Doctor of Science

Doctor of Science

Doctor of Science (Latin: Scientiæ Doctor), usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D. is a "higher doctorate" awarded in recognition of a substantial and sustained contribution to scientific knowledge, beyond what is required for e.g. a Ph.D.


United States

In the United States, the formally recognized traditional Doctor of Science is an academic research doctoral degree awarded by research universities. The academic research Sc.D. (or D.Sc.) is recognized by both the United States Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to be equivalent to the more commonly awarded Ph.D.[1]

The first North American Sc.D. was inaugurated by Harvard University in 1872, when graduate studies first began at Harvard, and where the Ph.D. and Sc.D. degrees were first introduced in the same year.[2] The Doctor of Science research degree is earned with the formal dissertation defense and approval of a committee on the basis of original research and publications, and it is awarded predominantly in doctoral-level science programs, such as engineering, medical and health sciences, and health economics.[3]

Although rarer than the Doctor of Philosophy, the Doctor of Science research degree has been awarded by institutions, such as Harvard University,[4] Johns Hopkins University,[5] Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[6] Robert Morris University[7] and Tulane University.[8]

A few doctoral research programs offer both the Sc.D and Ph.D. degrees in the same academic field at the same university, such as Johns Hopkins University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with identical requirements for obtaining either. Currently, research programs that offer the formal research Sc.D. but not the Ph.D. degree for the same field include several doctoral programs at Harvard University[1], Boston University, The George Washington University, and Dakota State University.[9]

There are also programs where the Sc.D. and Ph.D. have different degree requirements, though the two degrees are officially considered equivalent. The Engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis, for example, requires four more graduate courses in the D.Sc program than in the Ph.D program, while the Ph.D requires teaching assistance services. The Johns Hopkins University also offers both Ph.D. and Sc.D. in certain programs [2], with only minor differences in university administration of the degrees. In some institutions, the Sc.D. has even been converted to the Ph.D.[10] For instance, the doctoral degree in biostatistics at Harvard recently converted from Sc.D. to Ph.D., even though the doctoral degree structure and requirements have remained identical.[10]

The United Kingdom, Ireland and the Commonwealth

In Ireland, the United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth, such as India, the degree of Doctor of Science is one of the Higher Doctorates. In some older universities it typically has precedence after Divinity, Laws or Civil Law, Medicine, and Letters, and above Music. The degree is conferred on a member of the university who has a proven record of internationally recognised scholarship. A candidate for the degree will usually be required to submit a selection of their publications to the board of the appropriate faculty, which will decide if the candidate merits this accolade. The degree is only exceptionally and rarely awarded to a scholar under the age of forty. The first University to admit an individual to this degree was the University of London in 1860.[11] In 1893 Maria Ogilvie was the first woman to receive this degree.[12]

In former times the doctorate in science was regarded as a greater distinction than a professorial chair and hence a professor who was also a D.Sc. would be known as Doctor. The Doctor of Science may also be awarded as an honorary degree, that is, given to individuals who have made extensive contributions to a particular field and not for specific academic accomplishments. It is usual to signify this by adding (h.c.) for honoris causa after D.Sc.


In Argentina the formal title Doctor of Science would be attributed to different fields of the hard or soft sciences. To get into an Argentine PhD program the applicant must have experience in research and at least an Engineering, Licentiate or Master degree:[13]

Applied Sciences

  • Doctorate of Agronomic Sciences (U of BA, NU of LP, NU of C, NU of R, NU of MP)
  • Doctorate of Sciences in Nutriment Technology (NU of the S)
  • Doctorate of Sciences in Lacteal Technology (NU of the L)
  • Doctorate of Sciences in Material Technology (NU of the S, NU of MP)
  • Doctorate of Computer Sciences (U of BA, NU of C, NU of SL)
  • Doctorate of Engineering Sciences (NU of C, NU of Cu, NU of RC, ITBA)
  • Doctorate of Geological Sciences (NU of C, NU of Cu, NU of SJ, NU of SL)
  • Doctorate of Informatics Sciences (NU of LP)
  • Doctorate of Basic Sciences Applied (NU of Q)
  • Doctorate of Science and Technology (NU of GS)
  • Doctorate of Geological Sciences (U of BA)
  • Doctorate of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NU of SAM)

