Professional doctorate

An applied PhD.

The professional doctorate is quite widespread in English-speaking countries, for example in the US, Australia and the United Kingdom. This is a very practice-oriented form of PhD in subjects such as health sciences, social work, psychology or economics. Whether such a professional doctorate could also be an option for Germany is under discussion.

“The career goal of professional doctorates is outside the university,” says Dr Isabel Roessler of the Centre for Higher Education. She explains that, on average, these PhD students are older than traditional PhD students and often have several years of professional experience. They therefore benefit from the fact that they are frequently familiar with the relevant issues, having dealt with them already in their daily work. This also tends to have a knock-on effect on the PhD student’s relationship with the supervisor—after all, such a student can argue more at eye level with the supervisor.

In this set-up, PhD students are more likely to be practitioners than researchers. As a supervisor, one should be able to handle situations where the protégé does not want to delve into basic research, but rather wants to learn for practical settings.