Academic degree

Academic degree

An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree. The most common degrees awarded today are Bachelor's, Master's, and doctoral degrees.



The modern academic system of academic degrees evolved and expanded in the medieval university, spreading everywhere across the globe as the institution did:

No other European institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done. The degrees awarded by European universities – the bachelor's degree, the licentiate, the master degree, and the doctorate – have been adopted in the most diverse societies throughout the world.[1]

The doctorate (Latin: doceo, I teach) appeared in medieval Europe as a license to teach (Latin: licentia docendi) at a medieval university.[2] Its roots can be traced to the early church when the term "doctor" referred to the Apostles, church fathers and other Christian authorities who taught and interpreted the Bible.[2] The right to grant a licentia docendi was originally reserved to the church which required the applicant to pass a test, to take oath of allegiance and pay a fee. The Third Council of the Lateran of 1179 guaranteed the access – now largely free of charge – of all able applicants, who were, however, still tested for aptitude by the ecclesiastic scholastic.[3] This right remained a bone of contention between the church authorities and the slowly emancipating universities, but was granted by the pope to the University of Paris in 1231 where it became a universal license to teach (licentia ubique docendi).[3] However, while the licentia continued to hold a higher prestige than the bachelor's degree (Baccalaureus), it was ultimately reduced to an intermediate step to the Magister and doctorate, both of which now became the exclusive qualification for teaching.[3]

At the university, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild. The traditional term of study before new teachers were admitted to the guild of "Master of Arts", seven years, was the same as the term of apprenticeship for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but over time the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master degree.

In the medieval European universities, candidates who had completed three or four years of study in the prescribed texts of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), and the quadrivium (mathematics, geometry, astronomy and music), together known as the Liberal Arts, and who had successfully passed examinations held by their master, would be admitted to the degree of bachelor of arts, from the Latin baccalaureus, a term previously usually used of a squire (i.e., apprentice) to a knight. Further study, and in particular successful participation in and then moderating of disputations would earn one the Master of Arts degree, from the Latin magister, teacher, entitling one to teach these subjects. Master of Arts were eligible to enter study under the "higher faculties" of Law, Medicine or Theology, and earn first a bachelor's and then master or doctor's degrees in these subjects. Thus a degree was only a step on the way to becoming a fully qualified master – hence the English word "graduate", which is based on the Latin gradus ("step").

Today the terms "master", "doctor" (from the Latin - meaning literally: "teacher") and "professor" signify different levels of academic achievement, but in the Medieval university they were equivalent terms, the use of them in the degree name being a matter of custom at a university. (Most universities conferred the Master of Arts but, for instance, the highest degree was variously termed Master of Theology/ Divinity or Doctor of Theology/ Divinity depending on the place).

The earliest doctoral degrees (theology - Divinitatis Doctor (D.D.), philosophy - Doctor of philosophy (D.Phil., Ph.D.) and medicine - Medicinæ Doctor (M.D., D.M.)) reflected the historical separation of all University study into these three fields. Over time the D.D. has gradually become less common and studies outside theology and medicine have become more common (such studies were then called "philosophy", but are now classified as sciences and humanities - however this usage survives in the degree of Doctor of Philosophy).

The University of Bologna in Italy, regarded as the oldest university in Europe,[by whom?] was the first institution to confer the degree of Doctor in Civil Law in the late 12th century; it also conferred similar degrees in other subjects, including medicine. The University of Paris used the term master for its graduates, a practice adopted by the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the ancient Scottish universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.

The naming of degrees eventually became linked with the subjects studied. Scholars in the faculties of arts or grammar became known as "master", but those in theology, medicine, and law were known as "doctor". As study in the arts or in grammar was a necessary prerequisite to study in subjects such as theology, medicine and law, the degree of doctor assumed a higher status than the master degree. This led to the modern hierarchy in which the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which in its present form as a degree based on research and dissertation is a development from 18th and 19th Century German universities, is a more advanced degree than the Master of Arts (M.A.). The practice of using the term doctor for Ph.Ds developed within German universities and spread across the academic world.

The French terminology is tied closely to the original meanings of the terms. The baccalauréat (cf. "bachelor") is conferred upon French students who have successfully completed their secondary education and admits the student to university. When students graduate from university, they are awarded licence, much as the medieval teaching guilds would have done, and they are qualified to teach in secondary schools or proceed to higher-level studies. Spain had a similar structure: the term "Bachiller" was used for those who finished the secondary or high-school level education, known as "Bachillerato". The standard Spanish university 5-years degree was "Licenciado", (although there were a few 3-years associate degrees called "diplomaturas", from where the "diplomados" could move to study a related licenciatura). The highest level was "Doctor".

In the past, degrees have also been directly issued by authority of the monarch or by a bishop, rather than any educational institution. This practice has mostly died out. In Britain, Lambeth Degrees are still awarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In most countries, gaining an academic degree entitles the holder to assume distinctive academic dress particular to the awarding institution. Academic dress is like a uniform or insignia identifying the status of the individual wearing them.

Indicating earned degrees

There are various conventions for indicating degrees and diplomas after one's name. In some cultures it is usual to give only the highest degree. In others, it is usual to give the full sequence, in some cases giving abbreviations also for the discipline, the institution, and (where it applies) the level of honours. In another variation, a 'rule of subsumption' often shortens the list and may obscure the chronology evident from a full listing. Thus 'MSc BA' means that the degrees conferred were - in chronological order - BSc, BA, MSc. The subsumption rule reflects the principle that a person of a given high status does not separately belong to the lower status.

For member institutions of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, there is a standard list of abbreviations, but in practice many variations are used. Most notable is the use of the Latin abbreviations 'Oxon.' and 'Cantab.' for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in spite of these having been superseded by (little used) English 'Oxf.' and 'Camb.' Other Latin abbreviations include St And. for the University of St Andrews, Exon. for the University of Exeter, Dunelm. for Durham University, Ebor. for the University of York and Cantuar. for the University of Kent (formerly the "University of Kent at Canterbury"). Confusion results from the widespread use of 'SA' for the University of South Australia (instead of S.Aust.) because 'SA' was officially assigned to the University of South Africa. For universities of different commonwealth countries sharing the same name, such as York University in Canada and the University of York in the UK, a convention has been adopted where a country abbreviation is included with the letters and university name. In this example, 'York (Can.)' and 'York (UK)' is commonly used to denote degrees conferred by their respective universities.

The doubling of letters in LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. is because these degrees are in laws, not law. The doubled letter indicates the Latin plural (genitive case) legum as opposed to the singular (genitive case) legis. Abbreviations for the degrees in surgery Ch. B. and Ch. M. are from Latin chiruguriae and often indicate a university system patterned after Scottish models. The combination of M.B. with Ch. B. arose from a need to graduate the students at the time of year allocated to graduation rituals, but the legal inability to confer the M.B. before they had been properly approved by professional regulatory bodies. Thus the Ch. B. was conferred first, and the M.B. was conferred later, after registration, and without ceremony. In recent times the two have come to be conferred together and are widely (mis)understood to constitute a single degree.

Some degrees are awarded jure dignitatis. That is, a person who has demonstrated the appropriate qualities to be given a particular office may be awarded the degree by virtue of the office held. It is another kind of earned—but not strictly academic—degree.


Academic degrees were first introduced during the Middle Ages and there was little differentiation between them. Scholarly training could be viewed as analogous to apprenticeship to a guild. The term of study before new teachers were admitted to the 'guild' of "Master of Arts", was the same as the term of apprenticeship for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but eventually the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master degree.