Basic Sciences

  • Doctorate of Biological Sciences (U of BA, NU of LP, NU of C, NU of R, NU of the L, NU of Cu, NU of RC, NU of MP)
  • Doctorate of Biological Chemistry Sciences (U of BA)
  • Doctorate of Molecular Biology Sciences (U of BA)
  • Doctorate of Mathematics Sciences (U of BA, NU of LP, NU of SL)
  • Doctorate of Chemistry Sciences (NU of LP, NU of R NU of C, NU of RC, NU of MP)
  • Doctorate of Physics Sciences (U of BA, NU of LP, NU of MP, NU of SAM)
  • Doctorate of Natural Sciences (U of BA, NU of LP)

Germany, Austria, Switzerland

In Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the most common doctoral degrees in Natural Sciences are the following:

  • Dr. rer. nat. - Doctor rerum naturalium, literally "Doctor of the things of nature"
  • Dr. sc. nat. - Doctor scientiae naturalis, Doctor of Natural Sciences (less often used)
  • Dr. phil. nat. - Doctor philosophiae naturalis, used only by Goethe University Frankfurt instead of Dr. rer. nat.
  • Dr.-Ing. - Doctor of Engineering, commonly awarded from Techninal Universities, only.
  • Dr. mont. - Doctor rerum montanarum, used only by Montanuniversität Leoben instead of Dr.-Ing.

In these countries there are some related doctoral degrees with very similar names, these are the:

  • - Doctor scientiarum agrariarum, Doctor of Agricultural science
  • - Doctor scientiarum humanarum, Doctor of Humanistic Sciences
  • - Doctor scientiarum informaticarum medicæ, Doctor of Science in Medical Informatics
  • - Doctor scientiarum informaticarum biomedicæ, Doctor of Science in Biomedical Informatics
  • - Doctor scientiarum mathematicarum, Doctor of Mathematics
  • - Doctor scientiæ medicæ, Doctor of Medical Sciences
  • - Doctor scientiae musicae, Doctor of Musicology
  • - Doctor scientiarum oeconomicarum, Doctor of Economics
  • - Doctor scientarium politicarum, Doctor of Political Sciences
  • - Doctor scientiae socialis, Doctor of Social Sciences

All these doctoral degrees are equivalent to the Ph.D. but are considered to be separate degrees and should not be confused with the actual Dr.Sc. Until German Reunification, universities in East Germany also awarded the Dr.Sc. However, the East German Dr.Sc. wasn't equivalent to the Ph.D since it was adopted to replace the German Habilitation and therefore was equivalent to this German qualification. After reunification the Habilitation was reintroduced at universities in eastern Germany.

The procedure of habilitation is normally required to receive officially the "venia docendi", which entitles the candidate to lecture at Universities. The academic degree after the successful habilitatation is f.e. Dr.rer.nat.habil., by adding the suffix "habil." to the earlier received Doctors degree.

In Switzerland, the Dr.Sc. is a doctoral degree awarded only by the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. The Swiss Dr.Sc., like the D.Sc. in the US, is equivalent to the Ph.D., is earned with the approval of a committee on the basis of original research, publications, and extensive applied professional contributions and is awarded in doctoral level science and technology programs. Since 2004 the Dr.Sc. is the only doctoral degree awarded by the ETH Zurich. The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne awards several different doctoral degrees, including Docteur ès sciences techniques and Docteur ès sciences, abbreviated Dr. ès. sc. tech. and Dr. ès. sc., respectively.[14] However, all doctoral titles currently awarded by the EPFL are translated into English as Ph.D.[15]


In Poland "Doctor of Sciences" (pl doktor nauk) is the equivalent to PhD. Doctoral degrees in Poland are similar to degrees awarded in Germany.

Doctorate (Doctor of Science) is always translated into English as PhD. Just like in Germany and Austria - habilitation (doktor habilitowany or dr hab.) in Poland is the higher academic qualification, sometimes translated as DSc. The highest scientific degree in Poland is professorship (profesor), which is called a scientific title of professor.

Other European Union countries

In Czech Republic and Slovakia "Doctor of Sciences" (DrSc. behind the name) is equivalent to the degree of Doctor of Science in the sense in which the DSc is used in the Commonwealth and is the highest academic qualification. Since 2006 a "Doctor of Sciences" degree (DSc. behind the name) is awarded not by Universities but by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic mostly for research in the field of natural or formal science. In Slovakia, "Doctor of Sciences" (DrSc.) is awarded by the Academy of Sciences of the Slovak Republic.

