How to get the title ‘doctor’ without completing a PhD

We at The Profs know that achieving a PhD or doctorate is a result of hard work and dedication. Recognised globally as one of the most prestigious degree courses out there, the PhD, or ‘Doctor of Philosophy,’ opens doors to professional academia and higher education. 

This title is attained through the submission of a thesis or a series of academic publications, under the guidance of an academic supervisor. 

However, there is also the honorary PhD, or ‘Doctor Honoris Causa,’ which is bestowed upon individuals for outstanding achievements through their work rather than university studies. Examples of renowned recipients include Muhammed Ali, US President Bill Clinton, Meryl Streep, and Billy Joel!

The title of ‘Doctor’ can also be achieved through professional doctorates, enabling you to engage in both work and research at the same time on a flexible basis. This approach not only lets you apply your discoveries to real-world issues rather than theoretical ones, but it also facilitates the development of expertise in a specialised field. 

This article will delve into some of the globally renowned doctoral degrees that may not earn you the PhD, but will bestow upon you the title of ‘Doctor’!

We at The Profs have a lot of experience in helping students secure their offers for postgraduate degrees at the world’s top universities! It’s no wonder that 95% of our students get into their first or second-choice universities! When it comes to your university application, why not give us a try? Secure your future today.

The origin of the professional doctorate

The USA led the way in fancy professional degrees. In 1921, Harvard gave out the first “modern” professional doctorate, the Doctor of Education (EdD), around the same time Oxford dished out its first PhD in the UK. Then the UK hopped on the bandwagon, bringing in its first professional doctorate, another EdD, at the University of Bristol in 1992.

After that, more specialised doctorates like the Doctor of Engineering (EngD) and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) emerged.

Unlike the ancient PhD from medieval times (12th-15th century), the professional doctorate is a relatively new deal. It started in the mid-20th century when people realised some jobs needed more than a Master’s but didn’t require the deep thinking of a classic PhD. 

These programmes aimed to help professionals in areas like education, business, psychology, social work, and more.

Interested in how you can obtain a PhD? Chat with our team. We can guide you through choosing the right institution, applying and getting your offer! In fact, our PhD tutors can even support you throughout your PhD so that you achieve as high as possible.

How exactly can you become a doctor?

There are three main ways that you can become a doctor. You can either conduct independent research, conduct research through professional development and earn a professional doctorate, or be granted an honorary degree as an award through your contributions to society.

Here are a few examples of professional doctorates…

1) Doctor of Engineering (EngD)

Choosing between a Doctor of Engineering (EngD) and a PhD depends on individual career goals, preferences, and the desired balance between academic research and practical application. Opting for an EngD is attractive for those inclined toward applied research and the direct application of engineering principles in real-world settings. 

Unlike the PhD, which emphasises theoretical research, the EngD programme focuses on industry collaboration and solving practical engineering challenges.

A significant advantage of the Doctor of Engineering lies in its industry-oriented focus, allowing candidates to work closely with companies and gain insights into current industry practices, challenges, and emerging technologies. This collaborative approach fosters a strong connection between academia and industry, equipping candidates with directly transferable skills.

EngD graduates seamlessly integrate into professional roles, bringing both theoretical knowledge and a practical understanding of addressing real-world engineering problems.

For admission, most universities require a 2:1 undergraduate degree and/or a Master’s degree in relevant subjects, with equivalent-level degrees considered. English language requirements may apply to international students. Checking specific admission requirements for chosen courses is crucial.

EngD graduates have diverse career paths, ranging from becoming professors to contributing expertise in research labs. 

They can also establish ventures, focusing on innovations such as green energy, biomedical processes, or advancements in global communication platforms, allowing them to shape their careers in alignment with their passions and the evolving needs of society.

Make sure to take a look at some of our expert Engineering tutors if you wish to succeed in an EngD or career in Engineering!

2) Doctor of Medicine (MD)

It is unsurprising that the first thing we think of when we hear the word ‘doctor’, is the world of medicine! Wanting to become a specialised medical doctor is often a very big decision and it can take many years to complete a medical degree. 

However, as with many of the doctorate programmes listed, it’s possible to pursue a profession in one subject even after having previously studied another subject. Unsurprisingly though, this will take a lot of work, requiring rigorous levels of study and practice.

Graduates who wish to become general doctors in the UK can either apply for a 5-year undergraduate course in medicine or a 4-year graduate entry course for those who have already studied a life science-related degree at the undergraduate level. 

Entry to these courses is subject to a strong UCAT, MCAT, or SJT exam score, a passionate personal statement, a strong interview, and high undergraduate and secondary school grades. The traditional BMAT has been cancelled, meaning you can no longer use this to get into medical school.

