degree:

1. Intellectual challenge:

As the final degree in academics, a PhD will challenge your intellectual abilities.

2. Career goals:

Your chosen career requires that you have the degree (i.e., becoming a professor).

3. Personal passion:

You enjoy the subject matter and want to be an expert in the field.

4. Research:

You have something to contribute or know how to fill a gap in the current information.

Research and PhD publication

Photo by  Abby Chung  from  Pexels

The bottom line.

Earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree is not only for those who wish to become a professor . Whether your future career requires the degree or not, you may still want to pursue the academic challenge.

The most common trait of a PhD relies on research. As such, a government agency or organization may also want to fund you in performing research if you have something worthwhile to contribute to your field of study.

As the ultimate destination in terms of degrees, the title of PhD next to your name is well-respected and universally acknowledged. However, before enrolling in a program, make sure that you have the time, resources, and personal passion to fulfill all the necessary requirements.

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“M.D.” vs. “Ph.D.” vs. “Dr.”: Are They Synonyms?

Quick: when you hear the word doctor , what do you picture?

Most would probably describe someone in a white lab coat with a stethoscope hanging around their neck or someone in medical scrubs—someone you would seek out if you have a deep cut that needed stitches.

That word doctor , however, is a title assigned to many who don’t come close to that description, many of whom you wouldn’t want stitching up that cut. Take your English professor, for instance. No offense, Dr. Barrett. 

It can all be a bit confusing, which is why it’s important to know who and why someone might be called a doctor , as well as what all those initials and abbreviations after their name mean. Here we break it all down.

What does Dr. mean?

Let’s start with doctor or D r . for short. While the first definition of the word is “ a person licensed to practice medicine,” that doesn’t mean you want to take medical advice from anyone who calls themselves a doctor . There are many looser definitions of the word that follow and, frankly, make things a bit confusing.

For example, the third definition is older slang for a “cook, as at a camp or on a ship,” while the seventh entry is “an eminent scholar and teacher.” Bugs Bunny didn’t help matters either by plying anyone and everyone with his famous greeting,“What’s up, doc?” 

The term doctor can be traced back to the late 1200s, and it stems from a Latin word meaning “to teach.” It wasn’t used to describe a licensed medical practitioner until about 1400, and it wasn’t used as such with regularity until the late 1600s. It replaced the former word used for medical doctors— leech , which is now considered archaic. 

WATCH: When Did The Word "Doctor" Become Medical?

Physician vs. doctor : are these synonyms.

While the term physician is a synonym for doctor , it’s typically used to refer to those who practice general medicine rather than those who perform surgery, aka surgeons . 

A quack , on the other hand, is defined as “ a fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill.”

What does M.D. mean?

Moving on to initials that carry more weight than a nod from Bugs, let’s look at M.D.s .

M.D. , which can be used with or without the periods ( M.D. or MD )  is the designation for a medical doctor. This is earned by attending medical school (typically a four-year program after completing at least one undergraduate degree, plus a residency program), and learning to diagnose patients’ symptoms and offer treatment. 

The initials M and D stem from the Latin title  Medicīnae Doctor. There are many different types of doctors, with different specialties, but if you have a physical ailment, visiting a doctor with the initials M.D. is a good place to start.

Specialty doctors may add even more initials to their title, such as DCN (doctor of clinical nutrition), DDS (doctor of dental surgery), or countless others they acquire with additional training. To make things even more confusing, some may add abbreviations from medical associations they belong to, such as FAAEM (Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine). 

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What does Ph.D. mean?

As for Ph.D. , this stands for “doctor of philosophy.” It stems from the Latin term Philosophiae Doctor.

You can get a Ph.D. in any number of subjects, from anthropology to mythological studies. It’s not an easy feat, however, as to earn one, you must do original research and write a dissertation . 

Ph.D. vs. M.D .: are these synonyms?

There are two big differences between Ph.D. s and M.D .s. When it comes to medicine, M.D.s can prescribe medications, and Ph.D.s can’t. And yes, it’s possible to be both an M.D. and a Ph.D. In fact, some med schools offer programs in which you can achieve both simultaneously. 

You can also get a professional doctorate degree in a number of fields. For example, you might receive a doctorate of education, an  Ed.D . 

So, in a nutshell, both M.D.s and Ph.Ds can be referred to as doctors . If you’re looking for someone to treat what ails you physically, then you want at least an M.D. following their name. If you want to dig deep into a subject and get advice from someone who has done their own research and who likely knows the latest and greatest developments in a particular area, then you’re probably looking for a Ph.D. And if someone has both, even better—depending on your needs, it may be just what the doctor ordered.

Want more synonyms? Get Thesaurus.com’s sizzling synonyms right in your inbox! 

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What Is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctorate is usually the most advanced degree someone can get in an academic discipline, higher education experts say.

What Is a Doctorate?

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It's unwise to apply to a doctoral program if you don't have a clear idea of how you might use a doctorate in your career.

In many academic disciplines, the most advanced degree one can earn is a doctorate. Doctorate degree-holders are typically regarded as authorities in their fields, and many note that a major reason for pursuing a doctorate is to increase professional credibility.

"If someone wants to be respected as an expert in their chosen field, and also wants to have a wider array of options in research, writing, publishing, teaching, administration, management, and/or private practice, a doctorate is most definitely worth considering," Don Martin, who has a Ph.D. in higher education administration , wrote in an email.

A doctoral degree is a graduate-level credential typically granted after multiple years of graduate school, with the time-to-degree varying depending on the type of doctoral program, experts say.

Earning a doctorate usually requires at least four years of effort and may entail eight years, depending on the complexity of a program's graduation requirements. It also typically requires a dissertation, a lengthy academic paper based on original research that must be vetted and approved by a panel of professors and later successfully defended before them for the doctorate to be granted.

Some jobs require a doctorate, such as certain college professor positions, says Eric Endlich, founder of Top College Consultants, an admissions consulting firm that helps neurodivergent students navigate undergraduate and graduate school admissions.

Endlich earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree, commonly known as a Ph.D., from Boston University in Massachusetts. He focused on psychology and notes that a doctoral degree is generally required to be a licensed psychologist.

"Since a Ph.D. is a research-focused degree, it can be advantageous to those seeking high-level research positions in scientific fields such as astrophysics or biotechnology," he says.

How Long it Takes to Get a Doctorate Degree

Martin, founder and CEO of Grad School Road Map, an organization that helps grad school applicants navigate the admissions process, says obtaining a doctorate is often a lengthy endeavor.

"Typically it can take between four and six years to complete any doctoral program," he says. "If comprehensive examinations and a dissertation are part of the graduation requirements, it may take a year or two longer. There is no standard amount of time – some students take seven to 10 years to finish."

Endlich says doctoral degree hopefuls should be aware that completing a dissertation may take a long time, especially if unexpected hurdles arise.

"My dissertation, for example, involved recruiting college students to complete questionnaires, and it took much longer than I anticipated to recruit enough subjects for my study," he says.

The standards for a dissertation, which include the proposal and research, are rigorous and usually involve a review and approval by a faculty committee, says Hala Madanat, vice president for research and innovation at San Diego State University in California.

"As part of dissertation requirements, some programs will require publication of the research in high-impact peer-reviewed journals," Madanat wrote in an email.

Types of Doctoral Degree Programs

According to professors and administrators of doctoral programs, there are two types of doctorates.

Doctor of Philosophy

A doctor of philosophy degree is designed to prepare people for research careers at a university or in industry, and teach students how to discover new knowledge within their academic discipline. Ph.D. degrees are offered in a wide range of academic subjects, including highly technical fields like biology , physics, math and engineering; social sciences like sociology and economics; and humanities disciplines like philosophy.

A Ph.D. is the most common degree type among tenure-track college and university faculty, who are typically expected to have a doctorate. But academia is not the only path for someone who pursues a Ph.D. It's common for individuals with biology doctorates to work as researchers in the pharmaceutical industry, and many government expert positions also require a Ph.D.

Professional or clinical doctorates

These are designed to give people the practical skills necessary to be influential leaders within a specific industry or employment setting, such as business, psychology , education or nursing . Examples of professional doctoral degrees include a Doctor of Business Administration degree, typically known as a DBA; a Doctor of Education degree, or Ed.D.; and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, or DNP.

A law degree, known as a juris doctor or J.D., as well as a Doctor of Medicine degree, or M.D., are also considered professional doctorates.

How to Get a Doctorate

Getting a doctorate is challenging. It ordinarily requires a series of rigorous classes in a field of study and then passage of a qualification exam in order to begin work on a dissertation, which is the final project.