In former Yugoslavia, the Serbian, Slovenian, etc. title doktor nauka (literally 'doctor of science') is used in a much broader sense than DSc, simply referring to a field of academic study – from art history (Sln. doktor znanosti s področja umetnostne zgodovine), philosophy (Sln. doktor znanosti s področja filozofije), and literary studies (Sln. doktor znanosti s področja literarnih ved) to hard sciences such as molecular biology (Sln. doktor znanosti s področja molekularne biologije). It is therefore formally recognized as a PhD in Western Bloc, but also counts as PostDoc since it usually takes 10 years to obtain it after "Magister of Science" title has been obtained first.

In Finland, most doctoral degrees awarded in the fields of natural sciences, technology and economics are D.Sc. degrees with a suffix indicating the field of study. For example, the proper translation for the doctorate in technology (Tekniikan tohtori) would be D.Sc. (Tech.), whereas a doctorate in economics and business administration (Kauppatieteiden tohtori) would be translated as D.Sc. (Econ.). When conversing or writing in English, the prefix Dr. may be used to address a holder of a doctoral degree awarded in Finland.

In France the Doctor of Sciences degree (doctorat ès sciences also called doctorat d'État) was a higher doctorate in the fields of experimental and natural sciences, superseded in 1984 by the habilitation.

Russia and other post-Soviet states

In Russia and various other post-Soviet states, as well as in some of the former Communist Bloc countries, the status of Russian Doktor nauk (literally 'doctor of sciences') is a post-doctoral degree and has no American equivalent but does have a Western equivalent in the degree of Doctor of Science in the sense in which the D.Sc. is used in the Commonwealth.


The higher education institutes in Uzbekistan also grant D.Sc. degrees. As an example, the National University of Uzbekistan and the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences offer D.Sc. in various fields.


In Brazil only the Doctor in Science (D.Sc.) category is recognized as a higher doctorate,[16] generally followed by the concentration area (program field).

This kind of doctorate is obtained in Graduate School after satisfactory evaluation of knowledge, research accomplishment, and thesis defense. This doctorate is comparable to a PhD program found in other countries. In the state of São Paulo, the doctorate title is the second highest academic title given by the state's universities (University of São Paulo - USP, State University of Campinas - UNICAMP and São Paulo State University - UNESP). The highest academic title is the Livre-Docência. No Brazilian University awards the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, except in the strict meaning (i.e. philosophy proper).

China, Japan, South Korea

In these countries usually ScD/DSc is equivalent to US PhD in science and obtained in Graduate School after satisfactory evaluation of knowledge, research accomplishment, and thesis defense.


Higher education institutes in Thailand generally grant Ph.D. for research doctoral degree, except some universities such as Chulalongkorn University award D.Sc. In exception, Mahidol University can grant both Ph.D. and D.Sc. Doctoral students in Faculty of Science are always awarded Ph.D., but some other programs award D.Sc.

See also


  1. ^ "Structure of the U.S. Education System: Research Doctorate Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  2. ^ "History and Organization". Harvard and Radcliffe and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  3. ^ "Research Doctorate Programs". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2007-11-07. [dead link]
  4. ^ "An Explanation of Degree Abbreviations". President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  5. ^ "Doctoral programs at the school". Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  6. ^ "Doctoral degrees". MIT. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  7. ^ "Robert Morris University D.Sc. Program: Information Systems and Communications". Robert Morris University. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  8. ^ "Tulane University Executive Doctor of Science (ScD)". Tulane University. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  9. ^ "Dakota State University D.Sc. Program: Information Systems". Dakota State University. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  10. ^ a b "HSPH Department of Biostatistics Now Offering PhD Degree". Harvard School of Public Health. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  11. ^ pages xiii and xiv of The University of London and the World of Learning, 1836-1986 by Francis Michael Longstreth Thompson. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 1990 ISBN 978-1-85285-032-6
  12. ^ Haines, Catharine M. C.; Helen M. Stevens (2001). International Women in Science. ABC-CLIO. p. 115. ISBN 1576070905. 
  13. ^ Doctorate in Sciences at the Latin American docta serch:Doctorado Ciencias
  14. ^ RS 414.133.2 Ordonnance sur le doctorat délivré par l’Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, 1 Sept 2008
  15. ^ Ordinance on the doctorate at the EPFL, 26 Sept 2005.
  16. ^ "Doutor é quem faz Doutorado :: Notícias JusBrasil" (in (Portuguese)). Retrieved 2011-08-16. 

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