A scientific background is often preferred, but not always necessary. The entry requirements differ depending on the university so it’s worth looking into what you need for your chosen course as soon as possible! 

Once you have completed an undergraduate medical degree, you can either apply for a PhD in Medicine or commit to a professional doctorate, whilst working as a medical doctor, to become a Doctor of Medicine (MD), through a 4-year part-time inter-disciplinary partnership with a medical association (this will most likely be the NHS if you are UK-based). 

Either route would grant you a high level of recognition within the medical field, whilst working towards your MD by combining clinical research with your medical practice. 

After obtaining an MD, common specialised professions include medical directors, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, and anaesthetists, all with respectable average salaries! In any case, if you are considering a career in medicine, you are likely to earn the title of doctor in one way or another!

If you are considering becoming a medical doctor, feel free to take a look at one of our other articles, ‘A Guide to the Medical Application Process’, to learn how to perfect your medical school applications!

3) Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

A degree can significantly enhance one’s credentials in the business world, with an MBA being a popular choice for those transitioning into business from other fields. However, for experienced professionals seeking to advance further in their careers, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) could be the ideal course. 

The DBA, representing the highest qualification in Management, involves up to two years of academic literature study and an additional two years dedicated to designing and executing an original research project, culminating in a dissertation focused on one domain.

DBA programmes are typically part-time and may not require physical attendance at a university campus. For example, London’s The Shard offers an attractive part-time DBA course in partnership with the University of Warwick, involving two years of study and two years of research, with periodic visits to The Shard for workshops and collaborative projects.

The programme demands a minimum 2:1 bachelor’s degree and seven years of management experience, with a subsequent interview due to its competitiveness. 

Researching specific business schools is essential, as not all offer DBA programmes. Pursuing a part-time PhD can be an alternative if working simultaneously. For more information regarding this course feel free to visit their website.

A DBA, particularly when earned in collaboration with a business school, can set individuals apart in executive-level positions. Graduates can excel in various business areas and choose paths such as academia or industry leadership roles. Regardless of the chosen direction, obtaining a DBA is a valuable step for those with a future in business!

Make sure to reach out to one of our amazing Business Management tutors to get the best help for your studies!

4) Doctor of Education (EdD)

The EdD is an advanced degree in the field of Education that prepares graduates to succeed in leadership roles in higher education. Those who are interested in taking this course are likely to be experienced teachers, university lecturers, and educators. It is a good course to take if you wish to be a headteacher, a dean of students, or an educational researcher. 

You might also want to become an education policy advocate, or even enter a management position at a college or university. With a degree like this, you will obtain the highest capacity to oversee the educational development of thousands of students at once!

The EdD has its historical origins in the United States, where research universities, initially focused on awarding doctorates in sciences and arts during the late 19th century, gradually expanded their offerings to include professional fields by the early 20th century. The first professional degrees in Medicine and Law were followed by the emergence of doctorates in education, prompted by societal demand for skilled practitioners. 

The inaugural Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education was conferred at Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1893, while the first Doctor of Education (EdD) degree was granted at Harvard University in 1921. 

Since then, this course has become available in several other countries, and the growing need for educational leaders all over the world is still expanding today!

To enrol in this degree programme, the minimum prerequisite is a 2:1 undergraduate honours degree, accompanied by a minimum of two years of professional experience within any educational setting. 

Universities and other higher education institutes tend to assess applications on a general basis. Individuals without a strong honours degree, yet possessing significant professional experience, are usually still considered.

It is important to stress that this qualification does not replace initial teacher training. If you wish to qualify as a teacher you should instead consider a PGCE or other postgraduate teaching qualification. 

For more information feel free to read our useful guide on the PGCE and QTS, ‘How to prepare for the PGCE’ which is a very popular route towards becoming a teacher! Better yet, why not get in touch with one of our fantastic PGCE tutors here?

5) Doctor of Social Science (DSocSci)

The title ‘Doctor of Social Science’ (DSocSci) is an esteemed academic designation awarded to individuals who have successfully finished an advanced research programme within the social science domain. 

This qualification is designed to cater to the requirements of seasoned professionals seeking a refined academic comprehension of the challenges influencing their field. 

Simultaneously, it aims to cultivate a cohort of forward-thinking practitioners equipped with a comprehensive understanding of both theoretical principles and practical insights essential for executing their professional responsibilities at the utmost level of proficiency.

Many UK universities will instead offer a DPhil in Social Science or a PhD in the subject, neither of which are professional doctorates. However, many slightly less established universities offer DSocSci degrees. For instance, the University of Leicester, although not a Russell Group university, offers this degree. 