Dissertations are difficult to write, says David Harpool, vice president of graduate and online programs at Newberry College in South Carolina. Some research indicates that only about half of doctoral students go on to finish their degree, and a main reason is that many never finish and successfully defend their dissertation

"Many of them are in programs that permit them to earn a master’s on the way to a doctorate," Harpool, who earned a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in Missouri and a J.D. from the University of Missouri , wrote in an email. "The transition from mastering a discipline to creating new knowledge (or at least applying new knowledge in a different way), is difficult, even for outstanding students."

Learn about how M.D.-Ph.D. programs

There is a often a "huge shift in culture" at doctoral programs compared to undergraduate or master's level programs, says Angela Warfield, who earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa.

Doctoral professors and students have more of a collaborative relationship where they function as colleagues, she says. And there's pressure on each student to produce "significant and original research."

Many full-time doctoral students work for the school as researchers or teaching assistants throughout their program, so time management is crucial to avoid burnout. However, the dissertation "is by far the biggest battle," she says. The goal is to avoid an "ABD," she says, meaning "all but dissertation."

"In my writing group, we had two motivational slogans: 'ABD is not a degree,' and 'a good dissertation is a done dissertation,'" Warfield, now the principal consultant and founder of admissions consulting firm Compass Academics, wrote in an email.

How Are Doctorate Admissions Decisions Made?

Admissions standards for doctoral programs vary depending on the type of doctorate, experts say.

The quality of a candidate's research is a distinguishing factor in admissions decisions, Madanat says. Meanwhile, leaders of clinical and professional doctorate programs say that the quality of a prospective student's work experience matters most.

Doctoral programs typically expect students to have a strong undergraduate transcript , excellent letters of recommendation and, in some cases, high scores on the Graduate Record Examination , or GRE, Endlich says.

"The size of the programs may be relatively small, and universities need to be sure that applicants will be able to handle the demands of their programs," he says.

Because professional doctorates often require students to come up with effective solutions to systemic problems, eligibility for these doctorates is often restricted to applicants with extensive first-hand work experience with these problems, according to recipients of professional doctorates.

In contrast, it's common for Ph.D. students to begin their programs immediately after receiving an undergraduate degree. The admissions criteria at Ph.D. programs emphasize undergraduate grades, standardized test scores and research projects , and these programs don't necessarily require work experience.

Admissions decisions may also depend on available funding, says Madanat, who works with doctoral students to provide funding, workshops and faculty support to help their research.

Who Is a Good Fit for a Doctoral Program?

Doctoral degree hopefuls "should be interested in making a deep impact on their field, open-minded, eager to learn, curious, adaptable and self-motivated," Madanat says. "Doctoral programs are best suited for those whose goals are to transform and change the fields they are studying and want to make a difference in the way the world is."

Someone who loves to study a subject in great depth, can work alone or in teams, is highly motivated and wants to develop research skills may be a good candidate for a doctoral program, Endlich says.

Because of the tremendous effort and time investment involved in earning a doctorate, experts say it's foolish to apply to a doctoral program if it's unclear how you might use a doctorate in your career.

"The students are being trained with depth of knowledge in the discipline to prepare them for critical thinking beyond the current state of the field," Madanat says. "Students should consider the reasons that they are pursuing a doctoral degree and whether or not it aligns with their future professional goals, their family circumstances and finances."

Rachel D. Miller, a licensed marriage and family therapist who completed a Ph.D. degree in couples and family therapy at Adler University in Illinois in 2023, says pursuing a doctorate required her to make significant personal sacrifices because she had to take on large student loans and she needed to devote a lot of time and energy to her program. Miller says balancing work, home life and health issues with the demands of a Ph.D. program was difficult.

For some students, the financial component may be hard to overlook, Warfield notes.

"Student debt is no joke, and students pursuing graduate work are likely only compounding undergraduate debt," she says. "They need to really consider the payoff potential of the time and money sacrifice."

To offset costs, some programs are fully funded, waiving tuition and fees and providing an annual stipend. Some offer health insurance and other benefits. Students can also earn money by teaching at the university or through fellowships, but those adding more to their plate should possess strong time management skills, experts say.

"Graduate school, and higher education in general, can be brutal on your physical and mental health," Miller wrote in an email.

But Miller says the time and effort invested in her doctoral program paid off by allowing her to conduct meaningful research into the best way to provide therapy to children affected by high-conflict divorce and domestic violence. She now owns a therapy practice in Chicago.

Miller urges prospective doctoral students to reflect on whether getting a doctorate is necessary for them to achieve their dream job. "Really know yourself. Know your purpose for pursuing it, because that's what's going to help carry you through."

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What is a PhD Degree? [2024 Guide]

As you’re taking a look at potential grad school programs, you might be asking yourself, “What is a PhD degree?”

What is a PhD Degree

Understanding what a PhD is and what’s involved in earning one can help you decide whether to enroll in this type of doctoral program. You might decide that a PhD is a strategic step for you to take to further your career.

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If you choose to pursue a PhD, you’ll be glad to know that you can also earn this type of degree online through an accredited university.

What Is a PhD Degree?

students pursuing PhD degree, doing research

After earning a bachelors degree and a masters degree, you may be considering taking your education even further.

The next step for you might be a Doctor of Philosophy degree, better known as a PhD. As a terminal degree, a PhD can set you apart as an expert in your field. Earning a doctoral degree is not a small undertaking. The process includes multiple steps and can last for several years.

Components of a Ph.D. degree program often include:

  • Advanced courses in your chosen field
  • Classes in research methods, data analysis, and scholarly writing
  • Examination of current literature and studies related to your field
  • Oral or written comprehensive exams
  • Original research project—includes writing and defending a major paper about your research

The dissertation, sometimes known as a thesis, is usually the part of a PhD program that takes the longest. During the dissertation process, you’ll work under the supervision of a faculty advisor, often someone whose research interests correlate with yours. You’ll design a research project, carry it out, and write about your findings. This project is meant to contribute new ideas to your field.

A PhD is particularly suitable for students who love school settings and want to pursue academic careers. For instance, professors often have PhDs. It’s also common for scientists and other researchers to hold this type of degree. Outside of  academia, a PhD could set you apart as a knowledgeable leader in your field.

Benefits of a PhD Degree

students taking PhD degree, in group study

Getting your PhD can be an incredible personal goal worth achieving. Plus, a degree at this level can offer many professional benefits, such as:

  • Career advancement . As a person with a PhD, you may be considered an expert in your field. That could help qualify you for a variety of top roles within your line of work.
  • Higher earnings . A job promotion or a new employer might offer you a higher salary.
  • Networking . You can meet new people and build professional connections as you work toward a PhD.
  • Preparation for becoming a professor . Universities typically prefer to hire faculty members who hold PhDs in their area of expertise.
  • Research opportunities . Before you can earn your PhD, it’s necessary to complete an original research project called a dissertation. After completing your degree, you may have additional opportunities to contribute research to your field.

If you’re willing to put in the work, then getting your PhD could be worth the effort.

How to Know If a PhD Is Right for Me

Woman taking PhD degree online

Before you sign up for a PhD program, it’s helpful to carefully weigh the decision and make sure it’s the right choice for you. You might ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I willing to commit years to the process ? PhDs take at least 3 years, and most take longer than that.
  • Do I want to carry out original research ? This is a research-focused degree, and the purpose is to contribute new ideas or theories to your field.
  • Does an academic career interest me ? Many people get PhDs because they want to work in higher education as teachers or researchers. Those who plan to remain as practitioners often consider professional doctorates instead.

It can also be helpful to speak with faculty members and current students to get a feel for what you can expect from PhD studies.

Applying for a PhD: Education Requirements

Friends applying for PhD Education online

It’s necessary to put in years of study before you can apply for a PhD program. Most students need to hold at least two degrees already. But, in some cases, one may be sufficient.

  • Bachelor’s degree . All graduate programs require students to have earned a four-year undergraduate degree before enrolling in advanced studies. Most PhD programs don’t specify that your bachelors degree must be in the same field as your hoped-for doctoral studies, but it can help you move through a graduate-level program with more ease.
  • Master’s degree . Colleges often expect students to have earned a master’s degree before applying for PhD studies, but some programs do allow students straight out of bachelor’s degree programs. Doing a master’s degree first can provide strong preparation for the advanced coursework, research, and writing that are required in doctoral programs.

It is often required that the degrees you have be from accredited colleges. It may also be necessary to meet a minimum GPA requirement, such as a score of 3.0 or higher. Some colleges prefer PhD applicants who have graduated from previous programs with honors.

Doctor of Philosophy: Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral programs can be quite selective about whom they admit because they’re looking for capable students who can keep up with the demands of the program and contribute valuable new research to the field.

