If I understand it right, Graduate school means MS, PhD, or both, but a Doctoral program means just PhD. Is this correct?

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    Graduate school doesn't only point to MS, it points to masters in general, such as M.Tech, M.E., etc.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


In general, a Doctoral program ends in a Ph.D ("doctor of philosophy"). If the program does not grant doctorate degrees, it cannot be doctoral. However, a doctoral program may end in a master's degree. For instance, if I chose not to finish my doctoral program, I could instead get a master's degree on the basis of the coursework and research I've done so far.

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    And even if you do go through to the PhD, you usually were awarded a master's degree at some point along the way (e.g. after passing prelims successfully).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 21:29
  • @JonCuster Sort of, I think. My understanding is that I'd be wrong to style myself as "First Lastname, M.S." unless I first applied for and was granted the degree, even though I've completed the requirements.
    – zeldredge
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 21:31
  • Mine showed up on my transcript after passing prelims (that was some time ago). On transcripts I review these days during hiring decisions I see it all the time - after the course work and prelims, you get a master's awarded. So, I consider it pretty common. You should check your transcript! (Although I never styled myself with a master's - that wasn't what I was going for).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 21:34
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    @JonCuster 'Usually' is, I think, too strong. Some places you do, some places you don't.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 6:19
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    @JessicaB is right. In Europe, for example, Masters and Doctorates are separate things. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 6:26

You are correct that "graduate" study is the broader term. As I understand it, "doctoral" study leads to an academic doctorate, such as a PhD or an EdD -- not to a doctorate of professional practice such as an MD or JD.

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