Entry to their course requires a relevant Master’s degree, ideally with a distinction, alongside a detailed outline of an initial research proposal, which will be significant in determining eligibility for entry. The programme offers a combination of online and in-person classes, providing an excellent option for individuals who are employed and wish to pursue part-time studies. 

Those who earn this degree can be considered for senior management positions in social work, political consultancy, and human resources, although others can choose to remain in academia. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic degree to put down on your CV!

If you’re serious about securing your future as a Doctor of Social Science, reach out to our expert tutors who can make this happen.

6) Doctor of Nursing/Nursing Science

Similar to Social Science, many prestigious universities offer Nursing at the PhD level, making it a popular choice for individuals seeking to advance their research. 

However, nurses seeking a professional doctorate, specifically a DNursing or DNurs degree, may need to explore non-Russell Group universities in the UK, such as the University of Essex, the University of Manchester, Keele University, and Oxford Brookes University. 

It’s important to note that some programmes may have eligibility restrictions, including being available only to UK citizens, so carefully reviewing the specific requirements of your chosen course is essential.

In the United States, individuals interested in obtaining a professional doctorate in Nursing have two options: the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS or DNSc). These degrees share similar course structures and offer opportunities for students aspiring to leadership roles in the field of Nursing.

Admission to these programmes typically requires a robust Master’s degree in Nursing or another area of Health Science, coupled with several years of experience working as a Nurse in a certified medical practice.

Completing any one of these degrees will present you with the unique situation where you are technically both a doctor and a nurse, without necessarily having a PhD to show for your efforts!

If you are one day hoping to become a nurse, The Profs has an extensive team of highly qualified Nursing tutors, who are willing to do all it takes to make that dream happen! 

7) Doctor of Law (DLaw)/ LLM Law (Juris Doctor)

The Doctor of Law (LLD or Legum Doctor) is an honorary academic degree bestowed in recognition of significant contributions to the legal field. Unlike the Juris Doctor (JD), which is earned through formal legal education, the Doctor of Law is an honorary title acknowledging achievements in legal scholarship, jurisprudence, public service, or the legal profession.

Recipients of the Doctor of Law often include distinguished legal scholars, judges, practitioners, and individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the legal community. 

In contrast, the Juris Doctor is a prerequisite for practising law in the USA, while in the UK, an LLM Law course can fulfil this requirement, serving as a pathway to Bar exams in various jurisdictions.

Requirements for the LLM Law course in the UK typically include a 2:1 Bachelor’s degree, a high LNAT score, strong English language skills, supporting documentation, and a successful formal interview.

Despite its competitive entry, completing this course not only allows international law practice but also grants the prestigious title of ‘Doctor’ in the field, providing an edge in the legal profession.

At the Profs we see a lot of students that want to study Law at university. We know what it takes to secure a successful future in law, just ask our expert Law tutors. Check out our blog if you wish to know what it takes to write the perfect personal statement for an undergraduate degree in Law!

8) Doctor of Music (DMus)

The Doctor of Music (DMus), though not highly sought after, is an esteemed doctoral degree suitable for musicians aspiring to excel in academia, musicology, arts administration, or higher leadership positions in composition, typically studied with a music conservatoire rather than a university. 

For instance, The Royal College of Music, London, is a globally recognised institution offering this programme to accomplished composers or performers, granting the coveted ‘Doctor’ title and international recognition as a highly competent musician or composer, approved by the British Royal Family.

To enrol in the programme, a robust Master’s degree is typically required, along with a demonstrated understanding of both theoretical and practical aspects of the chosen field. 

Applicants must showcase awareness of essential research skills and the ability to formulate a feasible project, with alignment between the proposed project and the expertise of the intended supervisor at the RCM. 

Despite structural differences from a PhD in Music, the DMus includes mandatory performance and composition components for professional development. 

It is crucial not to confuse the DMus with the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), as the former is exclusive to institutions in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, and some Commonwealth countries, while the latter is available exclusively in the USA. 

Despite geographical distinctions, all these degrees hold equal significance for those pursuing advanced music studies, offering notable choices in where and how to study at this level. Possessing any of these degrees will undoubtedly enhance your profile in the field of music!

If you are looking for some of the best Music Performance tutors in the world, check out our world-class tutoring services here!

Funding for professional doctorates

Funding availability for doctoral studies varies based on factors such as subject discipline, institution, nationality, and residency. It is essential to review the eligibility criteria for any advertised funding sources or studentships. 

