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Professional Doctorate Advice


What is a professional doctorate?


 
Professional Doctorates have been around in the UK since the early 1990's, although some more established doctoral programmes have also been brought under the professional doctorate umbrella.

The aim of these programmes is to find novel approaches to integrating professional and academic knowledge. According to the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), students undertaking a professional doctorate are expected to:

".... make a contribution to both theory and practice in their field, and to develop professional practice by making a contribution to (professional) knowledge."

The course structure will vary from subject to subject and institution to institution. Common to all professional doctorates is the completion of an original piece of research. The research should then be presented as a thesis, and as with a traditional PhD, is examined by an expert in the chosen field. Usually the research project would relate to real life issues concerned with professional practice. In many cases research is carried out within the students own organisation.

Most professional doctorates include a large taught or directed study element, which is formally assessed. These components frequently include both the teaching of research methods, and also components related to broadening or deepening the students' understanding of the disciplines in which they are researching or providing them with appropriate transferable skills.

Is a professional doctorate the same as a PhD?


 
Both confer the title "Dr" on a successful candidate, but the two qualifications are not the same. A PhD is a research based doctoral programme which usually involves little or no taught element* and is usually academic in nature. The aim of those providing Professional Doctorate programmes is to produce a qualification which, whilst being equivalent in status and challenge to a PhD, is more appropriate for those pursuing professional rather than academic careers.

* 'New Route' or '4 Year' PhDs do contain a more substantial taught element, but this is mostly undertaken in the first year.

Can I study part time?


 
As the majority of students undertaking professional doctorates are experienced and practicing professionals, most students will study for the degree part-time. There are, of course, exceptions - most notably the EngD which, in most cases, is only offered as a full time course.

How long does a professional doctorate take?


 
This will depend on the scheme. A professional doctorate can take from 2-5 years full time and 3-8 years part time. The time taken depends on the area of study, commitment of the student and the length of the research project. The links below to individual award profiles give a rough guide to the minimum and maximum course lengths.

What qualifications do I need?


 
Again you will need to see the individual award profiles for more guidance. For example the EngD is aimed at young graduates (often with little or no professional experience) and requires a 2(i) or above for entrance. Other professional doctorates may not require a 2(i), but will require a Masters level qualification as well as 3 or more years professional experience

Students whose first language is not English will need a recognised English language qualification. See our English Language Qualifications article for more information.

Is my qualification equivalent to the entry requirements?


 
Because of the wide variety of qualifications from each country it can be difficult to find out if your qualification is considered to be equivalent to a UK 2(i) degree. To give you a rough idea a British 2(i) degree (referred to as an 'Upper Second Class Honours Degree' or a 'Two-One') is the second highest mark available for a British Honours Degree. Where the US/Canadian marking scheme is used, a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 is usually required.

For most international students access to either a professional doctorate or a PhD will require them to hold an internationally recognised Masters degree.

The British Council in your home country will be able to help you. Before you apply you could try asking your former course tutors or alternatively you can visit The National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom. They will give informal advice free of charge. An official 'letter of comparability', which will be accepted by employers, costs £30 (+VAT), but should not be necessary for most universities, who will assess you themselves.

How much will it cost me?


 
Costs for Professional Doctorate study vary from course to course. Whilst some funding is available in some areas, the general expectation is that funding will come from the students' employer.

The EPSRC co-ordinates a number of Engineering Doctorate (EngD) centres which provide industry funded studentships

Currently the ESRC does not fund any Professional Doctorate programmes.

Even when a course does have research council funding it is usually only available to students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 or more years (for purposes other than education).

Course fees for home and EU students are much lower (by several thousand pounds a year) than those for students from outside the EU. We encourage our advertisers to display their course fees clearly on this site and we suggest browsing through a few courses in your area of interest to get an idea of what the fees might be.

Will a professional doctorate help my career?


 
A number of Professional Doctorates are accredited by a professional body and may lead to a professional qualification. For example a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy).

Unlike a PhD, a professional doctorate is not a training for a career in academia. The effect on a future career will depend on the area of study.

In an ESRC funded report by Professor Ingrid Lunt of the Institute of Education compared the EngD, the EdD and the DBA. She concluded that:

"The impact of the development of professional knowledge on employment culture varied considerably; for EngD participants there was a major impact, whereas for those on the DBA, the impact was often more personal, developing and enhancing individual consultancy skills; for EdD participants, there appeared to be little impact on employment, though frequently considerable impact for the individuals themselves."

What subject areas are available?


 
The number and scope of professional doctorates available is growing rapidly. Use the links below to discover more about the subject areas listed.

DBA - Doctor of Business Administration
DClinPsy - Doctor of Clinical Psychology & other Psychology Doctorates
EdD - Doctor of Education
EngD - Engineering Doctorate
MD - Doctorate of Medicine

When should I apply?


 
Most professional doctorates have fixed start times and annual recruitment rounds. The start date will usually be October or possibly January. Arrangements for funding can take time, so if you are not applying for a funded programme such as an EngD, you should start your search a good 12 months before you intend to begin studying. Overseas students should start even earlier.

References


 
The information in this document was gathered from a number of reports, articles and from details of individual courses. Most notably:

UKCGE Professional Doctorates (2002) - ISBN 0 952 5751 - Available on-line
Powell S & Long E UKCGE Professional Doctorate Awards in the UK (2005) - ISBN 0 954 3915 - Available on-line
ESRC 'Recognition of Professional Doctorates' - Available on-line
Professional Doctorates and their Contribution to Professional Development and Careers (2005)



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