What is a Doctor of Science Degree?

In 2014, I finally graduated after several years of intensive work from the University of Baltimore with a Doctor of Science degree in Information and Interaction Design. At the time I graduated people started asking me about my credential and whether or not it was the same as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

What is a Doctor of Science?

There are many articles online regarding this very topic. In some countries a Doctor of Science (often abbreviated as either Sc.D. or D.Sc.), is considered a different type of credential than what is considered in the United States. In the U.K. for example, an Sc.D. is considered a higher degree than the traditional Ph.D. This type of qualification there is only obtained by senior scholars in their field of study. In some cases it is bestowed as an honorary title.

United States and the Department of Education

Since I graduated in the United States, I was interested on how this credential was looked upon here. Rather than refer to the numerous posts and articles on this subject, I went straight to the definitive authority, the United States Department of Education. According to the Department of Education, Doctor of Science is simply an alternative to the Doctor of Philosophy degree. It is considered to be an equivalent research doctorate. Under Structure of the U.S. Education System, a document entitled Research Doctorate Degrees clarifies what the Department of Education considers equivalent to the traditional Ph.D. The list includes ‘frequently awarded research doctorate degree titles accepted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as representing degrees equivalent in content and level to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.’ The Doctor of Science degree (Sc.D. / D.Sc.) is listed here among several other research doctorates including the more well known Doctor of Arts (D.A.), Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.), and several others.

Ph.D. vs Sc.D. Options

Some institutions within the United States provide an option for students to choose either a Ph.D. or Sc.D. route in their studies. Sc.D. is typically associated with subjects within the science and technology fields. For example, John Hopkins offers the Doctor of Science within the Bloomberg School as an alternative to the Doctor of Philosophy for several of their health technology programs. Other universities do not provide the option and simply offer the Sc.D. as their doctoral program, such as with the University of Baltimore’s Information and Interaction Design program, from which I graduated.

Bottom Line

To summarize, while the Doctor of Science degree can vary in meaning internationally, here in the United States it is considered to be the equivalent to the more commonly awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree by the United States Department of Education as well as by the National Science Foundation.


Image Credits: Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash.

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