In addition to meeting the education requirements, you’ll also be required to turn in records that demonstrate your academic potential. Here are some common admissions requirements:

  • College transcripts and professional resume
  • Letters of recommendation from people who know you academically or professionally
  • Statement about relevant background, research interests, or professional goals
  • Proposal that presents the original research project you’d be interested in doing
  • Scores from the GRE or GMAT (not always required)

You might also connect with the department’s faculty members and find someone who would be willing to serve as your academic supervisor for your dissertation. It’s beneficial for this person’s research interests to align with your own.

Some schools have you do this before admission, and others connect admitted students to supervisors later in the enrollment process.

What Does PhD Stand For?

Students taking a PhD degree

PhD stands for “Doctor of Philosophy.” It doesn’t mean that you’ve studied philosophy at the highest levels. Rather, the word “philosophy” in the name refers back to ancient Greek. It implies that you are someone who loves and seeks wisdom and knowledge.

You can get a PhD in many different subject areas—such as a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. PhD students explore their chosen field of study in great depth. They also learn how to conduct original research, and they undertake major research projects. By graduation, they are considered experts in their fields.

What Do You Learn in a Doctoral Degree?

Friends getting Doctoral degree, researching in library

In a PhD program, you’ll learn about your chosen area of study, such as biology or sociology. You will also study a niche area within that field in great depth.

Research is a significant topic in any PhD program. Your courses might include topics on:

  • Advanced statistics
  • Dissertation preparation
  • Literature review
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods
  • Research methodology

These research-focused classes may be tailored to your particular area of study, such as research methodology in the social sciences or advanced statistics in criminal justice research.

What Can You Do with a PhD Degree?

Biochemists with PhD degrees, working in the lab

Many people earn PhD degrees because they want to teach at the college level. This degree is often required for tenured faculty positions at universities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most postsecondary teachers earn between $46,690 and $172,130 each year. Research scientists often hold PhDs as well. Examples include medical scientists, biochemists, and physicists.

Additionally, there are some career paths that require a doctorate for licensure. For instance, clinical and counseling psychologists usually need to receive training at the doctoral level before they can practice independently.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD?

Woman with masters degree, pursuing PhD

Whether you’ll need a masters before you can begin the PhD process will depend on the program you choose.

Many PhD programs require a master’s degree as an admissions requirement. Completing a master’s program can provide a strong research and writing foundation that can help you during this advanced program. Other programs, though, let students enroll with only a bachelors degree.

There might be additional classes required to prepare you for working at the graduate level, so it may take a bit longer to complete your studies. For more information on whether you need a master’s to get a PhD , you can consult the admissions requirements of each program you’re considering.

Can You Get a PhD Online?

Man taking PhD degree Online

There are many online PhD programs available for aspiring students looking for flexibility. Some PhD programs are offered entirely online. You can take all of your classes online, and you can also receive guidance from your faculty advisor and defend your dissertation from afar.

Other programs are mostly online but require some in-person experiences. You might be asked to come to campus for a week or two of intensive study. Also, you may be asked to show up in person for your dissertation defense. Either way, online PhD studies are often more accessible for working professionals than fully on-campus programs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?

students taking PhD degree, attending class in university

Students often spend 3 to 5 years completing a PhD program. Online programs sometimes include features like year-round classes and short course terms that encourage quick completion.

The shortest PhD programs typically do not involve writing a dissertation. There may be a different final assignment, such as a capstone project, instead. You might be able to finish one of those programs in about 3 years. Not all students finish within 5 years. Some spend around a decade on this massive undertaking. Some PhD programs set an upper limit for completion, such as 7 or 8 years.

Is a PhD a Doctor?

People with PhD degrees

People with PhDs are considered experts in their fields, and the degree includes “Doctor” in its name. For that reason, PhD holders often use the title “Doctor.” A college professor, for example, might go by Dr. Smith.

Even still, there’s a difference between MD vs. PhD. A person who holds a PhD is not a medical doctor. Medical doctors earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree before becoming licensed to practice medicine. In most contexts, though, people refer to professionals with PhDs as “doctors.”

What Jobs Can You Get with a PhD?

College professor guiding students in class

People with doctorate degrees work in both academia and professional practice. Being a college professor is quite popular among people who hold PhDs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a PhD can also be helpful for obtaining jobs in higher education administration, particularly as a dean or a provost.

PhD graduates may work in research as well. Research jobs are available with colleges, government agencies, and private institutions. Researchers are needed in many different fields, including biology, mathematics, computer science, and economics. PhDs also help people rise to the top in their industries, perhaps as chief executives.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

People attending PhD program

Some graduate schools charge just $300 to $400 per credit hour. Others may charge $2,000 per credit hour or more.

Per-credit-hour rates between $600 and $1,000 are quite common. It’s helpful to keep in mind that state universities often charge less for in-state residents than nonresidents. Your total number of credit hours may depend on how many years you spend working on your dissertation.

Some universities offer tuition-free PhD programs for qualifying participants. The students may even receive a stipend in exchange for research or teaching assistance. This arrangement is more common for on-campus programs than online ones.

What’s the Difference Between a Doctorate vs. PhD Degree?

Is a PhD a doctorate degree ? For your terminal degree, you may have the choice between a PhD degree and a professional doctorate. While they are both doctoral degrees, they do have some differences.

Professional doctorates are sometimes a year or two quicker than PhDs, but that’s not always the case.

Is a PhD Worth It?

Man pursuing PhD degree online

Yes, a PhD is worth it for many students. For one thing, holding a PhD could be the key to fulfilling your professional dreams.

If you want to be a professor, for instance, there’s a good chance that you’ll be required to have this advanced degree. Even if that’s not your ultimate goal, a PhD could be beneficial. The more education you have, the more your job security usually increases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s an inverse relationship between education and unemployment. As education increases, unemployment rates decrease.

Getting Your PhD Degree Online

student getting PhD degree online

An exciting future as an expert in your field may await. You can earn a PhD to increase your knowledge, prove your capability, and contribute new ideas to your area of study. Getting this degree is an impressive accomplishment, and it may open new doors for your career. For convenience and accessibility, you might take a look at online PhD studies.

Many accredited colleges offer robust online PhD programs. You’ll get to take advanced courses and work with respected professors. An online program can also offer opportunities for completing a thesis or a doctoral project. You could graduate prepared to make a difference in your field.

Why not start exploring your options today?

what does phd doctor mean

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Cambridge Dictionary +Plus

Meaning of PhD in English

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  • associate's degree
  • baccalaureate
  • bachelor's degree
  • first degree
  • summa cum laude

Ph.D. | American Dictionary

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What does phd stand for, published by steve tippins on may 23, 2022 may 23, 2022.

Last Updated on: 29th August 2022, 08:06 am

PhD stands for “Doctor of Philosophy.” It represents someone who has gone beyond undergraduate and master’s degrees and moved to a high point of knowledge and technical competence within a certain area. Even more importantly, it represents the creation of knowledge within that area through original research.

What Makes a PhD Distinctive? Research.

In undergraduate and most master’s degrees, you are gathering and perhaps synthesizing information. Within a PhD, you do all of that and add more knowledge to the field through original research.

You’re not going to bring about world peace through a PhD. Typically, a PhD is set up to add a little knowledge to the pile of existing knowledge. You find what has and hasn’t been done before and then try to fill in that niche. Your findings add to the body of knowledge within your discipline.

woman sitting on the library floor and studying

The Process of Getting a PhD

Getting a PhD happens in two stages: coursework and research. The research you do in the second stage is the foundation of your dissertation.

Building a Foundation With Coursework

Research is an important part of achieving a PhD within the United States. There are usually about two years of coursework in which you delve deeply into your field, research methods, and types of data analysis.

After that, there is usually a comprehensive exam or a paper which represents the completion of your coursework. Then, your faculty says you’re ready to head out and do doctoral research. 

Doing Original Research – Writing a Dissertation

The second stage of getting a PhD entails extensive research. You will end up with a document ranging from 100 to 200 pages or more of text alone. One of the big differences in PhD research is that you have to be very explicit. If you make a statement, you have to show that it is supported by previous research.

You want to show that you understand the field and write in an academic style, which means you don’t leave anything out. For example, you could say it’s important that we brush our teeth. In academic writing, you would say, “Jones and Smith (2017) along with Johnson and Carbuncle (2020) have found that brushing your teeth is very important.”

It may seem like overexplaining, but it’s being very precise in your writing. You want to avoid multiple interpretations of what you’re saying.

man focused on his laptop while studying in a library

PhD Degree Requirements

Entrance requirements.