The naming of degrees eventually became linked with the subjects read. Scholars in the faculties of arts or grammar became known as "master", but those in theology, medicine, and law were known as "doctor". As study in the arts or in grammar was a necessary prerequisite to study in subjects such as theology, medicine and law, the degree of doctor assumed a higher status than that of master. This led to the modern hierarchy in which the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which in its present form as a degree based on research and dissertation is a development from 18th and 19th Century German universities, is a more advanced degree than the Master of Arts (M.A.). The practice of 'doctor' being the highest degree in virtually all faculties developed within German universities and spread across the academic world.

Traditionally more men than women attended and earned degrees at the world's universities. A milestone was reached in the United States according to results of the 2010 census, as women surpassed men in attaining master degrees, for the first time. The U.S. census reports that 10.5 million men have master's degrees or higher, compared with 10.6 million women. The first year that women surpassed men in earning bachelor’s degrees was in 1996.[4]

Degree systems by regions



India mostly follow the colonial era British System for classification of degrees. Arts referring to the performing arts and literature the corresponding degree are Bachelor of Arts(BA) and its master is called Master of Arts(MA). Management degrees are also classified under Arts but is nowadays considered a major new stream, Bachelor of Business Administration BBA and Master Of Business Administration MBA. Science referring to the basic sciences and natural science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry etc.) the corresponding degree are Bachelor of Science(BSc) and its master is called Master of Science(MSc). Another new set of Information Technology degree conferred specially in the field of computer science, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology BScIT and Master of Science in Information Technology MScIT. The engineering degrees in India follow two common patterns. Bachelor of Engineering(BE) and Bachelor of Technology(B.Tech) both representing a bachelors degree in engineering. The Medical Degree - Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS).

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka as many other commonwealth countries follow the British system with it own distinctions. Degrees are approved by the University Grants Commission.


Since the Lisbon Recognition Convention elaborated by the UNESCO and the Council of Europe, degrees in Europe are being harmonised through the Bologna process, based on the three-level hierarchy of degrees: Bachelor (Licence in France, Poland and Portugal), Master and Doctor. This system is gradually replacing the two-stage system in use in some countries.

The Bologna Process currently has 47 participating countries.[5] Although a country is a Bologna Process member state, this does not necessarily mean that the Bologna Accords have been implemented yet in that country.[6]

Status Implementation Bologna Accords

  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Georgia
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro


  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Macedonia
Not Implemented
  • Austria
  • France
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Turkey


In Austria, there are currently two parallel systems of academic degrees:

With a few exceptions, the two-cycle degree system will be phased out by 2010.[7] Some of the established degree naming has, however, been preserved, allowing universities to award the "Diplom-Ingenieur" (and for a while also the "Magister") to graduates of the new-style Master programmes.

Czech Republic

The qualification structure recognises Bachelor's, Master' and doctoral levels as defined by the Bologna process.

  • A Bachelor's degree programme aims at providing qualifications for entering a profession or a Master's degree programme. It takes from 3 to 4 years. Graduates receive the academic title BcA. (Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bakalář umění) in field of arts and Bc. (Bachelor, Bakalář) in other fields. The degree programme must be completed in due form with a final state examination, which usually includes the presentation and defence of a Bachelor's thesis. Abbreviations are written before the name.
  • A Master's degree programme follows a Bachelor's degree programme. The length is 1 to 3 years. In selected fields, where the nature of the degree programme so requires, a Master's degree programme need not to follow on from a Bachelor's programme. In this case, the programme lasts 4 to 6 years (i.e. law - 5, medicine - 6). Graduates in a Master's degree programme must take a final state examination and publicly present and defend a Master's thesis. Studies in the fields of medicine, veterinary medicine and hygiene are completed by passing an advanced Master's ("rigorous") state examination including the presentation and defence of an advanced Master's ("rigorous") thesis. The studies in a Master's programme lead to the following academic degrees:
    • Ing. - Engineer (Inženýr) in the area of economics, technical sciences and technologies, agriculture and forestry and in military fields of study
    • Ing. arch. - Engineer Architect (inženýr architekt) in the field of architecture
    • MUDr. - Doctor of Medicince (doktor medicíny) in the field of medicine
    • MDDr. - Doctor of Dental Medicine (doktor zubního lékařství) in the field of dental sicence (since 2004)
    • MVDr. - Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (doktor veterinární medicíny) in the field of veterinary medicine and hygiene
    • MgA. - Master of Fine Arts (magistr umění) in the field of fine arts
    • Mgr. - Master (magistr) in other areas of study
      • Holders of the academic degree magistr are entitled to take an advanced Master's ("rigorous") state examination in the same area of study and defend an advanced Master's ("rigorous") thesis. If completed successfully, the following academic degrees are awarded:
        • JUDr. - Doctor of Laws (doktor práv) in the field of law
        • PhDr. - Doctor of Philosophy (doktor filosofie) in the area of the humanities, teacher education and social sciences
        • RNDr. - Doctor of Natural Sciences (doktor přírodních věd) in the field of natural sciences
        • PharmDr. - Doctor of Pharmacy (doktor farmacie) in the field of pharmacy
        • ThLic. - Licentiate of Theology (licenciát teologie) in the field of Catholic theology
        • ThLic. - Licentiate of Theology or ThDr. - Doctor of Theology (doktor teologie) in the field of non-Catholic theology
    • All above mentioned academic titles are at Master's level and their abbreviations are written in front of the name.
  • The standard length of a doctoral degree programme is either 3 or 4 years. Doctoral studies are completed by the state doctoral thesis (dissertation), based on original results, which must be published. Graduates of a doctoral degree programme are awarded the academic degree of:
    • Ph.D. - Doctor (doktor)
    • Th.D. - Doctor of Theology (doktor teologie) in the field of theology
    • The abbreviations of these academic titles are written after the name.[8]



Historically, the Finnish higher education system has been similar to the German system, which includes Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS). With the exception of few fields, Universities are in compliance with the Bologna process, thus awarding Bachelor's (kandidaatti), Master's (maisteri) and Doctoral degrees (tohtori). The traditional degree of Licenciate is subject to being phased out in the near future. The Universities of Applied sciences have the right to award only Bachelor's and Master's degrees, although they do not have the right to use the titles kandidaatti or maisteri in Finnish. While nearly all university students are granted the right to study a Master's degree, UAS students have to apply to a Master's programme separately. The overwhelming majority of all Master's degree holders have a University background.

In spite of the fact that the degrees awarded by the two institutions are at par by law, the UAS degrees are not directly comparable to nor similar in content as the university degrees. In popular culture, degrees awarded by Universities of Applied Sciences are not traditionally held as academic degrees (yliopistotutkinto) but as higher education degrees (korkeakoulututkinto). This is reflected by the fact most Master's degree holders from Universities of Applied Sciences have to complete additional studies in order to apply to doctoral programmes at Universities.


In French universities, the academic degree system was quite complicated: the first degree was the baccalauréat (completed in fact after high school), then the two-year diplôme d'études universitaires générales (DEUG General Academic Studies Degree) or premier cycle (undergraduate education) or diplôme universitaire de technologie (DUT Technologic Academic Studies Degree) or Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS Higher Techinician national Certificate), then the one-year licence, the one-year maîtrise (master's degree), the two forming the second cycle (graduate education), the 1–2 years Diplôme d'Études Approfondies, Special Studies Degree and the three-year doctorate, the two forming the troisième cycle (postgraduate education). With the Bologna process, the system is now much simpler: baccalauréat (A-level degree), licence or licence professionnelle (= Bachelor), master (a new two-year degree merging maîtrise and DEA), and doctorate. This system is called "LMD" system in France, which means licence-master-doctorat.


