What Exactly Is a Doctorate?

Ever wondered what getting a doctorate really means? Matt Might, professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah, explains it perfectly in this graphic presentation that starts with a simple circle:

Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is.

It's hard to describe it in words.

So, I use pictures.

Read below for the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?
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By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?
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By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?

With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?
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A master's degree deepens that specialty:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?
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Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

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Once you're at the boundary, you focus:

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You push at the boundary for a few years:

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Until one day, the boundary gives way:

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And, that dent you've made is called a Ph.D.:

Illustration for article titled What Exactly Is a Doctorate?
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Of course, the world looks different to you now:

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So, don't forget the bigger picture:

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Click to viewKeep pushing.

Matt Might is a professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah. He finished his dent at Georgia Tech in 2007, and now enjoys advising his own Ph.D. students on how to make theirs. He tweets from @mattmight and blogs at blog.might.net.

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DISCUSSION

the title of this article is somewhat misleading. A Ph.D is a particular doctorate degree, but not all doctorate degrees are Ph.Ds or even research based. Many professional degrees are also doctorates. I have a J.D., which is a doctorate, and medical doctors have an M.D. Pharmacists now have Pharm.Ds and even physical therapists now have a DPT, a doctorate degree.