It starts with acceptance into a program. If you’re in a field of the sciences, you have to show how you’re going to work well in the lab. Along with projects, you may have to take some sort of standardized test, such as the Graduate Record Examination or Graduate Management Admission Test. You will probably also need an essay, interview, and letters of recommendation.

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During the Program

Once you get into a PhD program, you begin by taking your classes. You may get assigned to a faculty member or a group of faculty members or become a teaching assistant. Eventually, you might even teach undergraduates. You’re going to be working along with a faculty member and supporting them in their research, similar to the apprentice model. 

Many online schools have the same coursework without the apprenticeship teaching role that happens at traditional, brick and mortar schools. 

European System Requirements

phd candidate consulting with professors

The European model is slightly different. At many schools you have to find a faculty member who will endorse you ahead of time to get into a program. Then, it’s not so much about completing coursework as it is showing competence in a topic and coming up with your ultimate research dissertation. You spend much of your time and effort digging deeply into the literature in and around your topic.

PhD vs Doctorate

A PhD is a type of doctorate. Other types of doctorates include a Doctorate in Jurisprudence (JD), which is a lawyer’s legal degree, or a Medical Doctorate, which is an MD. A PhD is a doctorate in Philosophy, and can be focused on many different disciplines. 

There are also more applied types of doctorates like a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), Doctorate in Management (DM), or Doctorate in Education (EdD). These typically entail coursework as well as a research project, but the research project is typically less theoretical and more applied than that of a PhD.

PhD vs Masters 

close-up view of a graduation gown

In many disciplines, the logical progression is undergraduate degree, then masters, and then PhD, with the PhD being the terminal degree within a field. Master’s work is often considered to be preparation for a PhD.

Master’s work doesn’t include theoretical research, it’s typically not as long, and the coursework may not be as intense. Your classes won’t go as in-depth either. 

However, there are Master’s degrees, such as a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) or Masters of Fine Arts (MFA), that have been considered terminal degrees. That is changing though – many business PhD programs are asking that applicants have MBAs and some schools have developed doctoral degrees in fine arts.

PhD vs Doctorate in Education (EdD or DEd)

An EdD is a doctorate in Education. It’s generally focused on one of the areas of education, such as curriculum instruction or higher education. The major difference is the emphasis on the final document or dissertation . A is PhD theoretical and geared toward publishing, whereas an EdD is more applied.

If you want to teach at a university, a PhD is typically considered to be better because it gears more toward research than an EdD. 

In the compensation scheme put forth in many school systems, when you get a higher degree, you get a salary bump as well. Additionally, if you want to go into administration (principals and superintendents in particular), having an EdD is not required but very beneficial for that part of your career.

close-up shot of a stethoscope next to a doctor working on a laptop

While there are MDs who become researchers, the purpose of an MD is to practice medicine . A PhD is more theoretical and geared toward research and teaching. Getting an MD typically involves doing creative research and learning about bodies, functions, and tests. It’s less about adding new knowledge to the field, and more about learning to practice medicine.

A PhD Is About Endurance

Many people dream of getting a PhD. The reasons for this vary, from a genuine desire to continue one’s education to a need to prove oneself. Whatever the reason, one thing unites all aspiring PhDs: getting a PhD is very, very difficult.

Here’s what a lot of people don’t understand: getting a PhD is not just about intelligence. While you do have to be intelligent, getting a PhD is even more about endurance. It’s about being able to continue through challenges and setbacks. 

Getting a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. You cannot write a dissertation in one sitting , it’s something you must put a lot of time and effort into over an extended period of time. There is sacrifice involved. If it’s going to take three to five years, that’s three to five years of doing little else. Keep that in mind before you jump into a PhD program.

Is a PhD Worth It?

Whether a PhD is worth it depends on your goals. Generically speaking, it’s worth it if you want to go deep into a subject and show yourself and others that you have the ability to explore and create knowledge. It can be great for self confidence. If you want to teach at a university level, a PhD is basically a requirement now.

smiling male graduate holding his phd

In many administrative jobs in education, having a doctorate is worth it. In the consulting world, having a PhD can demonstrate that you have a high level of knowledge and increase your credibility. As more people get PhDs, they’re going to become more and more common outside of academia. 

The challenge for PhD holders is to communicate what you have learned and how it will help the organization you want to work for. You have to show that the skills needed in a PhD are transferable. These include skills like patience, hard work, and the ability to handle projects over a long period of time. Having a PhD shows that you have the ability to work with multiple people, handle abstract topics, and meet deadlines. 

Can a PhD Be Called “Doctor?”

Yes, many PhDs are referred to as “Doctor.”

Do You Write Dr. and PhD?

Many PhDs list “Dr.” in front of their name, and others list “PhD” after their name. There is somewhat of a controversy on listing both, which technically means you have two degrees. However, many people refer to themselves that way.

Can Anyone Get a PhD?

woman with glasses reading a book between library shelves

Yes, anyone who can get into a PhD program and then meet the requirements of that particular program can get a PhD.

Final Thoughts

It’s not a mystical thing, and those who obtain a PhD should not be put up on a higher plateau than others. PhDs are people who have a deep interest in a particular topic and have spent a lot of time delving deep into it. They deserve respect for having done so.

The most difficult part for those who know people trying to get a PhD is understanding the extent of the time commitment. If you’re a friend or loved one of someone trying to get a PhD, understand that they have many other commitments, but they still love you and could use your support.

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Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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what does phd doctor mean

PHD Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It?

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You’ve likely seen the abbreviation PHD — but what is the meaning of PHD? We’ll tell you. Read on as we explore this common acronym.

what does phd doctor mean

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There are several ways to abbreviate words in the English language — hence why there are so many acronyms and abbreviations found in the dictionary today. 

While some terms are pretty self-explanatory, like “Feb,” which stands for “February,” there are some acronyms that could use a bit of explaining — such as Ph.D.

Although Ph.D is an abbreviation with more than one meaning, it commonly refers to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D): spelled with a capitalized “P,” lowercase “h,” and uppercase “D.”  

Interested in learning more? We can help. Read on as we explore the abbreviation Ph.D to uncover its meaning, origin, and more. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

what does phd doctor mean

What Does PhD Mean?

Ph.D — aka Doctor of Philosophy — is defined by Dictionary.com as the highest degree awarded by a school in a field of academic study. A doctorate is typically awarded to an individual who has completed three or more years of graduate study and a dissertation approved by a committee of professors. 

Common abbreviations used for the doctor of philosophy include: 

  • Ph.D. 

After completing the Ph.D degree or dissertation, a graduate can use Dr. or Ph.D. For example:

  • Dr. Suzie Johnson or
  • Suzie Johnson (Ph.D) or
  • Dr. Suzie Johnson (Ph.D) 

What Is the Origin of Ph.D?

Abbreviated from the Latin term philosophiae doctor meaning “doctor of philosophy,” the Ph.D is the highest degree in most fields, with the notable exceptions of medicine and law that have their own doctorates. The degree originated in 19th century Germany when the word “philosophy” had the much broader meaning of “love of wisdom.”

Though universities have existed in Europe long before the 19th century, the degrees that medieval universities awarded to students had more in common with the MD than with the Ph.D, as they required mastery of already existing knowledge. 

In 1861, Yale University became the first institution of higher education in the United States to award the degree, conferring it on three recipients; Arthur W, Wright, James M. Whiton, and Eugene Schuyler. A few decades later, Canada accepted Ph.D as their highest level of honor, and in 1917, the doctoral of philosophy was introduced in all disciplines of the subjects.  

How Can I Use Ph.D in a Sentence?

Now that you understand what Ph.D means, let’s take a look at some examples of this acronym in a sentence:

“After telling him I earned an academic degree, he bragged for the rest of the night about having a Ph.D .”

“I can’t decide what academic field to get my Ph.D in.”

“Tom can’t work full-time because he is a Ph.D student and has to work on his thesis.”

“My mom is thinking about going back to school to complete a Ph.D program in psychology.”

“I am in the second year of my Ph.D program.”

“Whether you like physics, chemistry, or psychology, you can find a Ph.D program on campus,”

“Look, I understand that you’re my supervisor, but I am looking to get my Ph.D degree and ultimately become a doctor of medicine; in other words, I have to study and can’t pick up more than one shift per week.” 

“Have you taken the exams yet to get your Ph.D ?”

“Did you know that some Ph.D programs accept a portfolio of published papers?”

“To get a Ph.D , it’s important to study hard and get good grades.”

“Gosh, I didn’t realize how many seminars and workshops I’d have to attend to get a Ph.D !”

“A Ph.D comes with a pretty hefty fee, so be sure to apply for scholarships.”

What Is a Doctorate?