Traditionally in Germany, students graduated after four to six years either with a Magister Artium (abbreviated M.A.) degree in Social Sciences, Humanities, Linguistics and the Arts or with a Diplom degree in Natural Sciences, Economics, Business Administration, Political Science, Sociology, Theology and Engineering. Those degrees were the first and at the same time highest non-PhD/Doctorate-title in many disciplines before its gradual replacement by other, Anglo-Saxon-inspired degrees. In Germany, a Magister or Diplom awarded by universities, which both require a final thesis, is popularly considered equivalent to a master's degree from countries following an Anglo-American model; the Diplom awarded at a Fachhochschule are equivalated to the Bachelor degree. However, degree equivalencies are highly contentious, and this is not the general opinion outside of Germany. For example, these traditional German first degrees are regarded by the University of California, the top-ranked public university system in the United States, as equivalent to an American bachelor's degree for purposes of graduate school admission[citation needed]. In fact, bachelor's degrees vary widely throughout the United States and the world, and even British bachelor's degrees, with the exception of Honours degrees from select universities, are not considered by the University of California to meet their graduate school admission requirements.

A special kind of examination is the Staatsexamen. It is not an academic degree but a government licensing examination that future doctors, dentists, teachers, lawyers (solicitors), judges, public prosecutors, patent attorneys, and pharmacists have to pass in order to be eligible to work in their profession. Students usually study at university for 4–6 years before they take the first Staatsexamen. Afterwards teachers and jurists go through a form of pupillage for two years, before they are able to take the second Staatsexamen, which tests their practical abilities in their jobs. The first Staatsexamen is at a level which is equivalent to a M.Sc. or M.A.

Since 1999, the traditional degrees are gradually being replaced by Bachelor's (Bakkalaureus) and Master's (Master) degrees (see Bologna process). The main reasons for this change are to make degrees internationally comparable, and to introduce degrees to the German system which take less time to complete (German students typically take five years or more to earn a Magister or Diplom). Some universities are still resistant to this change, considering it a displacement of a venerable tradition for the pure sake of globalization. Universities must fulfill the new standard by the end of 2007. In the future, the Diplom or Magister degree will no longer be awarded.

Doctorates are issued under a variety of names, depending on the faculty: e.g., Doktor der Naturwissenschaften (Doctor of Natural Science); Doktor der Rechtswissenschaften (Doctor of Law); Doktor der Medizin (Doctor of Medicine); Doktor der Philosophie (Doctor of Philosophy), to name just a few. Multiple doctorates and honorary doctorates are often listed and even used in forms of address in German-speaking countries. A Diplom (from a Universität), Magister, Master's or Staatsexamen student can proceed to a doctorate. The doctoral promotion (e.g. to Dr.rer. nat., Dr.phil. and others) is the highest academic degree in Germany and regarded there as equivalent to a Ph.D. degree, although, again, this is a matter of dispute, with Americans, for example, claiming that their Ph.D. is a significantly higher standard closer to the Habilitation (see below). The degree for medical doctors has to be viewed differently, however; medical students usually write their doctoral theses right after they have completed studies, without any previous conducted scientific research, just as students in other disciplines write a Diplom, Magister or Master's thesis.

Sometimes incorrectly regarded as a degree, the Habilitation is an academic qualification in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland that allows further teaching and research endorsement after a doctorate. It is earned by writing a second thesis (the Habilitationsschrift) or presenting a portfolio of first-author publications in an advanced topic. The exact requirements for satisfying a Habilitation depend on individual universities. The "habil.", as it is abbreviated to represent that a habilitation has been awarded after the doctorate, was traditionally the conventional qualification for serving at least as a Privatdozent (e.g. "PD Dr. habil.") (Lecturer) in an academic professorship (now called W2 and W3). Some German universities no longer require the Habilitation, although preference may still be given to applicants who have this credential, for academic posts in the more traditional fields.


Ireland operates under the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). At the end of a students term in secondary school, they sit the Leaving Certificate exams to gain entry to college. This is considered a Level 4-5. If a student studies on a Higher Certificate Course, National Diploma Course, Post Leaving Cert Course or Apprenticeship, this is considered a Level 6 qualification. An Ordinary Degree is a Level 7. A Bachelors Degree or Honours Bachelor Degree is a Level 8. A Master's Degree, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma is a Level 9. A Doctorate is a level 10.


In Italy access to university is possible after gaining the high school degree, called diploma, obtained at 19 years of age, after 5 years of study in a specific high school focused on certain subjects (e.g. liceo classico focused on classical subjects, including ancient Greek and Latin;, liceo scientifico focused on scientific subjects such as Maths, Chemistry and Physics but also including ancient Latin and Italian Literature; liceo linguistico focused on Foreign Languages; istituto tecnico focused on practical subjects such as Mechanics and Electronics).

After gaining the diploma one can enter university and enrol in any curriculum (e.g. physics, medicine, chemistry, engineering, architecture): all high school diplomas allow access to any university curriculum, although most universities have pre-admission tests.

Italy too uses the three levels degree system. The first level degree, called "laurea triennale" (Bachelor's degree) is obtained after 3 years of study and a short thesis on a specific subject. The second level degree, called "laurea magistrale" (Master's degree) is obtained after two additional years of study, specializing in a particular branch of the chosen subject (e.g. particle physics, nuclear engineering, etc.). This degree requires a more complex thesis work, usually involving some academic research or an internship in a private company.

Not a lot of students continue their university career (after succeeding another admission test) with 3 more years of Dottorato di ricerca (equivalent to a Ph. D). A degree mainly devoted to research, its final thesis will be about the results of the research done.

Alternatively, after obtaining the laurea triennale or the laurea magistrale one can attend a Master (first-level Master after the laurea triennale; second-level Master after the laurea magistrale) of one or two years, offered by universities and private organisations with a variety of subjects, lengths and costs and usually including a final internship in a private company.

The title for Masters of Art Graduate students is, regardless from the field of study, Dottore/Dottoressa (abbrev. Dott./Dott.ssa or Dr., meaning Doctor), not to be confused with the title for the PhD level graduate, which is Dottore/Dottoressa di Ricerca. Graduates from the fields of Education, Art and Music are also called Dr. Prof. (or simply Professore) or Maestro.


In the Netherlands, the structure of academic studies was altered significantly in 1982. In this year the "tweefasestructuur" (Two Phase Structure) was introduced by the Dutch Minister of Education, Minister Wim Deetman. With this two phase structure an attempt was made to standardise all the different studies and structure them to an identical timetable. Additional effect was that students would be persuaded stringently to produce results within a preset time-frame, or otherwise discontinue their studies. The two phase structure has been adapted to a bachelor-master structure as a result of the Bologna process.


In order for a Dutch student to get access to a university education, he/she has to complete a six year pre-university secondary education called "voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs" (vwo). There are other routes possible, but only if the end level of the applicant is comparable to the vwo levels access to university education is granted. For some studies specific end levels or disciplines are required, e.g., graduating without physics, biology, and chemistry will make it impossible to follow an academic medicine study. People 21 years old or older than that who do not have the required entrance diplomas may opt for an entrance exam for being admitted to a higher education curriculum. In this exam, they have to prove their command of disciplines considered necessary for pursuing such study. After September 1, 2002 they would be thus admitted to a Bachelor's curriculum, not to a Master's curriculum.

For some studies[9][10] in the Netherlands a governmental determined limited access is in place (although under political review for abolishment, February 2011).[11] This is a limitation of the number of applicants to a specific study, thus trying to control the eventual number of graduates. The most renowned studies for their numerus clausus are medicine and dentistry. Every year a combination of the highest pre-university graduation grades, luck, and some additional conditions determine who can start such a numerus clausus study and who can not. Almost all Dutch universities are government supported universities, with only very few privately owned universities in existence (i.e. one in business, and all others in theology). Leiden University is the oldest, founded in 1575.

