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Is an MD a 'doctorate' degree?

yuiopyuiop Posts: 50Registered User Junior Member
edited January 2013 in Parent Cafe
I was filling out a government form that included a section about 'highest level of education achieved' which listed levels of education starting with elementary school and ending with a doctoral degree.

Anyway, I was surprised to that the MD was not listed at the same rank of 'doctoral degree' and was instead listed after 'masters' degrees along with the JD (lawyers), OD (optometrists), M.Div (ministers) and some other degrees... some of which were 'M' (masters) and others which were 'D.'

I always thought that the 'D' in MD meant that it was a 'doctorate' degree, but this questionnaire seemed to rank the MD as lower than a doctorate degree. So my question is, is the MD a doctorate degree and/or is someone with an MD considered as having a 'doctorate'?

(I realize this doesn't really matter, but I'm just curious).
Post edited by yuiop on
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Replies to: Is an MD a 'doctorate' degree?

  • shades_childrenshades_children Posts: 2,206Registered User Senior Member
    From Doctor of Medicine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia :
    How the term MD is applied varies among countries — it is a first professional degree in some countries (e.g., USA, Canada), while in others it is a higher doctoral academic research degree resembling a PhD (e.g., the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany).[1] In the UK and many former British colonies, the equivalent of the American MD degree is the MBChB or MBBS ("Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery" - see Equivalent Degrees, below).

    I don't know if that really answers your question, though.
  • rocketman08rocketman08 Posts: 1,194Registered User Member
    So my question is, is the MD a doctorate degree and/or is someone with an MD considered as having a 'doctorate'?

    The short answer to your question is that the MD is not a doctorate degree nor is it equivalent to a PhD. That said, it's still certainly a prestigious degree and, at least in the US, it is customary to still address someone with an MD as Dr. (although the history behind that is somewhat interesting). And, of course, some MDs do go on to complete the additional work required to also receive a PhD (eg MD/PhD).

    The reason that the MD and those other degrees were listed as lower than a doctorate in the questionnaire in terms of level of education achieved is that these degrees do not meet the traditional definition of what is required to receive a 'doctorate' level degree. In particular, where they fall short is the requirement for the generation and defense of the production of 'new' knowledge - generally in the form of an extensive research project, thesis and defense of the thesis.

    The MD, JD and other similar degrees are classified as 'first-professional' degrees. These degrees generally contain 'masters degree' level coursework along with extensive 'apprenticeship' style training of the trade in question (medicine, law, religion, etc.). Most of these professional schools used to issue masters degrees to their graduates, although some schools eventually started issuing specialized doctoral degrees even though they didn't actually complete the requirements necessary for a doctorate. This practice is generally limited to the US.

    As a result, the 'first-professional' degree classification was created in the US to identify those degrees that represented highly advanced training in a particular subject beyond what is normally required for a masters degree but falling short of what is required to be awarded a doctorate.

    The US Department of Education states (on a website defining the different classes of degrees one can obtain in the US education system):

    "Holders of first-professional degrees are considered to have an entry-level qualification and may undertake graduate study in these professional fields following the award of the first-professional degree. Several of these degrees use the term “doctor” in the title, but these degrees do not contain an independent research component or require a dissertation (thesis) and should not be confused with PhD degrees"

    All that said, it shouldn't take anything away from the MD, JD, or other first-professional degrees. They are all very prestigious and require several years of hard study to obtain, but they are not equivalent to a PhD.
  • starbrightstarbright Posts: 4,660Registered User Senior Member
    I've never thought of the term "doctorate" by itself applying to MDs. Words like these are such social conventions.

    Those lists are not reflecting "rank" as in some sort of judgment of superiority. Simply an ordering that reflects how many degrees one has (an MD usually has two; a PhD usually has three).
  • rocketman08rocketman08 Posts: 1,194Registered User Member
    (an MD usually has two; a PhD usually has three).

    It depends on the subject, but in the sciences it's very common for someone to only have two 'degrees' (bachelors and doctorate) as the masters degree in sciences is far less common than some other subjects. Although, obviously if they have a doctorate then whether or not they have a masters in the same subject is irrelevant.

    Most science PhD students can and do enter those programs directly out of undergraduate. Some programs award a masters degree as part of the PhD course (eg after completing some initial coursework), but may others don't bother with this and only award the doctorate. Also, if someone fails to complete the PhD course they are often given the option of writing up what they've done to date for a masters degree instead.
    Those lists are not reflecting "rank" as in some sort of judgment of superiority.
    These 'highest level of education achieved' questions are not trying to list the degrees in order of superiority in terms of 'clout' or 'prestige' but they are listing the degrees in order of their rank in the academic sense. To obtain a doctorate degree (PhD) is considered to have attained a higher level of formal education than obtaining a first-professional degree. Obviously outside of such formalized surveys trying to establish levels of education this has little relevance, but there are distinct differences in the requirements to obtain each category of degree. The key difference between masters level and doctoral level degrees being the requirement for one to generate significant new knowledge in a field and defend that discovery under scrutiny before a board of others with doctorates in the same area of study.
  • audiophileaudiophile Posts: 2,389Registered User Senior Member
    The answer to the OP's question is: yes.
  • rocketman08rocketman08 Posts: 1,194Registered User Member
    I always thought that the 'D' in MD meant that it was a 'doctorate' degree, but this questionnaire seemed to rank the MD as lower than a doctorate degree. So my question is, is the MD a doctorate degree and/or is someone with an MD considered as having a 'doctorate'?
    The answer to the OP's question is: yes.

