3 routes to getting a Doctorate

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
November, 2016

Studying a standard PhD isn't the only way to gain a Doctorate degree; here are three other ways of gaining the qualification…

Integrated PhD

This four-year qualification, also known as the New Route PhD, involves studying a one-year research Masters degree (MRes) before progressing onto a three-year PhD.

Offered by a selective consortium of universities across the UK, integrated PhDs are supported by the government, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the British Council. They expose students to a combination of taught materials, practical experience and advanced research; allowing them to learn subject-specific methodologies while building the transferable skills that will enable them to become leaders in their chosen profession.

Institutions can also develop personalised integrated PhD programmes to meet each individual student's needs. For example, universities may offer students the opportunity to gain a postgraduate certificate (PGCert) in Learning and Teaching (CiLT) - perfect for those considering a career as a higher education lecturer.

Professional Doctorate

Geared primarily towards current professionals in vocational sectors such as healthcare, teaching and education, and engineering and manufacturing, this type of Doctorate includes a significant taught component - and, therefore, a smaller research project.

Professional Doctorates are often taken on a part-time basis and can last anywhere between two and eight years. Like their standard PhD counterparts, they usually begin in October or January.

While students typically aren't looking to get an academic job, their research is expected to contribute to theory as well as professional practice. Projects often revolve around a real-life issue that affects the student's employer. Several professional Doctorates, such as the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy), are accredited by a professional body and may also lead to a professional qualification.

Common titles for graduates of professional Doctorate degrees include:

  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA);
  • Doctor of Education (EdD);
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD);
  • Doctor of Engineering (EngD).

Unlike many professional Doctorates, the latter of the above qualifications is typically offered as a full-time course - and is aimed at young engineering graduates with little or no professional experience.

Higher Doctorate

This type of Doctorate is either honorary or, more commonly, granted on the recommendation of a committee of internal and external academics that assesses a substantial portfolio of published, peer-reviewed original research.

Higher Doctorates are therefore aimed at those with substantial postdoctoral academic experience, rather than being the culmination of a defined programme of study. Indeed, the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) says that the award is 'a level above the PhD'; in fact, the qualification isn't even covered by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Common titles for higher Doctorate recipients include:

  • Doctor of Civil Law (DCL);
  • Doctor of Commerce (DCom);
  • Doctor of Divinity (DD);
  • Doctor of Laws (LLD);
  • Doctor of Letters (DLitt);
  • Doctor of Music (DMus);
  • Doctor of Science (DSc);
  • Doctor of Technology (DTech).

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