What’s the Difference Between a Ph.D and an Sc.D Degree?

The digital age has provided many benefits to the modern world, not the least of which is making it easier for academics to not only get access to post-graduate courses and helping researchers from various disciplines gain information easily for their research. In fact, the number of doctoral degree holders in the United States actually doubled, with 4.5 million Ph.D’s being granted to academics around the country in 2019 alone, and that’s not including the other post-graduate degrees like Masters Degrees, MFA’s, MBA’s, and of course, Sc.D.

A Ph.D and a Sc.D sound quite similar: they’re both doctorates, albeit one is for Philosophy and one is for Science, and both require original research that forwards your chosen discipline. However, they have crucial differences that make them only relevant to their particular field. When choosing which post-graduate degree to take, it’s important to know the difference between Sc.D. vs. Ph.D. so that you can choose a degree that suits both your profession as well as your chosen field of study, and whether or not you’ll be pursuing more research into that field.

What is a Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy)?

Also known as a Doctor of Philosophy, a Ph.D is perhaps one of the most commonly awarded post-graduate degrees in the country, and the most well-known. It’s an indication that an individual has achieved mastery in a specific field of study and has greatly contributed to the knowledge-base of that field. Ph.D’s are awarded for a wide array of disciplines, from social sciences like comparative literature and political studies, to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects like molecular biology or theoretical physics. Ph.D holders are trained at the highest levels of research mastery, and are usually, but not always, chosen to teach as professors in universities.

Ph.D holders are usually given two career paths after graduation: tenure track and research track. Tenure-track Ph.D graduates usually continue teaching at the university where they achieved their Ph.D, usually teaching either masteral or doctoral level students and continuing to publish papers about their field of study. Meanwhile, research-track Ph.D holders almost-always choose to work/study in research institutions, furthering their knowledge about a particular subject and more aggressively publishing papers in their chosen field.

What is a Sc.D. (Doctor of Science)?

Also known as Doctor of Science, an Sc.D is one of the lesser-known post-graduate degrees in the country, and one that people aren’t completely familiar with. An Sc.D is basically the same as a Ph.D, except that an Sc.D is often awarded to people graduating in a STEM field. In the United States, an Sc.D is considered equal in training, mastery level, and prestige, as a Ph.D. However, in many countries across Europe, an Sc.D is considered higher than a Ph.D, with the latter representing the start of a person’s mastery in a particular field, in this case, a scientific one.

For example, in England, a Ph.D is usually awarded to candidates after the completion of a written thesis and an oral examination of that theses. An Sc.D, on the other hand, is awarded after a candidate submits an entire portfolio of works, including a thesis as well as further research. This means that, at least in England, a Ph.D is awarded at the start of an academic career while an Sc.D is awarded much, much later.

What’s the Difference Between a Ph.D and a Sc.D?

In the United States, the difference between a Ph.D and a Sc.D is that the former is awarded to most, if not all, disciplines, while a Sc.D is awarded to science or STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines. This means that, in the United States at least, a Ph.D and a Sc.D are equal to one another in terms of telling people about an individual’s mastery of a particular skill, training, and prestige. A Ph.D holder and a Sc.D holder are viewed as peers and equals by most, if not all, American universities.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the difference between a Ph.D and a Sc.D is that the former is awarded at the start of an academic career, while the Sc.D is awarded much later, after the individual has built up an impressive body of work.

About the Author



Scroll to Top