Pre-Bologna phases

Before the introduction of the bachelor-master structure, almost all academic studies in the Netherlands had the same length of four years and existed out of two phases:

  • The "propedeutische fase" (1–2 years): Should the student not be able to finish this phase in the given time frame of 2 years, than he or she has to abandon the study and will not be allowed to continue this or another study. Alternatively, after finishing this phase a student can follow another two years' study, which grants equivalents to the Anglo-Saxon BSc (Bachelor of Science), BA (Bachelor of Arts) or LLB (Bachelor of Laws).
  • The "doctorale fase" (3–4 years): Completing the first phase successfully gives the student access to the second phase. Again, failure to finish within the time given will lead to discontinuation. This phase is concluded with the "doctoraal examen" (doctoral exam). This is not similar to any type of doctoral exam that would grant the student with any type of PhD title. Successful completion however does grant the student the Dutch degree of "drs." "doctorandus", ir. ("ingenieur" - engineer) or "mr." ("Meester in de rechten" - master of law). Nowadays these Dutch titles have been largely replaced by the Anglo Saxon titles MSc (Master of Science), MA (Master of Arts), and LLM (Master of Laws), depending on the area of study.

For medical students the "doctorandus" degree is not equivalent to the European Anglo Saxon postgraduate research degree in medicine of MD (Medical Doctor). Besides the title doctorandus, the graduates of the Curius curriculum may also bear the title arts (physician). The doctorandus in medicine title is granted after four years (nominal time) of the Curius curriculum, while the title physician is granted after six years (nominal time) of that curriculum. The Dutch physician title is comparable to a MSc degree according to the Bologna process or to the MBBS, MB, MB BCh BAO, BMBS, MBBChir or MBChBa in the UK degree system, but is equivalent to the North American MD degree, which is not a research degree. The correct notation for a Dutch physician who did complete his or her medical studies, but did not pursue a doctor (PhD-like) study is "drs." (e.g. drs. Jansen, arts) and not "dr." in medicine, as often used incorrectly. However, like in the United Kingdom physicians holding these degrees are referred to as 'Doctor' by courtesy. In the Netherlands there is the informal title dokter for physicians, but not doctor (dr.), unless they also earn such degree by completing a PhD curriculum. Furthermore, the "doctorandus" degree does not give a medical student the right to treat patients; for this a minimum of two years additional study (~internships) is required. After obtaining a Medical Board Registration, Dutch physicians must work an additional two to six years in a field of expertise to become a registered medical specialist. Dutch surgeons commonly are only granted access to surgeon training/positions after obtaining a doctorate (PhD) successfully. Since a couple of years, the six years (nominal time) old Curius curriculum (which offered the titles doctorandus and physician) has been replaced with a three years (nominal time) Bachelor Curius+ followed by a three years (nominal time) Master Curius+. Those who had already began their old-style Curius curriculum before that will still have to complete it as a six years study (nominal time).

A doctorandus in law uses the title "meester" (master, abbreviated as mr. Jansen) instead of drs., and some studies like for example technique and agriculture grant the title "ingenieur" (engineer, noted as ir. Jansen) instead of drs. These titles as equivalent to a LLM (the title mr.) and to a MSc (the title ir.), and if got before September 1, 2002 from a recognized Dutch university, may be rendered as M (from Master) behind one's name, instead of using the typical Dutch shortcuts before one's name. Since September 1, 2002 Dutch universities offer specific BSc, BA or LLB studies followed by MSc, MA or LLM studies, thus integrating into and merging with the international scientific community, offering lectures, other classes, seminars, or complete curricula in English instead of Dutch. According to their field of study, MSc graduates may use either ir. or drs. before their names, MA graduates may use drs. before their name and LLM graduates may use mr. before their names, but only if they received such degrees from recognized Dutch universities.

Not uncommon, the Dutch "drs." abbreviation can cause much confusion in other countries, since it is perceived as a person who has a PhD in multiple disciplines. In the Netherlands, the degree MPhil is not legally recognised.

After successfully obtaining a "drs.", "ir.", "mr." degree, a student has the opportunity to follow a promotion study (informally called PhD) to eventually obtain a doctorate, and subsequently the title "doctor". Promotion studies are structured ideally according to a preset time schedule of 4 to 6 years, during which the student has to be mentored by at least one professor. The promotion study has to be concluded with at least a scientific thesis, which has to be defended to "a gathering of his/her peers", in practice the Board of the Faculty with guest professors from other faculties and/or universities added. More and more common, and in some disciplines even mandatory, is that the student writes and submits scientific publications to peer-reviewed journals, which eventually need to be accepted for publication. The number of publications is often debated and varies considerably between the various disciplines. However, in all disciplines the student is obligated to produce and publish a dissertation/ thesis in book form.

Bachelor/master structure

All current Dutch academic education programmes is offered in the Anglo-Saxon bachelor/master structure. It takes three years to earn a bachelors degree and another one or two years the earn your masters degree. There are three official academic bachelor titles (BA, BSc and LLB) and four official master titles (MA, MSc and LLM). These academic titles are protected by the Dutch government.

Academic title bearing

After obtaining a doctorate, Dutch doctors may bear either the title dr. (lower case) before, or the letter D behind their name, but not both simultaneously.[12] There is no specific notation of the discipline in which the doctorate is obtained.

Stacking of the titles as seen in countries like for example Germany (Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. zu Guttenberg) is highly uncommon in the Netherlands and not well received culturally. Those who have multiple doctor titles may, but in practice seldom use dr.mult. before their name.[12] The honoris cause doctors may use dr.h.c. before their name.[12] Combining different Dutch titles, especially in different disciplines, is allowed however (e.g. mr. dr. Jansen, dr. mr. Jansen, dr. ir. Jansen, mr. ir. drs. Jansen, mr. ir. Jansen). The use of the combination ir. ing. is frequent, indicating one holds a HBO, vocational (or professional) engineering degree together with an academic engineering degree.[13] What is not allowed is, after obtaining a doctorate, using dr. drs. Jansen; dr. Jansen should be used instead.

A combination of a Dutch title with an international title is not allowed, except for some limited number of international professional titles.[13] Thus, one should choose either one's classical Dutch titles, or use the shortcut provided by the law behind one's name (since September 1, 2002 it is the other way around: those who hold Dutch degrees as MSc, LLM or MA may optionally use the old-style shortcuts before their names).[13][14] Hence, formal use of the Anglo-Saxon PhD behind ones name is not legal, as it is not a Dutch degree, but often seen on for example English publications for clarity towards international readers; the law provides the option of using the shortcut D behind one's name instead of dr. before one's name.

"Doctors" (dr.) can proceed to teach at universities as "Universitair Docent" (UD – assistant professor). With time, experience, and/ or achievement, this can evolve to a position as "Universitair Hoofd Docent" (UHD – associate professor). Officially an UHD still works under the supervision of a "hoogleraar", the head of the department and commonly a professor. However, this is not a given; it is also possible that a department is headed by a "plain" doctor, based on knowledge, achievement, and expertise. The position of "hoogleraar" is the highest possible scientific position at a university, and equivalent to the US "full" professor. The Dutch professor's title, noted as prof. Jansen or professor Jansen, is connected to ones employment. This means that, should the professor leave the university, he or she also loses the privilege to use the title of professor. Exception here are retired professors, who can still note the title in front of their name, or use the title emeritus professor (em. prof.). People who switch to a non-university job loose their professor title, and are only allowed to use the "dr." abbreviation.