Simply put, a doctorate is any qualification that awards a doctoral degree. To qualify for one, you need to produce work at a high level that makes a significant new contribution to knowledge in your academic field. Doing so earns you the title “Doctor.”

Many people believe a doctorate and a Ph.D are the same. However, this is not the case, as a Ph.D is a type of doctorate, such as a Doctor of Philosophy. Other doctoral degrees or types of doctorate include:

  • Doctor of Education
  • Doctor of Theology
  • Doctor of Medicine
  • Doctor of Musical Arts
  • Doctor of Literature
  • Doctor of Divinity
  • Doctor of Civil Law
  • Doctor of Science

According to the American Psychological Association, the Ph.D is intended for students interested in gaining new knowledge through scientific research, or teaching experience. 

Does PHD Stand For Anything Else?

Although the abbreviation PHD is most commonly associated with the Doctorate of Philosophy, it does have a few other meanings:

  • Pizza Hut Delivery
  • Press Here, Dummy
  • Permanent Head Damage
  • Pretty Heavy Drinker
  • Please Hire Desperate
  • Preparing His Disciples
  • Player Hating Degree
  • Power Hungry Dog
  • Premium Hot Dog
  • Pretty Heavy Dude
  • Poor, Hungry, and Determined

A Final Word

So, what does PHD mean, you ask?

Simply put, PHD is an abbreviation that stands for many words; however, it’s most commonly used to abbreviate “Doctor of Philosophy.”

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to understand the meaning of PHD fully. To discover more interesting words and strengthen your overall vocabulary, be sure to check out our website , where you’ll find definitions, grammar tips, and more!  

  • A Brief History of the PhD | NeuWrite West 
  • Ph.d. Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com
  • The First American Doctor of Philosophy Degree: A Centennial Salute to Yale, 1861-1961 | The Journal of Higher Education

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Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.

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  • DPhil vs PhD – Differences Explained
  • Types of Doctorates

DPhil vs PhD – What Are the Differences?

There is a common misconception that a DPhil and PhD are two different degrees. This is not the case.

The abbreviations ‘PhD’ and ‘DPhil’ both relate to the same academic qualification – a Doctor of Philosophy. A  Doctor of Philosophy is a professional research qualification usually undertaken after a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree. It’s awarded to students who successfully undertake a novel research project and usually involves the production and defence of a thesis during an oral examination.

Whilst both abbreviations refer to the same qualification, ‘PhD’ is far more common and well known compared to ‘DPhil’. In fact, it’s likely that most doctoral students located outside of the UK have never even stumbled upon the abbreviation ‘DPhil’ before!

The reason for this is that ‘DPhil’ is a British abbreviation and is only currently used by a handful of UK universities such as Oxford, and occasionally, Sussex and York. While almost all UK universities adopt the term ‘PhD’, the University of Oxford still uses ‘DPhil’ as you can see on their admissions page . As a result, almost all doctorate students graduating today do so with ‘PhD‘ written on their official manuscript.

Are There Any Differences in Funding, Eligibility Requirements or Duration?

In short, no.

As ‘DPhil’ and ‘PhD’ both refer to the same qualification, a ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, there are no differences in programme between them. This is true regardless of whether you’re a UK/EU or international student.

With respect to entry requirements, both will require graduate students to possess a relevant Master’s degree (or a very strong Bachelor’s degree), have the same funding opportunities attached to them and take approximately 3 to 4 years to complete if studied full-time.

There are no additional costs associated with a DPhil compared to a PhD in Philosophy, and external funding sources within the UK are the same.

Potential DPhil Concerns

In the past, several current and post-doctoral students have expressed concerns about whether they will be at a disadvantage due to having ‘DPhil’ on their official degree manuscript as opposed to ‘PhD’.

In almost all cases, these concerns have arisen when an individual is contemplating moving abroad. The reason for this is that the abbreviation ‘DPhil’ is not always as well understood in countries outside the United Kingdom. For example, a recent post-doctoral student once shared with us how she spent two days going back and forth with a potential US employer while trying to explain that her degree is the same qualification as a PhD. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an isolated event given the number of stories and personal anecdotes available through various post-doctoral forums.

However, in all the above cases, the affected individuals were able to address the employer’s confusion once they explained the difference in the abbreviation system.

Therefore, while obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy which has ‘DPhil’ written on its official manuscript may raise a few questions, it’s not a factor that you should be concerned about.

To summarise, ‘DPhil’ and ‘PhD’ both correspond to a ‘Doctor of Philosophy’. Apart from the differences in abbreviation convention, both degrees are the same higher education qualification.

How Long is a DPhil?

Just like a PhD, a DPhil typically takes 3 to 4 years of full time study. This usually comprises of three stages:

  • Research, where the DPhil student carries out a literature review, providing critique on a wide range of sources, before carrying out their own research.
  • Thesis, where the student writes up their research project in a single document which outlines the importance of the project, methodology, findings and conclusions.
  • Viva Voce, the final step before coming a Doctorate of Philosophy. In this stage the DPhil or PhD student sits an oral exam and is required to discuss and defend their original contribution to the field of study.

Tips for a DPhil

You should now be aware of the DPhil meaning, however if you are still unsure whether this is the right PhD degree for you, here are some tips you can use to reassure yourself, particularly if you are an international student looking to study in the UK:

Talk to an academic supervisor, or even your potential supervisor themselves. They will be able to reiterate the points above and give you confidence that your doctoral study will result in a doctoral degree with the same academic merit as a PhD.

If you are pursuing international study, just like any doctorate degree you should confirm English language requirements, study costs, living costs, travel expenses or any other additional expenses associated with the project.

Doctoral study is a big commitment, so as a DPhil or PhD candidate you need to ask yourself ‘is a PhD worth it?’. If you are genuinely interested in your field or research or wish to gain expert knowledge and contribute to a specific topic, then PhD study could be for you. Doctorates are well equipped to pursue academic careers. Academic positions include lecturers, postdoctoral researchers and PhD supervisors. However, the transferable skills developed over the course of their programmes give them an edge beyond just the academic job market. The research and development industries in particular often look to recruit PhD holders for their expertise in novel techniques. It is important therefore to consider your career goals, and how a DPhil may influence your job prospects.

To conclude, when considering a DPhil vs PhD, either way you will hold a Doctorate of Philosophy. The two advanced degrees differ in name only and are of equal academic merit.

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EdD vs. PhD in Education: What’s the Difference?

EdD vs. PhD in Education: What’s the Difference?

Industry Advice Education

If you’re interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in education, one of the first questions you’ll face is: Should I apply for a Doctor of Education (EdD) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education?

The decision between these two culminating degrees can be career-defining as each serves a very different purpose despite being equivalent in level. In order to ensure you choose the path that best aligns with your future goals and career path, it’s important to take the time to first understand the differences in program curriculum and future career opportunities that relate to each degree.

Read on to learn about the defining qualities and key differences of an EdD and a PhD in Education to determine which program is the right fit for you.

EdD vs. PhD in Education

A Doctor of Education (EdD) is a professional degree designed for practitioners pursuing educational leadership roles. A PhD in education , on the other hand, is designed to prepare graduates for research and teaching roles.

“With a PhD, [students are] reviewing the research, seeing a gap in the literature, and generating new knowledge based on a theory or hypothesis,” Joseph McNabb , a professor of practice in Northeastern’s Graduate School of Education , explains. “Conversely, an EdD student starts with a problem of practice and [works to learn] the skills it will take to resolve that complex problem of practice.”

EdD vs PhD

What is an EdD Degree?

An EdD, or Doctor of Education , is a professional doctorate best suited for experienced educators and mid- to senior-level working professionals who want to lead and implement change within their organization.

EdD candidates work in a broad range of fields ranging from K-12 and higher education to nonprofits, government, healthcare, and the military. What each share is a desire to transform their everyday environment and apply the lessons learned through their doctorate to a complex, critical issue facing their workplace. 

The EdD is practice-based. Students in an EdD program don’t want to just research their area of interest, but leverage that research in ways that could positively influence their community or organization’s decision-making process.

Learn More: 5 Tips for Choosing Your EdD Concentration

Those who pursue an EdD focus on qualitative, exploratory research. Students collect data and conduct individual interviews, observations, or focus groups to construct hypotheses and develop strategies that can help solve or clarify a specific problem of practice, such as how to support student veterans transitioning to civilian life or how to foster more female leaders in higher education—two dissertation topics recently explored through Northeastern’s EdD program .

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD

Learn how an EdD can give you the skills to enact organizational change in any industry.

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What Can You Do with an EdD Degree?

