Nov 10 2023

Diploma, Master, Doctor, PhD, Medical Doctor and Postdoc: What is difference?

Tony Hanson

PhD Sharing

There are some degrees and study levels after completing the undergraduate program. This article will provide basic information to distinguish the most popular study levels and degrees from well-known countries in education like the UK, Australia, and US. 

What is a Graduate Diploma?

This degree is only popular in UK and Australian universities or some countries that are still influenced by the UK education system. The Graduate Diploma is a kind of “tutoring” degree, issued for the following people: 

(1) those studying courses other than the undergraduate courses they already have

(2) those who do not have the ability or conditions for direct entry to Master's level. Students are not required to do a graduation thesis. Today, the number of students enrolled in the Graduate Diploma is decreasing, as schools are competing with each other to recruit students directly at the Master's level. Approximately one-quarter of the courses of the Graduate Diploma program are in the Master's program.

What is a Master Degree?

As at the bachelor's level, the two degrees Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S. or M.Sc.) are the most common. However, there are other professional degrees such as Master of Economics, Master of Law, Master of Engineering… In the US, there are more than 489 different Master degrees.

The Master's program, like the Graduate Diploma programme, is aimed at training technical professionals for government agencies and industrial companies. After graduation, these people must have a professional ability that is both deep and solid, able to meet the actual needs of the company or agency. Master programs are usually for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in the same discipline.

However, at present, the admission requirements of many schools have been extended to students who are off the field. In these cases, working experience is often considered to compensate for the lack of relevant background. Master's programs can last for 1 year (in the UK and some European countries), 1 and a half years (in Australia) or 2 years (in the US).

It is also important to note that the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is often distinguished from regular Master programs. MBA programs often emphasize management subjects, they require candidates to have experience working at a manager level. In most education systems, MBA programs are more expensive than other Master's programs.

What is a Doctorate or PhD Degree?

The Doctorate program is aimed at training professional scientists or senior researchers. These people play a key role in science, and at the same time are the source of teaching staff for universities. The time spent on study and research is usually from 3 to 6 years. In the research period, the PhD student should publish at least 1 scientific article in a quality conference or journal to  write and defend his thesis. The thesis is usually reviewed and approved by 3 reputable professors or scientists. The students often receive PhD Scholarships from projects of Professors to do his  research. 

In Western countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, a doctorate degree is the highest in the graduate education degree system. However, there are some differences in the designation of this degree between countries.

Doctor Degree

In the UK and Australia, there are three distinct types of doctorates: M.Dc (Doctor of Medicine) dedicated to medicine; D.Sc (Doctor of Science) for all sciences; and Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is open to all disciplines, including medicine or science. In these countries, D.Sc. is generally more highly regarded than a PhD and M.D. because one of the conditions to enter the training program D.Sc are: applicants must have a PhD or M.D. at least 10 years.

We should not confuse the D.Sc of Australia, UK and USA. In the US, the highest level is a PhD degree. Other separate doctoral degrees such as D.Sc. (Doctor of Science), Dr.P.H. (Doctor of Public Health), Dr.Eng (Doctor of Engineering) … are only equivalent, but not ranked higher than PhD. 

What is the difference between a Doctor and PhD? 

In English, people holding PhD, D.Sc and M.D are called "Doctor". However, there is a difference between an M.D. of Australia/UK and M.D. of America. Unlike in the US, where medicine is taught as a graduate program (Graduate study, i.e after a student has completed a Bachelor's degree); In Australia and the UK, medical students are recruited directly from high schools, and therefore a medical program is considered undergraduate, despite the equivalent training time.

While medical students in the US graduate with an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine), their Australian colleagues graduated with two M.B. and B.S. (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery). It should be added that although the degree is a bachelor's degree, their title is "Doctor".

The nomenclature differences in this medical degree across countries highlight the diverse paths aspiring doctors take, emphasizing the global nature of the medical profession.

In Australia, doctors with M.B or B.S may enroll in further study in the Ph.D. or M.D. program. The PhD program has the purpose of training doctors into professional scientists, capable of independent research. The M.D. Program aims to train doctors to be clinical science experts rather than basic science. Typically, students have to do one or two clinical studies and write a thesis based on these studies. Study program M.D normally 2 to 3 years (shorter than Ph.D). Therefore, the Australian and British M.D degrees do not have the same meaning as the M.D degrees. of US.

What is Postdoctoral?

When a PhD student completes the doctorate program,he also undergoes an "internship" period that typically lasts about 1 to 5 years. Researchers in this stage are often referred to as "Post-doctoral fellows". In fact, in this stage, the candidate is not awarded any degree at all, because this is the stage where the PhD student has to work under the guidance of an experienced professor, and through that gradually develops on his own. This is also the time when the PhD student has the opportunity to become an independent researcher. Therefore, a Postdoctoral fellow is not a degree, and should not be considered as an advanced PhD.


Tags: Graduate Diploma,Master Degree,Doctor Degree,PhD degree,Postdoc level