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A first professional degree is a type of academic degree designed to prepare the holder for a particular profession by emphasizing practical skills over theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government-approved body. Areas such as law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, social work, religious ministry, or education, among others, generally require such degrees for licensing.
In practice[edit | edit source]
First professional degrees can be awarded as undergraduate or graduate entry degrees (Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate). Titling of first professional degrees in certain professional fields as a "doctorate" originated in the United States. For example, U.S. law schools once called their law degree the LL.B (abbv. Legum Baccalaureus; Latin: "Bachelor of Law") before introducing the J.D. (abbv. Juris Doctor; Latin: "Teacher of Laws"); U.S. Medical schools once granted M.B. degrees (abbv. Medicinae Baccalaureus; Latin: "Bachelor of Medicine") before they changed to the M.D. (abbv. Medicinae Doctor; Latin: "Teacher of Medicine"). Recently there has been a world wide movement to structure professional programs as "graduate-entry" (meaning requiring a previous degree). It should be noted that some graduate-entry programs have continued to call their degree a bachelors even though they may still require a previous bachelors for admission similar to their American doctorate equivalents.,, This movement towards the graduate-entry model reflects an emphasis that has been placed on teaching professional skills at an advanced, intensive level. The switch to graduate entry also allows for a greater diversity of applicants who are more mature and motivated to study at the professional level.  Currently, physical therapy programs in the US are transitioning their entry-level or "first professional degree" from the Bachelors or Masters to a "doctorate" (Doctor of Physical Therapy) as well. Most countries outside the U.S. continue to only award doctorates as higher academic research degrees. Not all faculties in the U.S. have chosen to change their first professional degrees to "doctorates". For example in the field of architecture, the professional first degree is called a Master of Architecture while in the field of fine art, its professional first degree is the Master of Fine Arts. There is currently some debate in the architectural community to rename the degree to a "doctorate", and DFA programs are growing also.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Many of those who obtained their first professional degree outside of the United States (which may be a bachelors) are considered to have an "equivalent" qualification to their doctorate counterpart in the United States. For example, a British medical degree, the MBBS, is equivalent to the US-MD). An MBBS graduate if licensed to practice medicine in the United States would be allowed to use the "MD" and is referred to as "doctor".
Some first professional degrees such as the Juris Doctor, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Optometry and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine have the term "Doctor" in the title, but they are not academic research doctorates such as is the Ph.D. degree.
- In medicine, the first professional degree is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (B.M., Ch.B.), (M.B.B.S.) or Doctor of Medicine (U.S. M.D.) or (Canada M.D.C.M. or MD), degree depending on the country, while an advanced professional degree can be a Master of Science (e.g. Surgery), and the terminal academic research degree can be a Doctor of Medicine (non-U.S. M.D.) or a Ph.D. in a medical science (e.g. Anatomy). Because they are considered equivalent medical degrees, in the United States each state board of medicine allows those who have been granted a "bachelor of medicine" overseas the right to use the title "MD" while practicing in the United States.
- In law, the first professional degree is a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Civil Law or Juris Doctor degree, depending on the University. The terminal academic research degree is the J.S.D., LL.D. or Ph.D., depending on the university.
- In engineering, Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are commonly awarded in the UK and Canada respectively, and the Bachelor of Science in an engineering field is awarded in the United States. The advanced professional degree usually awarded is the Master of Engineering, although some schools have the option of an Engineer's degree. The terminal academic research degree is the Ph.D. or DEng.
Professional degrees[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Professional degree
In some fields, especially those linked to a profession (e.g. medicine, dentistry, law, architecture, pharmacy, social work, religious ministry, engineering, accounting, education, etc.), a distinction is to be drawn between a first professional degree, an advanced professional degree, and a terminal academic degree:
- A first professional degree is generally required by law or custom to practice the profession without limitation.
- An advanced professional degree provides further training in a specialized area of the profession.
The American DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) is a requisite for the MS (Master of Science) in Dentistry which is a requisite for the Ph.D. in this field. Similarly, the American MD (Doctor of Medicine) is a notch below the MS and Ph.D. in Medical Science (such as anatomy, pathology, microbiology, etc.).