While an EdD can be applied to a variety of industries and career options—such as K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, or civic service—there are several job titles you’ll likely come across within your cohort of classmates. They include:

  • Postsecondary Education Administrators: Postsecondary education administrators work in colleges or universities, and typically oversee faculty research, academics, admissions, or student affairs. Some job titles that fall under this category include president, vice president, provost, and dean. The average annual salary for a postsecondary education administrator rings in at $99,940 .
  • Elementary and Secondary School Education Administrators: Superintendents, who are the top executives of a school district, fall under this category. They manage academic programs, spending, and the staffing of all educational facilities within their district, and typically earn an average of $106,850 per year .
  • Top Executives : In education, a top executive could be a “chief learning officer” or “chief academic officer”—senior-level professionals who drive and develop strategies that help their organization meet critical business goals. Top executives make an average of approximately $100,090 per year .
  • Instructional Coordinators : Instructional coordinators create and manage school curricula and other educational materials. They help teachers implement effective classroom learning strategies and measure the effectiveness of what’s being taught and how. The average annual salary for instructional coordinators is roughly $66,490 .

what does phd doctor mean

These are just a few of the many career opportunities available to EdD graduates.

Learn More: Top Careers with a Doctorate in Education

What is a PhD in Education?

A PhD in Education is a terminal degree best suited for individuals who want to pursue a career in academia or research at the university level.

Students in PhD or doctoral programs take a more theoretical, study-based approach to learning. In most cases, their goal is to master a specific subject or add their unique findings to a body of existing literature. PhD candidates conduct original research in the hopes of driving change in their field or inspiring others to make change based on their work.

A PhD is the degree most popular amongst those who aspire to become a professor or obtain a tenure position. Through these programs, students tend to focus on getting published in well-respected journals, presenting at national conferences, and learning how to teach future educators.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Education?

While some of the above roles can also be earned through a PhD program, the most common job titles for PhD-holders include:

  • Postsecondary Teachers: Postsecondary teachers instruct students at a college or university. When they’re not in the classroom, they’re often focused on conducting research, attending conferences, and publishing scholarly papers and books. Postsecondary teachers earn an average $80,840 per year .
  • Academic Researcher : Researchers often have the opportunity to create their own centers or institutes, hire staff to help carry out their work, and secure funding for that work. Salaries often vary by subject area, but a general academic researcher typically earns an average $83,971 per year .

EdD or PhD: Which is Better For You?

Once you’ve explored the differences between an EdD and PhD in Education, the most relevant question to consider will be: What’s the next step I want to take in my career, and which degree can help me achieve my professional goals? The answer to this question will determine which degree program you ultimately pursue.

Earning your doctorate can pay off no matter which path you choose. Professionals with a doctoral degree earn an average $98,000 a year —nearly $20,000 more a year than master’s degree holders. Similarly, doctoral degree holders see an unemployment rate of only one percent compared to the national unemployment rate of two percent.

Regardless of which degree you ultimately pursue, there is enormous potential for you to advance your career in the field of education. Evaluating your needs and values will help you understand whether an EdD or PhD in Education is best suited to your personal and professional goals.

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD

This article was originally published in July 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.

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About scott w. o'connor, related articles.

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TV Insider

10 Biggest Questions for ‘Doctor Who’ in 2024

Posted: January 2, 2024 | Last updated: January 2, 2024

<p><a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/show/doctor-who/"><em>Doctor Who</em></a> ended 2023 with three specials to celebrate its 60th anniversary featuring returning characters, The Doctor revisiting a familiar face, the reintroduction of a villain from <em>years</em> ago, and a major twist when it came time for the regeneration. Then it introduced The Doctor to his newest companion in a Christmas special.</p> <p><a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/david-tennant/">David Tennant</a> returned as the Fourteenth Doctor, having previously played the Tenth Doctor, alongside <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/catherine-tate/">Catherine Tate</a> whom is back as companion Donna Noble. And while the last time they saw each other, she couldn’t remember who he was or her mind would burn up — after she took the <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/1106890/doctor-who-60th-anniversary-specials-donna-memory-david-tennant-return-fourteenth/">power of a Time Lord into her head</a> — the first special, <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/1111948/doctor-who-60th-recap-david-tennant-fourteen-donna-remembers-rose-metacrisis-tardis/">“The Star Beast,”</a> solved that problem, thanks to her sharing the metacrisis with her daughter, Rose (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/yasmin-finney/">Yasmin Finney</a>), and then the two just letting it all go.</p> <p>Then in the third special, <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/1114155/doctor-who-david-tennant-fourteen-regeneration-bigeneration-fifteen-ncuti-gatwa/">“The Giggle,”</a> The Doctor faced the Toymaker (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/neil-patrick-harris/">Neil Patrick Harris</a>) and when he took a fatal blast, <em>bigenerated</em>, splitting off into the Fifteenth Doctor (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/ncuti-gatwa/">Ncuti Gatwa</a>). The Fourteenth Doctor stopped traveling, instead settling down to live a life with a family — Donna, her husband, her daughter, her mother, and her granddad — and Fifteen set off on the next big adventure.</p> <p>The Doctor (Gatwa) then met Ruby Sunday (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/millie-gibson/">Millie Gibson</a>) in the Christmas special, “The Church on Ruby Road,” which set up quite the mystery about her as well as one of her neighbors.</p>    <h3><a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/1116011/doctor-who-ncuti-gatwa-millie-gibson-ruby-villains-meep-boss-toymaker-warnings/">'Doctor Who': Ncuti Gatwa & Millie Gibson Tease New Villains and 'Dark' Episode for Ruby</a></h3>     <p>Those four episodes left us with quite a few major questions about what’s to come for both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors, and chances are it will be a while before we get answers about Tennant’s because it’s Gatwa’s time to shine as the Time Lord. But when the show returns in May, it certainly could address some of them.</p> <p>Scroll down for more.</p> <p><strong><em>Doctor Who</em>, Returns, May 2024, Disney+</strong></p>

Doctor Who ended 2023 with three specials to celebrate its 60th anniversary featuring returning characters, The Doctor revisiting a familiar face, the reintroduction of a villain from years ago, and a major twist when it came time for the regeneration. Then it introduced The Doctor to his newest companion in a Christmas special.

David Tennant returned as the Fourteenth Doctor, having previously played the Tenth Doctor, alongside Catherine Tate whom is back as companion Donna Noble. And while the last time they saw each other, she couldn’t remember who he was or her mind would burn up — after she took the power of a Time Lord into her head — the first special, “The Star Beast,” solved that problem, thanks to her sharing the metacrisis with her daughter, Rose ( Yasmin Finney ), and then the two just letting it all go.

Then in the third special, “The Giggle,” The Doctor faced the Toymaker ( Neil Patrick Harris ) and when he took a fatal blast, bigenerated , splitting off into the Fifteenth Doctor ( Ncuti Gatwa ). The Fourteenth Doctor stopped traveling, instead settling down to live a life with a family — Donna, her husband, her daughter, her mother, and her granddad — and Fifteen set off on the next big adventure.

The Doctor (Gatwa) then met Ruby Sunday ( Millie Gibson ) in the Christmas special, “The Church on Ruby Road,” which set up quite the mystery about her as well as one of her neighbors.

'Doctor Who': Ncuti Gatwa & Millie Gibson Tease New Villains and 'Dark' Episode for Ruby

Those four episodes left us with quite a few major questions about what’s to come for both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors, and chances are it will be a while before we get answers about Tennant’s because it’s Gatwa’s time to shine as the Time Lord. But when the show returns in May, it certainly could address some of them.

Scroll down for more.

Doctor Who , Returns, May 2024, Disney+

<p>What happens when the Fourteenth Doctor is about to die the next time? (As we’ve seen, he’s not going to stay grounded for long; he’d already been on at least two trips in the TARDIS before sitting down for a meal with his family at the end of “The Giggle.”) Could he be the start of what led to <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/tom-baker">Tom Baker</a> as the Curator in the 50th anniversary special? (He was the one to tell <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/matt-smith">Matt Smith</a>‘s Doctor that he’d be revisiting some faces…) Presumably there wouldn’t be a need for him to bigenerate again. Does he never die or regenerate? That’s unlikely but has to be put out there. Or…</p>

What does bigeneration mean for the Fourteenth Doctor's future?

