PhD, Dr? Its all the same isn’t it?

We live in a society that has a ludicrous undertone. It is a society where a PhD means nothing more then being allowed to add a few initials after your name, or a Dr title before it. What is interesting to me at least is the fact that everyone can be a Dr in whatever subject they chose. This makes no sense, as it implies that all Dr titles are equal and therefore the same. When nothing could be farther from the truth.

First let’s look at the studies. A medical Dr (MD) needs a minimum of 7 years of study and then a specialization to become a Dr. Which means at least 10-11 years as a minimum. Scientists need 5-6 years and then another 4 years for a PhD, making it similar to an MD. However, there is an incredible variety in the scientific research¬†conducted. For example epidemiologists have a relative easy job during their PhD because all they need to do is collect data and then start correlating that data to different diseases, symptoms etc. This is a very easy way of getting publications which at the end is what scientists are judged by. If on the other hand your PhD is setting up a new model system (whether its using animals, cells, plants or bacteria) to study something specific, that has not been studied previously is said laboratory. Then you are looking at a much more complex and time consuming PhD, which will lead to less publications, because even if (and that’s a BIG IF!) you get it to work it will mean only one single publication.

So is every PhD the same? No It isn’t!

Does everyone get the same degree at the end? Yes they do!

Is that unfair? You bet!

What can we actually do about it? Well for now the only thing people do is distinguish the kind of PhD based on their subject group meaning history, literature, science etc. Next to that the only real way of knowing is looking at the papers that got published although those also will not tell you if that person did the work by himself or with others. It is a tricky business and one that is unfair but then again most of life is unfair…

Now comes the next question… You have your PhD what can you actually do with it?


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