I read that a "Doctor of Science" is awarded for research well beyond a usual PhD degree awarded for a dissertation work and includes a portfolio of high quality papers in interdisciplinary fields. Does this mean that one cannot actively pursue this degree and one can never be certain of how close one has come to a DSc? How does career planning at such a stage look like?

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    Without being an expert on the subject, my feeling is that when you're eligible for a DSc according to the criteria you listed, you are an expert of such calibre that no one cares what your titles are and your name is much more important than having a DSc or not.
    – Gimelist
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 11:04
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    Browsing the wiki page, it seems the title, in the sense you describe it here, only exists as an honorary title "rarely awarded before 40" in Ireland, the U.K., and some countries of the commonwealth (like India), as a special distinction considered more valuable than a professorship. It is also apparently thus used in the Czech Republic, and maybe in Uzbekistan. Additionally, it used to be what is now a habilitation in be old GDR, and in France (which essentially, if accepted, establishes tenure for a tenure track professor in some systems). Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 17:17
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    In all other cases it's just another name for a Ph.D, or whatever the local name for a doctorate is. In the latter case, you get it as usual; in the former, it's either no longer in use, or someone confers it to you many years after your Ph.D. Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 17:18
  • @gnometorule Can you please turn this comment into an answer, so that I can vote for it?
    – jakebeal
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 11:25
  • I can't help but feel like this will become the carrot for PhDs to chase as they waste away as permanent post docs.
    – HEITZ
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 22:53

3 Answers 3


I own a PhD, but it is the first time I've heard of "Doctor of Science". In the former Warsaw pact countries and some Western European countries there are two level of doctorate. First is the "canonical" PhD and second is called something like "habilitation" which allows you to have PhD students and conduct your teaching in an independent manner.

I see two reasons you asked the question:

  1. in your country, for a certain reason (for example, having own PhD students) you require this title. In this case, ask your Department of Education what are the exact requirements for this. If they legally require such a title, they also provide a clear path to get it.

  2. you look for a title. Simple put, the simplest approach in this case would be to identify universities offering this title, join a program and earn it.

The way you asked the question makes me thing you fall in the second bucket. Probably the following story will help you rethink your course of action: Legend has it that one of the founding fathers of Shotokan Karate-do is asking a student at a seminar what is her most ardent desire. The student replies that she wants to have the black belt. The master replied that he can easily confer the black belt, but would that make her a better karateka?

  • Another reason for asking the question might be idle curiosity. For example, Austria has so many titles - some sound really funny so that I would like to find out what they mean. Of course, without having a desire to obtain them.
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 20:18
  • @yupsi, having read this post, I've been trying to find out what a DSc is. The University of Sunderland makes a rather bold claim "Higher Doctorates are rarely awarded and they are elite qualifications that will mark you out as an outstanding contributor to your field" - sunderland.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/higher-doctorate Of course, this was probably written by the marketing department.
    – user2768
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:30

The meaning of a DSc degree almost certainly varies by country. In my experience in the commonwealth (i.e. UK, Australia, New Zealand) it is an honorary degree. That means you don't "pursue" it; it isn't attained by being a student. It's more of a "lifetime achievement award" -- you get it as a result of a long and successful career in science. The usual course is that you get a PhD first, then become a Lecturer/Professor, and after, say, 20 years, if your research track record is sufficiently outstanding you apply/are nominated for one and get awarded it as a special guest at the graduation ceremony (usually from the same university that gave you your PhD).

  • Looking at the UK (the first country mentioned), google.com/search?q=Dsc+site%3Aac.uk suggests a DSc isn't an honorary degree and that you must pursue it. E.g., one result is titled "Guidance for candidates applying for the award of DSc" (emphasis added). You're right, in some sense, that you needn't be a student and you get it as a result of a successful career, indeed, you must "submit a selection of their publications to the board of the appropriate faculty, which will decide if the candidate merits this accolade" - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Science
    – user2768
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:26
  • @user2768 Yes, I did say that you may apply for a DSc. But you're right that it's a bit different to normal honorary degrees, so it depends on your definition of an honorary degree.
    – Thomas
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 9:43

The meaning of a "doctor of science" degree definitely varies by country.

For instance, the standard degree in Germany depends upon what kind of program one studies. As an example, the doctorate for natural science is normally "Dr. rer. nat." (Latin for "doctor of science") while engineers get Dr.-Ing. degrees, and an engineer could not apply for Dr. rer. nat. Either could get a Ph.D.

In the US, fewer schools offer the Sc.D. At MIT, the two degrees are interchangeable, but at other schools there may be slight differences, although there is no expectation of significantly more work.

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