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    PhD vs. Doctorate: Everything You Need to Know

    By Karla Ibarra

    Karla Ibarra is a content writer at Scholarships 360. She has worked as an English teacher and writing tutor. As a writing tutor, she has experience editing scholarships and college application essays. Karla graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Communication and a minor in English.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 25th, 2024
    PhD vs. Doctorate: Everything You Need to Know

    Deciding whether or not a postgraduate education is something you want to pursue? It might be overwhelming to think about postgraduate education when you aren’t even sure what the difference between a PhD and a doctorate is. Learning about each will help you decide whether  a PhD or doctorate degree is best for you. Let’s get started!

    What is a PhD?

    “Doctor of Philosophy” is commonly referred to as a “PhD.”  A PhD is a kind of doctoral degree that focuses on theoretical research. “Theoretical” has to do with assumptions  that people have on a topic. The research explores ideas related to a particular subject rather than the practical application to real life. Earning a PhD is a popular option for those that want to pursue teaching at a university level.

    What is a doctorate?

    Doctoral degrees emphasize research and practical application. Students pursuing doctoral degrees often conduct observation based research in their chosen fields. Earning a doctorate degree often leads to research professional careers. An example of 

    Which degree is “higher” academically? 

    Both PhDs and doctorates are known as “terminal” degrees, meaning  they are the highest degrees you can earn. A PhD falls into the category of doctorate, so one is not “higher” than the other. 

    See also: Everything you need to know about a doctorate degree 

    Basic similarities and differences

    As a PhD falls into the doctorate category, they share similar attributes. However, they are not completely the same. Here are some basic similarities and differences to help avoid confusing them.


    • The highest level of a graduate degree
    • Requires rigorous research
    • Students gain a deeper understanding of the area of study
    • Able to teach as a professor at a university
    • Must complete dissertations
    • Leads to higher paying jobs


    • Doctorates require a more hands-on approach to coursework
    • PhDs follow a more theoretical approach
    • Doctoral dissertations focus on real-world issues and how to apply them
    • PhD dissertations use data to theorize and form hypotheses

    Which one is more expensive: a PhD or a doctorate degree?

    The cost of earning either a PhD or doctorate varies depending on many factors, such as institution attended  and years of completion. Nevertheless, the average price for a doctorate degree is about $114,300. For a PhD, the average cost is about $98,800 total. 

    See also: How much does a PhD cost?  

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Both a PhD and doctorate are the highest level graduate degrees one can earn
    • PhDs focus on theoretical research while doctorates put theory into practice
    • On average, PhDs require a more time to complete vs doctorate
    • Salaries for PhD or doctorate degree earners vary depending on the career entered

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    Frequently asked questions about a PhD vs. a doctorate degree

    Does a PhD vs. doctorate take longer to complete?

    Earning a doctorate ranges from four to eight years. PhDs usually take longer to earn, with an average of eight years. Within that time, two to three years are dedicated to completing a dissertation. This, of course, varies depending on the degree program, institution/university, and area of study.

    Is a PhD or doctorate degree easier to apply for?

    The admission requirements for a PhD vs. doctorate depends on the field of study, program, and institution. The requirements for either are very similar, with the basic requirement being completing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.

    Other similarities include paperwork such as a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, CV/resume, and transcripts. Applicants also need to submit relevant test cores such as the GRE, MAT, or LSAT. Which degree requires a more rigorous application depends on the program and institution. Also, some applicants must take part in a formal interview for acceptance into a PhD or doctorate degree.

    Does a PhD or a doctorate degree pay more?

    Because the type of jobs you can obtain after earning either a PhD or doctorate, there is a difference in salary. For example, if you pursue a doctorate degree to become a lawyer, your starting salary is around an average annual salary of $145,760. If you complete a PhD and become a Postsecondary Education Administrator/Dean, the estimated annual average salary is $102,610.

    How can I pay for my PhD or doctorate degree?

    There are options for funding your studies, such as financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans, and employer sponsorships. Check out our searchable scholarship database to start!

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