What happens when the Fourteenth Doctor is about to die the next time? (As we’ve seen, he’s not going to stay grounded for long; he’d already been on at least two trips in the TARDIS before sitting down for a meal with his family at the end of “The Giggle.”) Could he be the start of what led to Tom Baker as the Curator in the 50th anniversary special? (He was the one to tell Matt Smith ‘s Doctor that he’d be revisiting some faces…) Presumably there wouldn’t be a need for him to bigenerate again. Does he never die or regenerate? That’s unlikely but has to be put out there. Or…

<p>The Fifteenth Doctor, while talking to the Fourteenth about him “running on fumes,” did say that he’s fine “because you fix yourself” and that, as Time Lords, “we’re doing rehab out of order.” Is that because Fourteen will, upon his next regeneration, perhaps just disappear from wherever he is at the time and go back to that moment on the helipad to become the Fifteenth Doctor? Anything is possible with this bigeneration twist, though this does seem very likely.</p>

Will Fourteen, when his next regeneration comes, go back to that helipad and become Fifteen?

The Fifteenth Doctor, while talking to the Fourteenth about him “running on fumes,” did say that he’s fine “because you fix yourself” and that, as Time Lords, “we’re doing rehab out of order.” Is that because Fourteen will, upon his next regeneration, perhaps just disappear from wherever he is at the time and go back to that moment on the helipad to become the Fifteenth Doctor? Anything is possible with this bigeneration twist, though this does seem very likely.

<p>The first 60th anniversary special introduced the Meep, at first seemingly just an adorable alien before turning out to be the villain. The Meep, upon being taken into custody, left The Doctor with a warning: “I will escape and have my revenge, so you beware, Doctor. Because there’s one more thing… A creature with two hearts is such a rare thing, just wait until I tell the boss.” That’s the last we heard of that “boss,” meaning that The Doctor still has that possibly coming his way in upcoming episodes.</p>

Who is the Meep's boss?

The first 60th anniversary special introduced the Meep, at first seemingly just an adorable alien before turning out to be the villain. The Meep, upon being taken into custody, left The Doctor with a warning: “I will escape and have my revenge, so you beware, Doctor. Because there’s one more thing… A creature with two hearts is such a rare thing, just wait until I tell the boss.” That’s the last we heard of that “boss,” meaning that The Doctor still has that possibly coming his way in upcoming episodes.

<p>When The Doctor faced off with the Toymaker for their second game, the villain took a moment to recap his victories to that point… and the one time he didn’t play. “I came to this universe with such delight, and I played them all, Doctor. I toyed with supernovas, turned galaxies into spin tops. I gambled with God and made him a jack-in-the-box. I made a jigsaw out of your history, did you like it? The Master was dying and begged for his life with one final game, and when he lost, I sealed him for all eternity inside my gold tooth,” he boasted.</p> <p>But “there’s only one player I didn’t dare face: the one who waits… I saw it, hiding, and I ran,” the Toymaker said ominously. “That’s someone else’s game.” Is that for the Fifteenth Doctor to play or deal with the consequences?</p>

Who is "the one who waits"?

When The Doctor faced off with the Toymaker for their second game, the villain took a moment to recap his victories to that point… and the one time he didn’t play. “I came to this universe with such delight, and I played them all, Doctor. I toyed with supernovas, turned galaxies into spin tops. I gambled with God and made him a jack-in-the-box. I made a jigsaw out of your history, did you like it? The Master was dying and begged for his life with one final game, and when he lost, I sealed him for all eternity inside my gold tooth,” he boasted.

But “there’s only one player I didn’t dare face: the one who waits… I saw it, hiding, and I ran,” the Toymaker said ominously. “That’s someone else’s game.” Is that for the Fifteenth Doctor to play or deal with the consequences?

<p>Following the bigeneration, both Doctors challenged the Toymaker to a game of catch and won. As the Toymaker folded up on himself, before falling into the box of his shop from Soho in 1925, he warned, “My legions are coming.” Who (or what) make up his legions? And when will they show up? Considering he could “get from 1925 to now like stepping through a door” and the same could be true of his legions, they could appear anywhere and at any time.</p>

Who are the Toymaker's legions?

Following the bigeneration, both Doctors challenged the Toymaker to a game of catch and won. As the Toymaker folded up on himself, before falling into the box of his shop from Soho in 1925, he warned, “My legions are coming.” Who (or what) make up his legions? And when will they show up? Considering he could “get from 1925 to now like stepping through a door” and the same could be true of his legions, they could appear anywhere and at any time.

<p>Does the Doctor have two potential enemies out there to fear? After all, if the Toymaker wouldn’t face “the one who waits” after everything else he did… Or are the two one and the same? Has The Doctor dealt with either of them (if they’re not the same) in the past? Do either know who The Doctor is? Will fans recognize either?</p>

Are the Meep's boss and "the one who waits" the same being?

Does the Doctor have two potential enemies out there to fear? After all, if the Toymaker wouldn’t face “the one who waits” after everything else he did… Or are the two one and the same? Has The Doctor dealt with either of them (if they’re not the same) in the past? Do either know who The Doctor is? Will fans recognize either?

<p>As the two Doctors and Donna walked back inside UNIT headquarters, a hand with red fingernails (pictured above) picked up the gold tooth left behind after the Toymaker’s banishment as the laughter of who we assume are multiple versions of the Master was heard. (Also, the tooth was at the edge of the helipad and the others didn’t see whoever that was, so where was that person exactly?)</p>

Who took the Toymaker's gold tooth containing the Master?

As the two Doctors and Donna walked back inside UNIT headquarters, a hand with red fingernails (pictured above) picked up the gold tooth left behind after the Toymaker’s banishment as the laughter of who we assume are multiple versions of the Master was heard. (Also, the tooth was at the edge of the helipad and the others didn’t see whoever that was, so where was that person exactly?)

<p>The Christmas special showed a woman leaving her daughter, the baby who was then named Ruby (for where she was found) at a church, and according to the opening voiceover, the mother “was never seen again. No one ever knew her name, until that night, a time traveler came to call, a traveler known as The Doctor.” Then, later, as a young adult, Ruby found out, after giving a DNA sample, there’s no trace of her parents (unusual). So who are her parents? It’s “ongoing throughout the series,” <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/1116010/doctor-who-christmas-special-2023-ruby-sunday-parents-ncuti-gatwa-millie-gibson/">Gibson teased</a> to TV Insider. And that mystery is “part of what The Doctor finds intriguing,” said Gatwa.</p>

Who are Ruby's parents?

The Christmas special showed a woman leaving her daughter, the baby who was then named Ruby (for where she was found) at a church, and according to the opening voiceover, the mother “was never seen again. No one ever knew her name, until that night, a time traveler came to call, a traveler known as The Doctor.” Then, later, as a young adult, Ruby found out, after giving a DNA sample, there’s no trace of her parents (unusual). So who are her parents? It’s “ongoing throughout the series,” Gibson teased to TV Insider. And that mystery is “part of what The Doctor finds intriguing,” said Gatwa.

<p>Ruby’s neighbor Mrs. Flood (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/anita-dobson/">Anita Dobson</a>) is certainly quite the mystery after the Christmas special. At first, she didn’t (seem to?) recognize the TARDIS parked on the street. Then, she later spoke with both The Doctor and Ruby (encouraging the latter to enter the TARDIS and wishing her luck). And at the very end, she asked the camera, “Never seen a TARDIS before?” after The Doctor and Ruby took off. “You’re going to see a little bit more of her,” Gibson promised. But who is she?</p>

Who's Mrs. Flood?

Ruby’s neighbor Mrs. Flood ( Anita Dobson ) is certainly quite the mystery after the Christmas special. At first, she didn’t (seem to?) recognize the TARDIS parked on the street. Then, she later spoke with both The Doctor and Ruby (encouraging the latter to enter the TARDIS and wishing her luck). And at the very end, she asked the camera, “Never seen a TARDIS before?” after The Doctor and Ruby took off. “You’re going to see a little bit more of her,” Gibson promised. But who is she?

<p>In “Wild Blue Yonder,” as the TARDIS went a little haywire, The Doctor and Donna encountered Isaac Newton (<a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/people/nathaniel-curtis">Nathaniel Curtis</a>) in 1666 and remarked that he could “appreciate the gravity of the situation.” After they took off, he tried to recall the “delightful word” they’d said and landed on “mavity.” In the same episode, The Doctor used both “gravity” and “mavity.” Then, in “The Church on Ruby Road,” The Doctor used “mavity.” So how long will that continue? Will The Doctor travel back to Isaac to fix that?</p>

How long will it be "mavity"?

In “Wild Blue Yonder,” as the TARDIS went a little haywire, The Doctor and Donna encountered Isaac Newton ( Nathaniel Curtis ) in 1666 and remarked that he could “appreciate the gravity of the situation.” After they took off, he tried to recall the “delightful word” they’d said and landed on “mavity.” In the same episode, The Doctor used both “gravity” and “mavity.” Then, in “The Church on Ruby Road,” The Doctor used “mavity.” So how long will that continue? Will The Doctor travel back to Isaac to fix that?

