A professional doctorate is an advanced degree that qualifies recipients to work in a specific profession.
The term professional doctorate usually refers to a terminal degree that is not a PhD, which is usually required teach at the university level. Professional doctorates may also be called “applied” degrees or “practitioner” degrees.
How does a professional doctorate differ from a PhD?
A PhD is one of many types of doctoral degrees, and all doctoral degree recipients may use the title of ‘Doctor’ before their name when they start practicing in their chosen profession.
While all PhDs are doctorates, not all doctorates are PhDs; the primary difference is the type of research conducted in the independent research phase.
PhD students are expected to extend the body of knowledge in their field to apply the knowledge to solve a real-world problem in their workplace or community. PhD students demonstrate this through a dissertation, which they must successfully defend to get their PhD degree.
Professional doctorate students are expected to apply existing knowledge in their field to a real-world problem in their workplace or community. Professional doctorate students demonstrate this through a doctoral capstone, comprised of a five-chapter dissertation or paper, product, or portfolio. Since these degrees are more career-focused, they may also be referred to as “applied” degrees or “practitioner” degrees.
Here’s an example: Although a Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) and a Doctor of Education (EdD) are both doctoral degrees, PhD students will focus on conducting research and extending knowledge in their specialty field. In contrast, EdD students will apply existing knowledge to improving education systems.
Professional doctorates can be earned in Business (DBA), Education (EdD), Public Health (DrPH), Nursing (DNP), Psychology (PsyD), Health Administration (DHA), Public Administration (DPA), and Social Work (DSW), as well as many other professions.
Why would I get a professional doctorate?
There are many reasons to consider getting a professional doctorate.
Some career paths require a doctoral degree, such as a licensed clinical psychologist, and a PsyD is one degree option.
A doctorate can also boost your earning potential and lead to more advanced career opportunities, such as executive-level leadership positions or consulting work.
However, many of those who pursue a professional doctorate do so for personal reasons. Whether it’s to follow a love of learning, fulfill a lifelong goal, become a recognized leader in their field, or provide a better future for their families, doctoral students are passionate about their purpose and their programs.
Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degree programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s online doctoral programs.