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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, such as the Argentina, UK, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and several Commonwealth countries, the Sc.D. is a 'higher doctorate' awarded in recognition of a substantial and sustained contribution to scientific knowledge.

United States

In the United Statesmarker, 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.

The first North American Sc.D. was inaugurated by Harvard Universitymarker 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. 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.

Although rarer than the Doctor of Philosophy, the Doctor of Science degree has been awarded by major institutions, such as Harvard Universitymarker, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker, Washington University in St. Louismarker, Tulane Universitymarker, and Robert Morris Universitymarker. Doctoral programs at Johns Hopkins University and Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker that offer the Sc.D degree also offer the Ph.D. degree - and requirements for obtaining the two degrees are identical. Currently, doctoral-level research programs that offer the Sc.D. but not the Ph.D. degree include several doctoral programs at Harvard Universitymarker[51282], Boston Universitymarker, and The George Washington Universitymarker. Also there are programs where Sc.D. and Ph.D. consist different degree requirements, though two degrees officially are still considered equivalent. The Engineering school at Washington University in St. Louismarker, 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[51283], with only minor differences in university administration of the degrees. In some institutions, the Ph.D. has even been converted from the Sc.D. For instance, the doctoral degree in biostatistics at Harvard recently converted from Sc.D. to Ph.D. - even though the doctoral-degree structure, requirements, and doctoral academic regalia have remained identical.

Commonwealth of Nations and Ireland

In Irelandmarker, the United Kingdommarker and the countries of the Commonwealth, such as Indiamarker, 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 will only exceptionally be 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. In 1893 Maria Ogilvie was the first woman to receive this degree.

The status of the degree has declined because it is not widely understood, but 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.:

Applied Sciences

Basic Sciences


In Germanymarker, Austriamarker, and the German-speaking part of Switzerlandmarker, the most common doctoral degrees in Natural Sciences are:
  • 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)

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 Humanities
  • - 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 Germanymarker 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.

In Switzerlandmarker, the Dr.Sc. is a doctoral degree awarded by the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, only. 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 Zurichmarker. The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausannemarker awards several different doctoral degrees, including Docteur ès sciences techniques and Docteur ès sciences, abbreviated dr. ès. sc. tech. and dr. ès. sc., respectively. However, all doctoral titles currently awarded by the EPFL are translated into English as Ph.D.


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 Republicmarker and Slovakiamarker "Doctor of Sciences" (DrSc. behind the name) was maybe equivalent in the degree of Doctor of Science in the sense in which the DSc is used in the Commonwealth and is the highest academic qualification. However, after 2001 it is not awarded any more. 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 DrSc. was replaced by common PhD.

Former USSR, some ex-Communist Bloc countries, and former Yugoslavia

In the former Soviet Unionmarker and the various post-Soviet states, and 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 Americanmarker equivalent but does have a Western equivalent in the degree of Doctor of Science in the sense in which the DSc is used in the Commonwealth.

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.


Most doctorate titles given in Brazil can be classified into two large groups:

1. Doutor em (Doctor in) field studied such as: Doutor em Medicina (Doctor in Medicine), Doutor em Teologia (Doctor in Theology), Doutor em Farmácia (Doctor in Pharmacy).

2. Doctor in Science (D.Sc.) followed by the concentration area (program field).

Both kinds of doctorate are equivalent and 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. None Brazilian University awards the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

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 Thailandmarker normally grant Ph.D. for doctoral degree, but some universities such as Chulalongkorn Universitymarker grant D.Sc. In exception, Mahidol Universitymarker can grant both Ph.D. and D.Sc. Doctoral student in Faculty of Science always graduated with Ph.D., but some other Colleges or Faculties grant D.Sc.


  1. 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 9781852850326
  2. Doctorate in Sciences at the Latin American docta serch:Doctorado Ciencias
  3. Ordinance on the doctorate at the EPFL, 26 Sept 2005.

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