Do teachers really need a PhD to teach? I guess the origin of this requirement was that people with PhD's were probably the only source of knowledge (unless someone is willing to go to a library, get professional help, and pour through volumes of books). However, knowledge is freely available nowadays along with organized and structured content on several topics.

On the other hand, most Professors with PhDs are trained well in doing research, but they have minimal to no training in teaching. The incentive structures for tenure processes also focuses a lot more on academic publications and grants, and no so much on professional development in teaching.

So, I ask again, wouldn't the students be better off having a teacher with only a MS degree but with training in pedagogical techniques, as opposed to someone with a PhD with neither training nor interest in pedagogy?

  • Two minor quibbles: (1) Teachers don't usually have PhDs, but professors and lecturers usually do. (2) MSs aren't given out e.g. in English. May 8, 2020 at 16:03
  • 3
    Seems like duplicate of this question.
    – ff524
    May 8, 2020 at 16:03
  • Many teachers had a qualification from CGLI and annoyed the Church back in the day... The Church had the position that educating the great unwashed would lead to revolution... Now look at the position of the Church...
    – Solar Mike
    May 8, 2020 at 16:19
  • I started teaching university courses with only a master's degree. However, at least in the United States, to advance in academic rank and become tenured almost always requires a Ph.D. Two-year institutions may be an exception; I've never taught in one.
    – Bob Brown
    May 8, 2020 at 19:11
  • At my school, and in particular in my department, there are lecturers who do have only their MS, but those are more anomalies than regularities; most have "Professor" in their title and have their PhD
    – Daveguy
    May 8, 2020 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


You're asking a question to which you already know the answer (no, a PhD is not the real measure of someone's qualification as a college teacher) but to which you offer no alternative.

Many other professions have the same kind of requirement: Lawyers need to pass the bar exam. Doctors need to go through residency and pass exams. Engineers need to be licensed. None of these formal qualifications are good matches for all aspects of a professional's job profile, but they are sort of the best anyone can come up with to ensure some kind of measurable qualification.

In the case of professors: For better or worse, professors need to both do research and teach. It may be true that a PhD primarily measures quality in the former, but teaching well also has a component of actually knowing the material and having a PhD is a reasonable assurance that someone actually understands the stuff they teach. Of course, it would be good if professors had more pedagogical training, but the same would apply there as well: How would you ensure that a candidate for a job has that training? By asking that they have taken a course and can produce a corresponding certificate? One might in that case point out that there, too, are many ways to accumulate pedagogical knowledge and that asking for a certificate is erecting an unreasonable bar in the same way as you suggest with the PhD.

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