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PhD vs. DSc — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Published on May 12, 2024
A PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is a widely recognized doctoral degree focusing on original research, while a DSc (Doctor of Science) is a higher doctorate awarded for a substantial contribution to knowledge.
PhD vs. DSc — What's the Difference?

Difference Between PhD and DSc


Key Differences

The PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is a doctoral-level degree awarded across various disciplines, emphasizing original research, critical thinking, and the creation of new knowledge. It typically requires the completion of a dissertation that demonstrates the candidate's ability to conduct comprehensive research and contribute new findings to their field of study. The journey to a PhD involves coursework, comprehensive exams, and an extensive research project culminating in a dissertation defense.
The DSc, or Doctor of Science, is considered a higher doctorate in some countries, awarded to scholars who have made significant contributions to their field beyond that required for a PhD. A DSc is often awarded for a portfolio of published works that collectively represent a substantial advancement in the scholar's field. Unlike the PhD, which is pursued through a structured program of study and research, the DSc is typically awarded to individuals who have already achieved a significant professional standing and have a considerable body of work.
PhDs are recognized internationally as a standard qualification for academic and research positions, serving as a prerequisite for careers in academia, research institutions, and sometimes in specialized roles in the private sector. The focus is on training researchers who can advance knowledge in their fields through rigorous study and experimentation.
DSc degrees are less common and are not available in all countries. They serve as a recognition of a lifetime of scholarly achievement, often awarded later in an academic's career. DSc recipients are recognized for their leadership in research, contribution to policy, or practice in their field.
The choice between pursuing a PhD or aiming for a DSc later in one’s career depends on individual career goals, the field of study, and the opportunities available within the academic and professional landscapes. While a PhD is a path to becoming an established researcher, a DSc is a mark of distinction for those who have already made significant contributions to their discipline.

Comparison Chart


To train for original research and contribute new knowledge.
To recognize substantial contributions to a field beyond a PhD level.


Dissertation based on original research.
Portfolio of published work demonstrating significant contributions.

Program Structure

Structured program with coursework, exams, and research.
No structured program; based on existing body of work.

Field of Study

Across all academic disciplines.
Primarily in sciences, but can include other fields.

Career Path

Academic positions, research, specialized industry roles.
Senior academic and professional leadership, consultancy.

Compare with Definitions


The degree is essential for academic careers and research positions.
A PhD in chemistry is often required for a career in pharmaceutical research.


A DSc is awarded for a significant contribution to knowledge, often through published work.
A physicist receiving a DSc for groundbreaking research published over a decade.


A PhD is a research degree requiring a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to the field.
A biology student discovering a new species during their PhD research.


The degree signifies a lifetime of scholarly achievement.
A mathematician awarded a DSc for contributions to the theory of computation.


It is open to various disciplines, including humanities, sciences, and arts.
Completing a PhD in English Literature by analyzing unpublished manuscripts.


The DSc is typically pursued by those with an established career.
A senior researcher in biotechnology earning a DSc for developing new drug therapies.


PhD candidates undergo rigorous coursework and examinations before focusing on research.
Passing comprehensive exams in physics before starting a dissertation on quantum mechanics.


DSc candidates are recognized leaders in their field.
An engineer recognized with a DSc for innovations in sustainable building design.


PhD studies emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills.
Developing a new theoretical framework in psychology through PhD research.


It is considered a higher doctorate than a PhD in some countries.
An academic being awarded a DSc after many years of contributing to environmental science.


An American doctorate usually based on at least 3 years graduate study and a dissertation; the highest degree awarded by a graduate school

Common Curiosities

Can you pursue a DSc directly after a bachelor’s or master’s degree?

No, a DSc is awarded to individuals with an established career and a substantial body of work, often after earning a PhD.

Is a DSc higher than a PhD?

Yes, a DSc is considered a higher doctorate, recognizing significant contributions to a field beyond what a PhD represents.

What fields offer a DSc degree?

While more common in sciences, the DSc can be awarded in various fields, depending on the institution’s criteria.

How long does it take to complete a PhD?

Typically, a PhD takes 3-7 years to complete, depending on the discipline and the nature of the research.

Is a PhD necessary for an academic career?

Yes, a PhD is generally required for academic positions, particularly in research and teaching at the university level.

Can you earn a DSc in humanities or social sciences?

Yes, while less common, some institutions may award a DSc in these fields for outstanding contributions.

Why would someone pursue a DSc after obtaining a PhD?

Pursuing a DSc may be a way to achieve further recognition for one's contributions to their field.

How does one apply for a DSc?

Application processes vary, but generally, candidates must submit their published work and sometimes a supporting statement to a review panel.

Do all universities offer DSc degrees?

No, not all universities offer DSc degrees. Its availability depends on the country and the institution’s policies.

Are there any coursework requirements for a DSc?

Typically, there are no coursework requirements for a DSc; it is awarded based on a portfolio of significant work.

What is the main difference in the requirement for a PhD and a DSc?

A PhD requires original research culminating in a dissertation, while a DSc requires a substantial body of published work.

Can a DSc lead to better career opportunities than a PhD?

A DSc can enhance one's reputation and opportunities in academia and research, recognizing a lifetime of achievement.

What makes a PhD dissertation different from a DSc submission?

A PhD dissertation is a singular, in-depth research project, while a DSc submission is a collection of work demonstrating a sustained contribution.

Is there an international equivalence to a DSc?

Some countries offer similar higher doctorates under different names, recognizing equivalent scholarly achievements.

What is the value of a DSc in the professional world?

A DSc can significantly enhance one's professional stature, indicating a high level of expertise and contribution to their field.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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