Contrary to some other European countries like for example Germany, Dutch academic titles are used rarely outside academia, hold no value in every day life, and are for example not listed on official documentation (e.g. passport, drivers license, (governmental) communication). Dutch academic titles however are legally protected and can only be used by graduates from Dutch institutions of higher education. Illegal use is considered a misdemeanor and subject to legal prosecution.[15][16] Holders of foreign degrees therefore need special permission before being able to use a recognised Dutch title, but they are free to use their own foreign title (untranslated).[17][18][19][20] In practice, the Public Department does not prosecute the illegal use of a protected title (in the Netherlands applies the principle of opportunity, so some known crimes are not prosecuted).[21]


Prior to 2003, there were around 50 different degrees and corresponding education programs within the Norwegian higher education system. In 2003, a reform was instituted to replace this older system with an "international system."

For example, many degrees had titles that included the Latin term candidatus/candidata. The second part of the title usually consisted of a Latin word corresponding to the profession or training. These degrees were all retired in 2003.

The reform of higher education in Norway, Kvalitetsreformen ("The Quality Reform"), was passed in the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, in 2001 and carried out during the 2003/2004 academic year. It introduced standard periods of study and the titles master and bachelor (baccalaureus).

The system differentiates between a free master's degree and a master's degree in technology. The latter corresponds to the former sivilingeniør degree (not to be confused with a degree in civil engineering, which is but one of many degrees linked to the title sivilingeniør, which is still in use for new graduates who can chose to also use the old title). All pre-2001 doctoral degree titles were replaced with the title "Philosophical Doctor degree", written philosophiæ doctor (instead of the traditional doctor philosophiæ). The title dr. philos. is a substantially higher degree than the PhD, and is reserved for those who qualify for such a degree without participating in an organized doctoral degree program.


In Poland the system is similar to the German one.

  • licencjat title - given by a university; the equivalent of Bachelor of Art degree or Bachelor of Science degree (depending on academic major); granted after at least 3 years of study.
  • inżynier (inż.) title - Engineer's degree given by a technical university; granted after at least 3,5 years of study.
  • magister (mgr) or magister inżynier (mgr inż.) title - the equivalent of an Master of Arts or Master of Science degree, granted after 5–6 years of study, or 1.5–2 years of additional study by holders of a bachelor degree with classification of Honours Degree.
  • doktor (dr) degree - the equivalent of Doctor of Philosophy.
  • doktor habilitowany (dr hab.) degree - Polish Habilitation degree, requires approval by an external ministerial body.
  • profesor (prof.) degree – the highest title, officially conferred by the President of Poland.

Russia, Ukraine and some other former USSR republics

In Russia, Ukraine and some other former USSR republics educational degrees are awarded after finishing college education. There are several levels of education one must choose between 2nd and 3rd year usually on the 3rd year of study.

  1. Bachelor degree - usually takes 4 years of college. (minimum level to be recognized as having Higher Education)
  2. Specialist degree is awarded after 5 years of college. (4 + 1)
  3. Magister degree is awarded after 6 years of college. (4 + 2)

Usually Specialist or Magister degrees incorporates Bachelor degree in them, but only high level degree is stated in final diploma. Specialist and Magister degrees require taking final state exams and written work on practical application of studied skills or research thesis (usually 70-100 pages) and is roughly equivalent to Master's degree.

The first level academic degree is called "candidate of ... sciences" (say, candidate of physical-mathematical sciences, or candidate of engineering sciences, candidate of historical sciences, etc.). This degree requires extensive research efforts, taking some classes, publications in peer-reviewed academic journals (usually 3 publications suffice), taking 3 exams (one in their speciality, one in a foreign language and one in the history and philosophy of science) and writing and defending an in-depth thesis (80-200 pages) called a "dissertation".

Finally, there is a "doctor of ... sciences" (Doktor nauk) degree in Russia and some former USSR academic environment. This degree is sought granted for contributions into certain field (formally - who established new direction or new field in science). It requires discovery of new phenomenon, or development of new theory, or essential development of new direction, etc. There is no equivalent of this "doctor of sciences" degree in US academic system. It is roughly equivalent to Habilitation in Germany, France, Austria, and some other European countries.


Before the Bologna Process, there were the "Diplomaturas" (bachelor's degrees for 3 years) and "Licenciaturas" (for 5 years) but after it has changed to Grado for all universities (except for medical and architecture, which will be master's "still under discussion" if they can certify a minimum of 5 years' professional experience) and Master to the ones who make the post-grade master courses (60 to 120 ECTS credits in one or two years) and Doctor if you continue studies.

Students must look to make an official Master with ETCS credit because some university are making their own Master's without the ECTS credits from the Bologna Process, but these are only like the Diploma.



Before the Bologna Process, because there are four official languages in Switzerland, the Universities' degrees were different, depending on the three languages French, German and Italian. In French-speaking universities, the first academic degree was the Licence: 4 to 5 years of study, equivalent to the Master's degree[22] in the UK or the USA. The postgraduate degree was the diplôme d'études approfondies DEA or DESS: 1–2 years of study, equivalent to the Master of Advanced Studies degree. In the Swiss-German Universities, the first degree was called Lizentiat, a 4-year degree, and the second was the Diplom nach dem ersten akademischen Grad. In the Italian-speaking University, the first degree was called licenza, a 4-year degree; the second was the post laurea, which took 1–2 years. The Doctoral's degree is the last stage at all the universities; it requires 3–5 years, depending on the field.

United Kingdom

England, Northern Ireland and Wales

The standard first degree in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is the Bachelor's degree conferred with honours. It usually takes three years to read for this degree.

The honours are usually categorised into four classes:

  • First class honours (1st)
  • Second class honours, divided into:
    • Upper division, or upper second (2:1)
    • Lower division, or lower second (2:2)
  • Third class honours (3rd)

Graduands who have not achieved the standard for the award of honours may be admitted without honours to the degree of bachelor; this is popularly referred to as an 'ordinary degree' or 'pass degree'.

The Graduateship (post-nominal GCGI) of the City & Guilds of London Institute is mapped to the standard required to be admitted to a British honours degree.

The 'Level 6 Graduate Diploma in Engineering' awarded by the Engineering Council via the City & Guilds of London Institute is mapped at the same level as that required to become a Bachelor of Engineering at a British university.

Some universities admit graduands to Master's degrees as a first degree following an integrated programme of study. These degrees are usually designated by the subject, such as Master of Engineering for engineering, Master of Physics for physics, Master of Mathematics for mathematics, and so on; it usually takes four years to read for them. Graduation to these degrees is always with honours, see above for the classes of honours. Master of Engineering in particular has now become the standard first degree in engineering at the top UK universities, replacing the older Bachelor of Engineering.

The 'Level 7 Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering' awarded by the Engineering Council via the City & Guilds of London Institute, is mapped at the same level as that required to become a Bachelor of Engineering at a British university.

Unlike the case in the United States, due to earlier specialisation, to read for a master's degrees may take only one year of full-time study, and the usual amount of time spent working towards a Ph.D. is three years full-time. Therefore, whilst the usual amount of time spent studying from first-year undergraduate through to being admitted to a doctorate in the United States is nine years, it is in most cases only seven in the United Kingdom, and may be just six, since being a master is not always a precondition for embarking on a PhD.

Recently,[when?] there has been a significant rise in the number of courses offering "postgraduate diplomas", often in very specific, vocationally-related subjects. Many institutions (for example, The Open University) offer these courses over one year, with an additional year or two required for the award of a master's degree. The popularity of these courses is in part due to legislative requirements to demonstrate managerial competence in public-sector related functions.

A foundation degree can be awarded for having completed two years of study in what is usually a vocational discipline. The foundation degree is comparable to an associate's degree in the United States, and can be awarded by a university, or college of higher education.