Whilst many doctoral candidates secure sponsorship, others bear the financial responsibility themselves. In the UK, common sources of doctoral funding include:

  1. Research council funding: This is typically obtained through institutions. Detailed information can be found on institutional websites or the relevant research council’s site for the specific subject discipline.
  2. Institution funding: This could include full studentships, scholarships, fee waivers, and various schemes allocated through an open application process. Details are usually accessible on individual institutions’ websites.
  3. Charitable or private funding: This may require more effort to discover unless the organisation is well-known, such as the Welcome Trust or the Leverhulme Trust. Guidance from academics or professionals in the field may be helpful.
  4. Collaborative funding arrangements: Where doctoral studentships are offered in collaboration between an institution or research organisation and an external body, like an industrial company. Specific details are likely provided in related studentship advertisements.
  5. Employer sponsorship: Where some employers may co-fund employees pursuing doctoral studies as part of a broader staff development policy or on an ad-hoc basis.
  6. Self-funding: A common approach in certain disciplines. Self-funded candidates may use private loans, savings, or employment income to finance their doctoral studies.
  7. Government funding: This is offered to prospective postgraduate students with degrees in fields in the form of student loans.

Regardless of your decision, when it comes to funding options, it will be in your best interest to make a decision earlier rather than later as some options require early applications which may take some time to be approved if you are at all successful.

It is also important to make sure that you have invested time in applying for multiple sources of funding if the original application or request for funding is rejected or denied. It’s never a bad idea to be overprepared when it comes to your future!

How can we help?

There are many different ways to become a doctor, whether this is through independent research, continuous professional development, or an honorary degree. However, the global recognition and esteem associated with a professional doctorate attracts working professionals and international companies from all over the world. 

Through our award-winning private tutors and expert consultants, we can help you choose the perfect PhD and institution as well as secure an offer! We can even support you while you are doing your degree so that you earn top grades. We’re with you every step of the way!

Our expert team is committed to success, so it’s no wonder that we have remained the highest-rated tutoring company on TrustPilot since 2016! Make sure to reach out to one of our dedicated tutors and you can become one of our success stories! 


Can you use the title ‘doctor’ without a PhD?

Yes, the title ‘doctor’ is not exclusive to PhD holders. It can be used by individuals who have earned other doctoral degrees, such as EdD, JD, or even a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), depending on their field of study and professional qualifications.

Which PhDs are most in demand?

It’s noteworthy to highlight that all five of the most sought-after doctorate degrees in 2023 belonged to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is expected to persist as a prevailing trend, given the escalating interest in STEM studies, which aligns with the increasing demand for professionals in STEM-related occupations.

Why do a professional doctorate?

Choosing to pursue a professional doctorate can be a strategic decision for various reasons:

  1. Integration of work and research: Professional doctorates enable individuals to seamlessly blend work commitments with research pursuits. This integration allows them to directly apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations in their professional sphere. 
  2. Flexibility: In contrast to traditional PhD programmes, which often require full-time dedication, professional doctorates are crafted with flexibility in mind. This adaptability accommodates the schedules of working professionals, making it feasible to pursue advanced education while meeting job responsibilities. 
  3. Real-world application: Professional doctorates emphasise the application of research findings to real-world problems. This hands-on approach ensures that the knowledge acquired during the programme is directly pertinent to the challenges faced within the specific professional field. 
  4. Specialised expertise: These programmes often concentrate on specialised areas within a profession, allowing participants to become experts in a particular niche. This specialised expertise can enhance career prospects and contribute to advancements within the chosen field. 
  5. Title of ‘Doctor’: While not conferring a traditional PhD, professional doctorates still bestow the prestigious title of ‘Doctor.’ This recognition can boost professional credibility and open doors to leadership roles and career opportunities. 
  6. Networking opportunities: Enrolling in a professional doctorate programme provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with other professionals in their field. Networking within academia and industry can lead to collaborations, knowledge exchange, and career advancement. 
  7. Practical research skills: Professional doctorates often prioritise the development of practical research skills that can be directly applied in the workplace. This practical orientation enhances problem-solving abilities and contributes to the participant’s effectiveness in their professional role. 

In summary, opting for a professional doctorate is a strategic choice for those who seek to advance their knowledge, contribute to their field, and enhance their professional standing – all while maintaining a balance with their ongoing work commitments.

Do you have to be a medical doctor to be called a ‘Doctor’?

No, the title ‘Doctor’ is not exclusive to medical doctors. While physicians often hold an MD (Doctor of Medicine), the title is also applicable to individuals with doctoral degrees in various fields, including education (EdD), philosophy (PhD), law (JD), and others. The use of ‘Doctor’ depends on the specific academic or professional qualification.

Can you use the title ‘Doctor’ if you have an honorary doctorate?

Yes, individuals who receive an honorary doctorate can use the title ‘Doctor’ as a courtesy, but it’s important to clarify that this is an honorary title. Unlike earned doctorates, honorary doctorates are awarded for contributions to a field or society and do not involve completing a formal academic programme.