A first professional degree is an academic degree designed to prepare the holder for a particular career or profession, fields where scholarly research and academic activity are not the work, but rather the practice of a profession. In many cases, the first professional degree is also the terminal degree because no further advanced degree is required for practice in that field even though more advanced academic research degrees may exist.
First professional degrees[edit | edit source]
- Architect (BA(Arch), B.Arch, M.Arch)
- Business Administration (BBA, MBA)
- Engineering (BE, BEng, BSc, BASc, or BAI)
- Fine Arts (MFA, BFA)
- Chiropractor (DC, DCM, BChiro, or MChiro)
- Naprapath (DN)
- Optometrist (OD, B.Optom)
- Osteopath (BOst, BOstMed, BSc(Osteo))
- Education (BEd, BA, BSc)
- Physician or Surgeon: (MD, MBBS, MDCM, MBChB, BMed, Dr.MuD, Dr.med, etc) or D.O. degree.
- Dentist (DMD, BDent, DDS, BDS, BDSc, BChD, CD, Dr.Med.Dent, etc)
- Lawyer (LLB, JD, or BCL)
- Naturopath (ND, NMD, BSc)
- Pharmacist (PharmD, PharmB, MPharm)
- Podiatrist (DPM, DP, BPod, PodB, or PodD)
- Minister (BD, BDiv, MDiv, STB, STL, MTh, STM, DThP, or DPT)
- Physical therapy (BSPT, MSPT, DPT, or DPhysio)
- Psycologist (PhD, PsyD, or ClinPsyD)
- Nurse (BSN, BSc)
- Veterinarian (DVM, BVS, BVSc, VMD, BVMS, etc.)
- Library science (MLIS, MLS)
- Information Science (MSIS, (MISM)
- Social worker (BA, BSc, BSW, MA, MSc, or MSW)
- Biotechnology (BSc, BS, or ALM)
- Oriental Medicine (BSc, MSOM, MSTOM, or DOM)
A first professional degree is generally required by law or custom to practice the profession without limitation. An advanced professional degree provides further training in a specialized area of the profession. Below are some examples of advanced professional degrees.
Typical advanced professional degrees[edit | edit source]
- Education (EdD or DEd)
- Divinity (DD or DMin)
- Business administration (DBA)
- Social Science (DSocSci)
- Medicine (MD or DM) (if granted outside of the United States): (advanced degree in countries that award a bachelor degree in medicine or surgery as first professional degree, usually awarded for outstanding research to a particular field of Medicine)
- Dental Science (DDSc) (advanced degree in countries that award a bachelor degree in dental surgery as first professional degree, usually awarded for outstanding research to a particular field of Dentistry)
- Surgery (MS, MSurg, MCh, ChM, or MChir) (Usually granted after completion of surgery training program in conjunction with a research thesis)
- Dentistry (MDS, MSD, MDSc, or DClinDent) (these are usually granted at the culmination of a specialty training program in dentistry in those programs that also require research and a thesis to be completed)
- Engineering (MEng)
- Ministry (DMin)
- Worship Studies (DWS)
- Science (MS, MSc) (also offered in medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy)
- Psychology (PsyD)
References[edit | edit source]
- Graduate Entrant's Programme, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
- Bachelor's (LL.B.) Program, The University of British Columbis 
- "Bachelor of Laws (3 Year) Graduate Entry," The University of Notre Dame, Australia.
- Albert James Harno.Legal Education in the United States. Lawbook Exchange, NJ 2004.
- "Graduate entry medicine: high aspirations at birth," Clinical Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, April 2007.
- Joanna Lombard. LL.B. to J.D. and the Professional Degree in Architecture. Proceedings of the 85th ACSA Annual Meeting, Architecture: Material and Imagined and Technology Conference, 1997. pp. 585-591.
- Practice, Organization and Interprofessional Issues," Wisconsin Medical Society Policy Compendium 2007. 
- "First Professional Studies," U.S. Department of Education.
See also[edit | edit source]
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