New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Doctor, Ph.D.

dictionary and thesaurusIf you’re new to the blog, the Glossary of Confusing Words is where we help de-mystify some of the odd or baffling words you’ll see when researching or applying to American schools. You submit words that you’ve come across and struggled with, and we define them on the blog. Today the Glossary returns with a particularly confusing word – “Doctor.”  The person who submitted it asked:

I’m confus[ed] what’s the difference between Doctor degree and PhD. Could you help me? Thanks a lot!

You probably learned the word “doctor” as the name for a person you see when you’re ill or hurt.  A medical doctor has graduated medical school with an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree, and is referred to formally as Dr. + last name (surname).

“I think I have the flu.  I’m going to make an appointment with Dr. Smith.”

However, the term “doctor” also describes a person who has received a Ph.D. (Doctorate), the highest academic degree awarded by universities.  These doctors are experts in a particular academic subject – any academic subject.  Most full-time professors hold Ph.D.s, and this is why you’ll often hear professors called Dr. + their last name.

“Are you taking English Literature with Dr. Jones this semester?”

So, a “doctor” is someone with a medical degree OR someone with a Ph.D.

(And The Doctor is this)

What confusing words have you come across in researching or applying to schools in the U.S.?  Suggest new words for us to add to the Glossary in the comments or by using the form below.