Terminated

August 23, 2013

The Twitt @TellDrTell wondered:

This brings up the question of what is meant by the “terminal degree“, and this way of phrasing it focuses on one aspect of the concept, namely the “highest” degree.

For many fields of endeavor, some sort of degree that includes the word “Doctor” is the terminal degree. These ones are familiar to my audience.

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD or DPhil if you are a Brit)
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)

These terminal degrees happen to predominate in our research fields and in the population of PIs who secure major grant awards. There are also others of potential interest to this audience, including

  • Juris Doctor (JD. Did you know lawyers can call themself “Doctor”? Why don’t they?)
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.; fraught with implications)
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)

If you hold only one Doctoral degree then presumably most folks would agree this is the highest one. But @TellDrTell wondered which to consider the highest one if a person holds two doctoral degrees.

Wikipedia and other sources tend to distinguish research degrees from professional degrees. In our usual pool of Doctoral letters, the Ph.D.s are research degrees and most of the other ones are professional degrees. This is underlined by the fact that most of the dual Doctoral degree subpopulation holds a PhD and one of the so-called professional degrees.

Being a research degree, obviously the PhD is higher, better and/or more terminal.

But wait. The Wikipedia lists a whole other bunch of research doctorates, like Doctor of Management and Doctor of Modern Languages, that you’ve never heard of and sound like some scam to avoid doing a Doctor of Philosophy in the respective subjects. In more familiar terms, there are PhDs in both Pharmacology and Psychology, so the PsyD and PharmD seem like lesser degrees to some folks. More limited.

Obviously those are lesser than the professional doctorates in Medicine, Dental Surgery, Veterinary Medicine and Juris. Wait, Juris? Is that law degree more “terminal” than a Ed.D. that was awarded after 6 years* of painstaking thesis research?

Gaaah!

Okay, let’s just say the Ph.D. is the best, all others are lesser and you should list your Ph.D. as your highest degree if you are also a M.D. or a D.V.M.

Unless you went to a combined M.D./Ph.D. program, in which case I think you are this, but not separately either a M.D. or a Ph.D.. And yes, unsurprisingly, I have heard at least one M.D., Ph.D. speak of how awesomely better this is than those lesser M.D./Ph.D. folks**.

And since it is usually a Doctor of Philosophy in [Subject], and the sciences are the most awesome, I think we can safely say that if you have two degrees in which one is a Ph.D. [Science] and the other is Ph.D. [Philosophy], the latter*** is the higher one. And you win the entire world’s respect.

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*I don’t actually know the duration of Ed.D. programs.
**Gawd, I love academics.

***Because Philosophy squared

Thought of the day

August 21, 2013

The entire point of being an academic, science or otherwise, is to understand and evaluate different ways of thinking about something!!!!!

Reader Poll

May 17, 2013

Slightly NSFW so after the jump….. Read the rest of this entry »

Why do many urban jurisdictions ban the keeping of a rooster but you think banning established dangers to life and limb (instead of mere sleep/wake cycle) is the equivalent of racial discrimination?

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*having just learned at PhysioProf’s blog that Jack Russell terriers are “statistically” dangerous just like pitbull terriers perhaps we are getting at the real problem. Terriers.

Every year we get an annual safety meeting from our EH&S department and they show us a bunch of instructional slides on how to handle various laboratory hazards around the campus. They always include a few chuckles, like the guy operating plugged-in powertools standing on a ladder immersed in a pool, the guy Lincoln welding the gas tank of a truck propped up on a couple of bricks..that sort of thing.

And of course we go down the list of hazards from the chemical to the radiological to the microbiological. My department is usually in full eyeroll mode most of the time because of a simple fact. You know what never happens on our campus (touch wood)? We never have a Ebola infected African green monkey head for the hills. Nary a hantavirus rodent plague. Maybe someone gets a little sloppy with some low grade radioactive material now and again but that’s rare. We don’t have people getting infected with various nasty viruses and virulent (hmm) strains of bacteria they work with.

But you know what does happen on our campus? Regularly? Like 2-3 times a year?

Some chemist blows up a hood, erupts a waste bottle, causes a fire in the lab bays or otherwise renders a building uninhabitable. In dramatic fashion.

Causing the Fire Department to have to respond and anyone working in the building to lose at least a day.

It is always the chemists.

I have never really understood why.

They sure do get huffy when they themselves are the ones being subjected to open peer review.

Apparently some epic dumbasses decided that the common housecat, bloodthirsty lethal little murder-cat killing machine that it is, wasn’t quite badass enough.

What. Is. Wrong. With. People?