The standard first degree in Scotland is either a Master of Arts which is only awarded by the Ancient Universities of Scotland (whereas a Bachelor of Arts is awarded by all other modern institutions), for arts and humanities subjects, or a Bachelor of Science, for natural and social science subjects. These can either be studied at general or honours levels. A general or ordinary degree (MA or BSc) takes three years to complete; an honours degree (MA Hons or BSc Hons) takes four years to complete. The ordinary degree need not be in a specific subject, but can involve study across a range of subjects within (and, sometimes, beyond) the relevant faculty, in which case it may also be called a general degree; if a third year/junior honours subject is included, the ordinary degree in that named discipline is awarded. The honours degree involves two years of study at a sub-honours level in which a range of subjects within the relevant faculty are studied, and then two years of study at honours level which is specialised in a single field (for example classics, history, chemistry, biology, etc.).

This also reflects the broader scope of the final years of Scottish secondary education, where traditionally five Highers are studied, compared to (typically) three English or Welsh A-Levels. The Higher is a one year qualification, as opposed to the two years of A-Levels, which accounts for Scottish honours degrees being a year longer than those in England. Advanced Highers add an optional final year of secondary education, bringing students up to the level of their A-Level counterparts - students with strong A-Levels or Advanced Highers may be offered entry directly into the second year at Scottish universities.

Honours for MA or BSc are classified into three classes:

  • First class honours
  • Second class honours, divided into
    • Division one (2:1)
    • Division two (2:2)
  • Third class honours

Students who complete all the requirements for an honours degree, but do not receive sufficient merit to be awarded third-class honours may be awarded a Special Degree

Postgraduate Master's Degrees may be offered in some subjects; however, unlike England and Wales, these are not designated Master of Arts, as this is an undergraduate degree. Postgraduate degrees in arts and humanities subjects are usually designated Master of Letters (MLitt); in natural and social sciences, as Master of Science (MSc). Non-doctoral postgraduate research degrees are usually designated Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Research (MRes). First doctoral research degrees in arts, science and humanities subjects are usually designated Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

North America

Canada and United States

In the United States and Canada, since the late 19th century, the threefold degree system of bachelor, master and doctor has been in place, but follows a slightly different pattern of study from the European equivalents.

In the United States and Canada, most standard academic programs are based on the four-year bachelor's degree (most often Bachelor of Arts, B.A., or Bachelor of Science, B.S., (B.Sc., in Canada), a one- or two-year master's degree (most often Master of Arts, M.A., or Master of Science, M.S./M.Sc.; either of these programs might be as much as three years in length) and a further one or two years of coursework and research, culminating in "comprehensive" examinations in one or more fields, plus perhaps some teaching experience, and then the writing of a dissertation for the doctorate (most often doctor of philosophy, Ph.D. or other types such as Ed.D., Psy.D., Th.D.) for a total of ten or more years from starting the bachelor's degree (which is usually begun around age 18) to the awarding of the doctorate. This timetable is only approximate, however, as students in accelerated programs can sometimes earn a bachelor's degree in three years or, on the other hand, a particular dissertation project might take four or more years to complete. In addition, a graduate may wait an indeterminate time between degrees before candidacy in the next level, or even an additional degree at a level already completed. Therefore, there is no time-limit on the accumulation of academic degrees.

Some schools—mostly junior colleges and community colleges, but some four-year schools as well—offer an associate's degree for two full years of study, often in pre-professional areas. This may stand alone, or sometimes be used as credit toward completion of the four-year bachelor's degree.

In Canada and the United States, there is also another class of degrees called "First Professional degree". These degree programs are designed for professional practice in various fields other than academic scholarship. Most professional degree programs require a prior bachelor's degree for admission, and so represent at least about five total years of study and as many as seven or eight. Some fields such as fine art, architecture, or divinity call their first professional degree a "master's degree" (e.g., M.F.A., M.B.A.) because most of these degrees require at least the completion of a bachelor's degree. There is currently some debate in the architectural community to rename the degree to a doctorate in the manner that was done for the law degree decades ago, however, this would also require increasing the length of their education.[citation needed]

In 21 US jurisdictions religious institutions can be authorized to grant religious-exempt (rel. exmpt., rel. expt. etc.) degrees without accreditation or government oversight.[23] Such degrees are used primarily to attain church-related employment.[24]

In Canada, professional degrees in medicine (the M.D.) and law (the J.D.) are considered to be undergraduate degrees[25][26][27][28] whereas MD, JD or D.O. are doctorates in the United States.[29]


Education in Mexico follows a three-degree system similar to that of Canada and the US. After high school, students progress to university, where they study for a licenciatura, then a maestría, then a doctorado.

The minimum acceptable academic level is the bachillerato (also called preparatoria), similar to high school. Students typically leave preparatoria at the age of 18 for university, at which point they choose to specialize in a specific academic area.

Once in university, students begin the carrera, the study of a precise academic branch like economics, business administration, sciences, law or medicine. Students will be in university for 8-9 semesters of full-time study, which typically takes 4-4.5 years. Upon graduation, students receive a licenciatura in their chosen subject area, which is equivalent to an American Bachelor's degree.

After receiving the licenciatura, students may take extra courses called diplomados. These courses last 4-12 months and are a means to further study without continuing to the next degree level. Most students stay at this level, but some choose to continue to the maestría, equivalent to the Master's degree. Study at the maestría level takes 2–3 years and mandates completion of a thesis. Similar to students in the US, students in Mexico typically enter a master's program after a few years in the workforce and often continue working while studying.

Students who have completed the maestria may continue on to the doctorado, or the doctorate. Doctoral study typically lasts 2–3 years.


Australia & New Zealand

The Australian and New Zealand academic degrees are diplomas (1–2 years), advanced diplomas (1–2 years), bachelors degrees (3 years), bachelor's degrees with honours (4 years) or postgraduate diplomas (bachelors + 1 year), graduate diplomas (bachelors+1 year), master's degrees (bachelors + 1–2 years) and doctorates (high Honours or Masters + 3–4 years). In Australia, most degrees are issued ungraded, with bachelors degrees with honours being the exception. In New Zealand, both Masters and Bachelors with Honours are awarded graded. (e.g. - A Master of Science with First Class Honours) The bachelors degree is the standard university qualification. In both Australia and New Zealand, unlike some other countries, honours degrees require an additional year of research and study on top of a bachelors degree, and are undertaken by invitation only. Masters degrees may be by coursework or research. Doctorates are typically by research only (i.e. PhDs), although some Australian universities have introduced undergraduate-level doctorate degrees. (Nevertheless, professionals in some fields use the title "doctor" in spite of possessing only Bachelors or Masters degrees.) Some bachelors degrees (e.g. Bachelors of Engineering or Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery) may take longer than three years to complete, and double bachelors degrees (i.e. completing two bachelors degrees simultaneously in four to five years) are common.

South America



Undergraduate students in Brazilian universities normally graduate either with a Bacharel degree, a Licentiate degree (both equivalent to an American B.S. or B.A.) or with a professional degree (roughly modeled on the old German Diplom).

Bacharel degrees are awarded in most fields of study in the arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, or natural sciences and normally take four years to complete (some degrees, as in Law and Engineering, require an extra fifth year to be obtained). Professional degrees are awarded in state-regulated professions such as architecture, engineering, psychology, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or human medicine and are named after the profession itself, i.e. one graduates with a degree of Engenheiro (engineer), Arquiteto (architect), or Médico (physician/surgeon) for example. A typical course of study leading to a first professional degree in Brazil normally takes five years of full-time study to complete, with the exception of the human medicine course which requires six years.

In addition to the standard Bacharel and professional degrees, Brazilian universities also offer the Licenciatura degree, generally four-years length degrees, available for students who want to qualify as school teachers. Licenciatura courses exist mostly in mathematics, humanities, and natural sciences. Tecnólogo (Technologist) is also available in technology-related fields and can be normally obtained in three years only.