    No. I would again cite the official US government definition of what it means to attain these various degrees.

    From the United States Department of Education's of US degree classifications:
    The research doctorate, or the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and its equivalent titles, represents the highest academic qualification in the U.S. education system. While the structure of U.S. doctoral programs is more formal and complex than in some other systems, it is important to note that the research doctorate is not awarded for the preliminary advanced study that leads to doctoral candidacy, but rather for successfully completing and defending the independent research presented in the form of the doctoral dissertation (thesis).

    and
    Holders of first-professional degrees are considered to have an entry-level qualification and may undertake graduate study in these professional fields following the award of the first-professional degree. Several of these degrees use the term “doctor” in the title, but these degrees do not contain an independent research component or require a dissertation (thesis) and should not be confused with PhD degrees

    Whatever government survey you were completing was obviously using this official definition and hence why they listed someone with a traditional doctorate degree (eg PhD and other similar doctorate degrees) as having attained a higher level of education that someone with a first professional degree or other professional trade school qualification (eg MD, JD, OD, DDS).
  • ellemenopeellemenope Posts: 11,380Registered User Senior Member
    I'd say that an MD is not a doctorate degree. It is a professional degree.

    The way the Common App delineates degrees (in the Family section) is the way I've usually seen it done. "Doctorate: ED, PhD, etc." "Professional: MD, JD, etc." "Masters"

    Doctorate degree definitely ranks above a Masters degree. But comparing the "rank" of a doctorate degree vs. a professional degree doesn't make any sense. You're talking apples and oranges.
  • audiophileaudiophile Posts: 2,389Registered User Senior Member
    Doctorate
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈd
  • rocketman08rocketman08 Posts: 1,194Registered User Member
    ^^^^

    ;-) The same source you cite (Merriam-Webster) defines 'doctor' as, among other things:
    a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (as a PhD) conferred by a university

    and
    a person skilled or specializing in healing arts ; especially : one (as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice

    Nobody disputes that someone with a medical degree is often called a 'doctor.' This was not the issue at hand.

    The issue raised by the OP was in regards to academic degrees and whether or not the MD was a doctorate level degree. In this case the source which you cite also notes that a 'doctor' in regards to academic degrees is in reference to a PhD and reserves the use of 'doctor' for MDs as relating to the general separate definition of one who practices medicine. This description is consistent with the practice in most parts of the world outside the US where those who practice medicine are called 'doctors' but generally don't have a 'D' in their degree.

    So yes a physician can of course be called a 'doctor' but in regards to the OPs question about degrees, the Department of Education's description of what all these degrees mean basically sums it up.
  • Mr PayneMr Payne Posts: 8,850Registered User Senior Member
    I view a doctorate holder as someone who has completed a dissertation.
  • anothermom2anothermom2 Posts: 1,642Registered User Senior Member
    I'll never forget when the Dean of my law school said that with our JDs we could call ourselves "Doctor", but that we would be laughed out of the profession. That said, I know many MDs who would be horrified to know that anyone anywhere doesn't consider this a doctorate. No additional degree is conferred after the four or five or more year residencies that many specialists complete after medical school, but maybe there should be.
  • rocketman08rocketman08 Posts: 1,194Registered User Member
    No additional degree is conferred after the four or five or more year residencies that many specialists complete after medical school, but maybe there should be.

    I suppose within the profession completing one's residency carries its own recognized significance...
  • audiophileaudiophile Posts: 2,389Registered User Senior Member
    OP wrote:
    So my question is, is the MD a doctorate degree and/or is someone with an MD considered as having a 'doctorate'?

    I reiterate: yes
  • k&sk&s Posts: 2,139Registered User Senior Member
    I'd say that an MD is not a doctorate degree. It is a professional degree.

    The way the Common App delineates degrees (in the Family section) is the way I've usually seen it done. "Doctorate: ED, PhD, etc." "Professional: MD, JD, etc." "Masters"

    Doctorate degree definitely ranks above a Masters degree. But comparing the "rank" of a doctorate degree vs. a professional degree doesn't make any sense. You're talking apples and oranges.

    Agreed - after all, a JD is a "Juris Doctor", but that doesn't mean anyone is going to call a lawyer "Doctor."
  • yuiopyuiop Posts: 50Registered User Junior Member
    To confirm, yes I was asking this in the academic context in terms of level of education achieved (as was the context on the survey I was filling out). I of course realize that someone with an MD is called doctor, I was just asking if it was considered a doctorate degree as in the PhD.

    On that it seems like the government definition of the difference between these degrees is quite concise and clear in explaining why an MD or JD would not be considered at the same academic level as a PhD.

    audiophile, I note your strong opposition to the statements that the MD is not a doctorate, but I also must look at the authoritative evidence cited which seems to quite clearly and concisely show that such a statement is indeed correct.

    I of course realize that in the big picture none of this matters much, but it now at least answers my question of why the MD was not listed under the heading of 'doctorate degree' in this level of education survey. Thanks...
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