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  • 12 February 2024

Apple Vision Pro: what does it mean for scientists?

  • Jonathan O'Callaghan

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A man wearing a yellow jacket and an Apple Vision Pro headset examines his hands while smiling

The Apple Vision Pro headset, released in the United States on 2 February, offers wearers virtual and augmented reality displays. Credit: David Swanson/AFP/Getty

Apple’s virtual-reality (VR) headset, the Vision Pro, was released only 10 days ago — but scientists are already grappling with some of the research implications. Researchers say that the headset could be a watershed in the path towards widespread VR use, and that its high precision could aid research tasks and analogue activities such as surgery. All have implications for human behaviour, opening up a torrent of research questions for scientists.

“This is insane for me,” says Ken Pfeuffer, who studies human–computer interaction at Aarhus University in Denmark. In 2017, Pfeuffer designed a ‘gaze and pinch’ feature 1 that is similar to the one Apple Vision Pro uses for virtual navigation. When he gets hold of a Vision Pro headset, Pfeuffer plans to study how it uses this feature.

Since its US release on 2 February, the US$3,499 Vision Pro has won accolades as the most advanced VR and augmented reality (AR) headset ever made — although Apple calls it a spatial computer . Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI, which created ChatGPT , called it the “second most impressive” technology since the iPhone.

Tech giants including Microsoft and Meta have previously released VR and AR headsets. But the Vision Pro’s high-performance features, including its incredibly realistic ‘passthrough’ — its near-real-time display of the real world — make it unique, say experts. Eight outward-facing cameras project the outside world onto its 23-million-pixel interior screen with a delay of just 12 milliseconds. Four interior cameras track the wearer’s eyes, allowing a user to project screens and items into their virtual world; navigate to them with their eyes, similarly to how they’d use a computer mouse; and ‘click’ or interact by pinching their fingers.

The Vision Pro’s popularity and slick performance could portend a future of smaller devices in which humans interact with virtual overlays on the real world. “A wearable computer instead of a handheld computer [a mobile phone] could be the future,” says Dima Damen, who studies computer vision at the University of Bristol, UK.

Medical precision

Pfeuffer says that people did not see the potential of the gaze-and-pinch virtual navigation technique, but its use by Apple made it obvious. “Before Apple, when I tried to propose my gaze-and-pinch ideas, everyone said, ‘Who needs that?’” he says. Now, “It’s just clear. Now more students are working with me and it’s also easier to get funding.”

The feature has several applications beyond the Vision Pro, says Pfeuffer. “You don’t need to point anywhere, you can just look at things,” he says, and this might lead to new ways for people with disabilities to use computers and access information. “Maybe you’re injured and not able to move your hand,” says Pfeuffer. “Now you don’t have to.”

Close-up of an Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset

The headset has eight outward-facing cameras and four interior cameras that track eye movement. Credit: Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty

The headset’s high performance also shows promise for use in medical tasks. Jan Egger and Jens Kleesiek, medical researchers at Essen University Hospital in Germany, are looking at ways in which the headset might be useful for health care 2 . They say that the Vision Pro’s advanced eye-tracking technology might be capable of picking up conditions such as vertigo, or even early signs of a stroke or dementia. The pair plan to study this when they get one of the headsets. “You have different eye movements and these can be detected using such a device,” says Kleesiek. “The quality of the sensor readings is so high that you can actually utilize it for such medical tasks.”

The Vision Pro weighs about 600 grams, with a 350-gram battery that must be attached to it during use. That can make it uncomfortable for prolonged periods of use, but future versions of the headset are expected to be smaller — perhaps one day mimicking a pair of glasses, says Kleesiek.

In such a scenario it could be possible, for example, for a surgeon to wear the headset and see an overlay of information during an operation. “You’d look at a patient, and it would show you a hologram and guide you through the sensitive vascular structures,” says Egger.

Vision of the future

If spatial-computing headsets become widespread, like smartphones, human behaviour could be affected, says Damen. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, said that the Vision Pro is the “beginning of a new era for computing”, in which the digital and physical worlds are blended together.

“It will change our society in the same way previous technologies have done, [like] mobile phones,” says Damen. “This type of technology might actually give us shortcuts to making things better.”

One example could be a better way to share information and knowledge, says Damen. She cites a project in which she and her colleagues collected footage of everyday activities using wearable cameras. “We asked people to record everything they were doing in their kitchens for three days,” she says. “I remember my PhD student walking into my office and telling me, ‘You don’t know how to cut onions.’ Currently, we seek improvements when we know we need skill development, but there are many things we might not think about seeking improvements in.”

Behaviour, and even the wiring of our brains, could change as a result: vision is one obvious human capability that VR headsets could affect. “It’s changing your feeling towards something that might be foreign initially,” says Damen. “This is a 2D projection of your 3D world. How will this impact our actual 3D vision?”

The constant exposure to a virtual image of the world raises some concerns. “That projection can be manipulated in any way,” says Damen, perhaps through generative artificial intelligence, which is developing apace alongside VR and AR. “You might think you’re seeing the world but you’re not.”

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00387-z

Pfeuffer, K., Mayer, B., Mardanbegi, D. and Gellersen, H. in Proc. 5th Symposium on Spatial User Interaction 99–108 (Association for Computing Machinery, 2017).

Egger, J. et al. Preprint at arXiv https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2308.04313 (2023).

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After Toby Keith’s death, doctors warn that stomach cancer signs are easy to miss

Country singer Toby Keith died Monday night at age 62, more than two years after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer .

In June 2022, Keith announced on X that he had been diagnosed in fall 2021 and had already received chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. 

Then last June, he told The Oklahoman newspaper of Oklahoma City that his tumor had shrunk by a third and that he was continuing chemotherapy. He also received immunotherapy, he said — medicine that helps the immune system destroy cancer cells.

His death has sparked renewed calls from doctors to pay attention to signs of stomach cancer, which include heartburn, acid reflux, anemia, nausea, ulcers, pain after eating, sudden weight loss or feeling full after eating small amounts.

“A lot of these things are relatively innocuous. But of course with a cancer, that’s how it gets you,” said Dr. Fabian Johnston, the division chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Johnston said doctors and patients may be inclined to dismiss symptoms like acid reflux as harmless, which can delay diagnoses. By the time symptoms appear, many already have advanced disease, he said.

The average age of diagnosis is 68 , and men have a slightly higher risk. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 27,000 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed this year, though the disease is still relatively rare: It makes up around 1.5% of new cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Overall rates of stomach cancer diagnoses have also declined slightly over the last 10 years. But rates among adults younger than 50 are rising , for reasons that aren’t clear.

“There’s something that’s going on — something we’re eating, something we’re ingesting, some combination of factors that’s modern and present — which is resulting in these increased cancers in young people,” said Dr. Ben Schlechter, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Schlechter said alcohol and tobacco — once common contributors to stomach cancer — are now associated with a minority of cases in the U.S., perhaps because people are smoking less .

Instead, many new cases are found in people with chronic acid reflux or infections with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which can cause inflammation in the stomach. However, scientists haven’t pinpointed why certain people with those conditions get stomach cancer and most do not.  

For many patients right now, “it’s a disease of bad luck,” Schlechter said. “Maybe there’s an association with H. pylori infection. Maybe there’s a history of heartburn or reflux, but usually it’s not as clear.”

Schlechter said stomach cancer is generally aggressive compared to other cancers. 

“It doesn’t mean that people are imminently dying. It just means that the tools that we have to cure them are pretty limited,” he said. “People do pretty well compared to 15 years ago, but we are hardly at the level of, say, breast cancer, where the commanding majority of people are cured with surgery and chemotherapy and things like that.”

Up to 95% of stomach cancers in the U.S. are adenocarcinomas, which start in the innermost lining of the stomach. From there, the cancer may spread to the stomach wall, the body of the stomach or the lymph nodes. 

Patients whose cancer hasn't spread often undergo or receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy or a combination of these options, said Dr. Rutika Mehta, a medical oncologist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

"In more advanced cases, we are not yet at a point where we can offer patients a ‘cure,’” Mehta wrote by email. However, she added that chemotherapy or immunotherapy may help prolong lives. 

Doctors are also getting better at matching patients with treatments that target specific proteins associated with stomach cancers. For instance, some stomach cancers express a gene called HER2, which is also linked to breast cancer.

“The drugs that work in HER2 breast cancer to some degree work in HER2 gastric cancer. So we can now give those drugs to people with stomach cancer and substantially boost their benefit from treatment," Schlechter said.

Though outcomes of the disease are "generally poor," he said, they're "much better than they used to be."

what does phd doctor mean

Aria Bendix is the breaking health reporter for NBC News Digital.

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