Admission as an undergraduate student in most top public or private universities in Brazil requires that the applicant pass a competitive entrance examination known as Vestibular. Contrary to what happens in the United States, candidates must declare their intended university major when they register for the Vestibular. Although it is theoretically possible to switch majors afterwards (in a process known within the universities as transferência interna), that is actually quite rare in Brazil. Undergraduate curricula tend to be more rigid than in the United States and there is little room to take classes outside one's major.

Individuals who hold either a Bacharel degree, a professional diploma or Licenciatura are eligible for admission into graduate courses leading to advanced master's or doctor's degrees. Criteria for admission into master's and doctor's programs vary in Brazil. Some universities require that candidates take entrance exams; others make admission decisions based solely on undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and possibly oral interviews. In most cases, however, especially for the doctorate, the candidate is required to submit a research plan and one faculty member must agree to serve as his/her supervisor before the candidate can be admitted into the program; The exception are the Natural Sciences post-graduate programs, that accepts students with very broad and/or vague research prospects (sometimes the prospect is given in promptu during the interview), preferring to let the students define their study program and advisor in the course of the first year of studies.

Master's degrees usually take two years to obtain and are classified into academic master's degrees or professional master's degrees. Requirements for an academic master's degree include taking a minimum number of advanced graduate classes (typically between five and eight)and submitting a research thesis which is examined orally by a panel of at least two examiners (three is the preferred number), sometimes including one external member who must be from another university or research institute. The emphasis of the thesis must be in adding some value to the academic knowledge, but not necessarily in being original. Professional master's degrees on the other hand normally involve taking a larger number of classes, and, in the case of engineering programs in particular, often completing a project as an intern in an engineering company and submitting a final project report. Different to that, Academic Programs of Master's in Business Administration are full time MBAs, and demand a much larger number of subjects (760 hours), and are equivalent to USA programs, although they also demand defending a thesis at the end of the course. The Executive MBA comprehend 480 hours of study and it also requires a thesis at the end. This happens because both Academic or Executive MBAs are eligible to giving classes at Bachelor degrees' program.

The Master degree is a pre-requisite for the admission in a Doctorate program in Brazil.

Master's titles in Brazil normally include an explicit reference to the field of study in which they were awarded, e.g. one graduates with a degree of Mestre em Engenharia (Master of Engineering), Mestre em Economia (Master of Economics), and so on. The generic title Mestre em Ciências (Master of Sciences) is used sometimes though, especially in the natural sciences (physics, biology, chemistry, etc.). The word profissional is normally added to the title to distinguish it from an academic master's degree, e.g. Mestre Profissional em Engenharia Aeronáutica (Professional Master in Aeronautical Engineering).

Doctor's degrees on the other hand normally take four additional years of full-time study to complete and are of a higher standing than a master's degree; With very few exceptions (namely, people with outstanding accomplishments in research), a Master degree or equivalent is required for admission in a Doctorate Program. Requirements for obtaining a doctor's degree include taking additional advanced courses, passing an oral qualifying exam, and submitting a longer doctoral dissertation which must represent a significant original contribution to knowledge in the field to which the dissertation topic is related. That contrasts with master's theses, which, in addition to being usually shorter than doctoral dissertations, are not required to include creation of new knowledge or revision/reinterpretation of older views/theories. The doctoral dissertation is examined in a final oral exam before a panel of at least two members (in the state of São Paulo the preferred number is five, while the other regions prefer three members), usually including one or two external examiners from another university or research institute.

Conventions for naming doctoral degrees follow similar rules to those used for master's degree, i.e. an explicit reference to the field of study is normally included in the title itself, e.g. Doutor em Engenharia (Doctor of Engineering), Doutor em Direito (Doctor of Laws), Doutor em Economia (Doctor of Economics), etc., although a generic title like Doutor em Ciências (Doctor of Sciences) may be occasionally used.

Finally, a small number of Brazilian universities, most notably the public universities in the state of São Paulo still award the title of Livre-Docente (free docent), which is of higher standing than a doctorate and is obtained, similar to the German Habilitation, by the submission of a second (original or cumulative) thesis and approval in a Livre-Docência examination that includes giving a public lecture before a panel of full professors.

See also Universities and Higher Education in Brazil


In Colombia the system of academic degrees is similar to the U.S. model. After completing their "bachillerato" (high school), students can take one of three options. The first one is called a "Profesional" (professional career), which is similar to a Bachelor's Degree requiring from four to 6 years of study according to the chosen program. The other option is called a "Técnico" (technician); this degree consists of only two and a half years of study and prepares the student for technical or mechanical labors. Finally, the third option is called a ¨Tecnólogo¨ (equivalent to Associate degree), and consist of 3 years of study.

After this, students, now called "profesionales" (professionals), Tecnólogos (associates) or "técnicos" (technicians), can opt for higher degrees. Formal education after the Bachelor's degree is the Master's degree with the title of "Magíster", and Doctorate's degree known as "Doctorado" (doctorate). The Master's degree normally consists of two years.

Commonly students prefer to take an specialization course, "Especialización", after their bachelor's degree rather than the more formal Master and Doctorate paths. This program is very popular in the country, because it requires only one year to complete and because the student only acquires the technical knowledge, without the bulk of the theoretical subjects.

A similar situation in Colombia, when compared to the U.S. system, is that the students may go directly to the "Doctorado" without having to take the "Master" or "Especialización".


In Chile, the system in a nutshell is as follows: Quite similar to the case described for Colombia, students may opt to be "Profesionales"(Professionals) or "Técnicos"(Technicians). After completion of high school, students may follow professional or technical studies at Universities or Technical schools. Only Universities and the Academies of the Armed Forces can give Academic Degrees. In general, traditional professions require an Academic Degree, but there are many professions that not require the degree because they were conceived as strictly "professional" not academic. The degrees are as follows:

"Licenciado" it is similar to the Bachelor, but to get it is necessary to complete at least eight semesters of study on the subjects which are part of the Mayor. This degree is enough to continue developing an academic career, however, to get a professional title -which is not academic, but allows you to get a professional practice, you have to continue one or two additional years of study. (For example to be an engineer it is necessary to study four years to get a Licentiate in Engineering Sciences, and two additional years to get a Professional Title and become an engineer. Sometimes it is possible to take additional subjects and get a "Magister" degree besides the professional title.)

"Magister" is the equivalent to the Master degree in English speaking countries.

"Doctorado" is the equivalent to the Doctorate or Phd. There is no separate classification for Professional Doctorates.

In particular, the engineering profession may be complicated for the foreigner since there is two types of engineers: those who got an Academic Degree such as Civil Engineers or Armed Forced Politechnical Engineers, and those who are "Ingenieros en Ejecución" (Professional Engineers) which are considered technicians more focused to apply the engineering, and completed only four years of study. They are not able, by law, to authorise plans or drawings like engineers with a degree or architects.


Titles in Venezuela start with the Certificado de Educación Básica (literally, Certificate of Basic Education), awarded upon completing 6th grade. The next title is earned upon completing 11th grade, and may be Bachiller en Ciencias (literally, Bachelor of the Sciences), Bachiller en Humanidades (literally, Bachelor of Humanities), or Técnico en Ciencias (literally, Technician of the Sciences). The reason for this diversity is because some schools provide vocational education as part of their high school curriculum (thereby allowing them to hand out "Technician" titles) while elsewhere, the student is required to decide whether to study Sciences or Humanities for the last two years of secondary school.

Titles at the higher education level usually depend on the institution handing them out. Technical schools award the student with the tile of Técnico Superior Universitario (literally, University Higher Technician, to distinguish from Technicians of the Sciences). Universities award the student with the title of Ingeniero (literally, Engineer) or with the title Licenciado (literally, Licentiate) after completing a five-year program. The Engineer have more physics subjects than the Licenciate, but both are five-year careers. Some higher education institutions may award Diplomados (literally, Diploma) but the time necessary to obtain one varies. Medical Doctors are awarded the title "Médico Cirujano" after completing a 6 year-career.

Post-graduate education follows conventions of the United States (being named "Master's" and "Doctorate" after the programes there)

See also


  1. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX
  2. ^ a b Verger, J. (1999). "Doctor, doctoratus". Lexikon des Mittelalters. 3. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler 
  3. ^ a b c Verger, J. (1999). "Licentia". Lexikon des Mittelalters. 5. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler 
  4. ^ “Women surpassing men by degrees.” Hope Yen. April 27, 2011.
  5. ^ Bologna Secretariat, Brussels (2010). "Welcome to the website of the European Higher Education Area: The official Bologna Process website 2007-2010". Benelux Bologna Secretariat. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Wadsack, Ingrid; Kasparovsky, Heinz (2004) (PDF). Higher Education in Austria (2nd ed.). Vienna: Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. ISBN 3-85456-453-8. 
  8. ^ A diploma supplement by University of West Bohemia, see section 8 - Information of National Higher Educational System
  9. ^ Dutch academic bachelors with a numerus clausus official Dutch academic bachelor site
  10. ^ Dutch academic masters with a numerus clausus official Dutch academic master site
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c Welke titel mag ik voeren als ik gepromoveerd ben? Postbus 51.
  13. ^ a b c Aleid Fokma (2010-06-16). "Bachelor-mastertitulatuur: titels combineren". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  14. ^ Burgervragen Citizens' questions letter from the Dutch Department of Education, Culture and Science.
  15. ^ "Art. 435 Sr" (in (Dutch)). 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  16. ^ "Art. 435 Sr (translated by Google)" (in (Dutch)). Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  17. ^ Article 7.23, paragraph 3 of the Dutch Higher Education and Scientific Research Act provides the Informatie Beheer Groep (now called DUO, i.e. the Service for Implementing the Education) with the possibility to grant such a permission
  18. ^ Informatie Beheer Groep (IB-Groep) is a service (now called DUO) of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science <>.
  19. ^ More information on legislation on
  20. ^ Application forms via Application for a recognized Dutch title (in Dutch) and Application for a recognized Dutch title (in English).
  21. ^ The Diploma Mafias - with a list of diploma factories worldwide Newsabah.
  22. ^ "Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities". 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  23. ^ Oregon Student Assistance Commission Office of Degree Authorization (ODA): Religious Exempt Schools
  24. ^ Bill addresses degrees from unaccredited institutions, 2009-07-29
  25. ^ "UA Medical School". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  26. ^ "UToronto Medical School". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  27. ^ "Osgoode Hall Law School". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  28. ^ "University of Windsor Law School". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  29. ^ Association of American Universities Data Exchange. Glossary of Terms for Graduate Education. Accessed May 26, 2008; National Science Foundation (2006). "Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients," InfoBrief, Science Resource Statistics NSF 06-312, 2006, p. 7. (under "Data notes" mentions that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); San Diego County Bar Association (1969). Ethics Opinion 1969-5. Accessed May 26, 2008. (under "other references" discusses differences between academic and professional doctorate, and statement that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); University of Utah (2006). University of Utah – The Graduate School – Graduate Handbook. Accessed May 28, 2008. (the J.D. degree is listed under doctorate degrees); German Federal Ministry of Education. U.S. Higher Education / Evaluation of the Almanac Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed May 26, 2008. (report by the German Federal Ministry of Education analysing the Chronicle of Higher Education from the U.S. and stating that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); Encyclopedia Britannica. (2002). Encyclopedia Britannica, 3:962:1a. (the J.D. is listed among other doctorate degrees).
Academic degreesv · d · e
Associate's degrees (U.S.) AA, AAS, ABA, ABS, AOS, AS, AMusA (Australia), ASN, Associate in Specialized Technology [AST]
Foundation degrees (U.K.) FdA, FdEd, FdEng, FdMus, FdBus, FdSc, FdTech
Bachelor's degrees AB or BA, BAcy, BAdm, BAgrEc, BArch, BBA, BBus, BCom or BComm, BCS, BCL, STB, BD, BDent, BDS, B.Ed., BEc, BEng or BE, BSBME, BFA, BHSc, BGS, BHE, BHK, BID, BJ, BTh, BLibStud, BLIS, BMath, BMedSc or BMedSci, BMus, BSN, BPE, BPharm, BS or BSc or SB, BSc(Agr) or BSA, BSocSci, BSW, BTech, LLA, LLB, MB ChB or MB BS or BM BS or MB BChir or MB BCh BAO, MA (Cantab.), MA (Dubl.), MA (Hons), MA (Oxon.)
Master's degrees MArch, MA, MAT, MALS or MLS, MS or MSc, MSt, DEA, MAcy, MALD, MApol, MPhil, MRes, MFA, MTech, MBA, MBI, MBT, MComm, MDes, MTh, MTS, MDiv, MEd, MMT, MPA, MPD, MPS, MSN, MProfStuds, MJ, MST, MSW, MPAff, MLIS, MLitt, MPH, MPM, MPP, MPT, MRE, MTheol/ThM/MTh, STM, LLM, MEng, MSci, MBio, MChem, MPhys, MMath, MMedSc or MMedSci, MMus, MESci, MGeol, MTCM, MSSc, BCL (Oxon), BPhil (Oxon), ThM
Licentiate degrees: Lic Arts, LDS, JCL, STL, SSL, LSS, PhL
Specialist degrees EdS, SSP
Engineer's degrees AE, BE, BME, CE, CE, ChE, EE, CpE, ECS, EnvE, MSE, ME, NavE, NuclE, Ocean E, SysE, Eng
First-professional degrees AuD, DC, DCM, DDS, DMD, JD, MD (US), DPT, ND, OD, DO (US only), PharmD, DP, PodD, DPM, MDiv, MHL, DVM, PD, STB
Doctoral degrees DHSc, PhD, DPS, EdD, DEng, EngD, PDEng, DEnv, DBA, DD, JCD, SSD, JUD, DSc, DLitt, DA, MD (out of US and Canada), DMA, DMus, DCL, ThD, DrPH, DPT, DPhil, PsyD, DSW, JD, LLD, LHD, JSD, SJD, JuDr, STD, DMin

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  • academic degree — noun an award conferred by a college or university signifying that the recipient has satisfactorily completed a course of study he earned his degree at Princeton summa cum laude • Syn: ↑degree • Hypernyms: ↑award, ↑accolade, ↑honor, ↑honour, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • academic degree — certification given by a college or university to one who has completed a course of study (i.e. liberal arts degree) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Academic institution — is an educational institution dedicated to education and research, which grants academic degrees. See also academy and university.Types of academic institutions include:* Primary schools A primary school (from French école primaire [… …   Wikipedia

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  • degree — degreed, adj. degreeless, adj. /di gree /, n. 1. any of a series of steps or stages, as in a process or course of action; a point in any scale. 2. a stage or point in or as if in progression or retrogression: We followed the degrees of her… …   Universalium

  • Academic certificate — An academic certificate is a document that certifies that a person has received specific education or has passed a test or series of tests. In many countries, certificate is a qualification attained in secondary education. For instance, students… …   Wikipedia

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  • degree student — student working toward an advanced academic degree …   English contemporary dictionary

  • degree program — noun a course of study leading to an academic degree • Hypernyms: ↑course of study, ↑program, ↑programme, ↑curriculum, ↑syllabus …   Useful english dictionary

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