The Academic Doctorate
several journalists attacked Dr. Jill Biden, the First Lady, claiming that her
Ed.D. degree, Doctor of Education, is “garbage.” One writer even wrote that
only the M.D. is a legitimate doctorate. Therefore I wrote this description of
the achievements necessary to attain any academic doctor’s degree.
requirements first include a bachelor’s degree.
order to be admitted to graduate school, the candidate needs to pass the
Graduate Record Examination. That consists of a two day multiple choice exam
covering all subjects from Anthropology to Zoology. The maximum achievement is
theoretically 1000, although a passing grade is 800, or 80% correct answers.
Since almost everyone has weaknesses and strengths in various fields, those who
may know little history can make up points by showing proficiency in mathematics
or biology or anything else.
admitted to graduate schools, the candidate may wish to attain a Master’s
degree by writing a master’s thesis or by taking extra courses without a
thesis. It is recommended that someone who seeks to write a doctor’s
dissertation should write a master’s thesis and learn to write. A M.A. degree
is not needed to reach the doctoral level. Two
years of course work are usual, although a doctoral committee of at least three
professors can increase or decrease the coursework requirement.
working on the coursework, the candidate needs to exhibit a reading knowledge of
two foreign languages, which is usually French and German.
on finishing coursework, the candidate must pass a preliminary examination
consisting of five areas of competence. For example, a candidate for an Ed.D.
may be asked to write an essay of the contribution of John Dewey to American
education, and show a knowledge of early childhood education, education in a
foreign country, the history of education, adult education, and statistics. If
the candidate passes the five part preliminary examination, he is admitted to
writing a three hundred page book called a dissertation, a French word meaning
discussion. The candidate needs to ask three or more professors to be his
doctoral advisors. That committee decides whether the candidate’s proposal
concerning his dissertation topic is acceptable. It is advisable that the
dissertation topic be at least in part original. The chair of the dissertation
committee becomes the candidate’s advisor, although all members of the
committee must agree to allow the dissertation to become the principal criterion
for attaining the doctorate.
many candidates have difficulty writing a three hundred page book, at least one
half of all candidates fail to write a dissertation. Because writing books and
journal articles is the main means of succeeding in academia, some universities
have dropped the preliminary examination in favor of having the candidate write
five journal articles in professional journals. This method prevents those who
cannot write from entering a profession which demands writing books and
articles. Too many assistant professors lose their jobs because they cannot
publish. Therefore it is better that writing ability be tested in advance of
attaining the doctorate.
the dissertation is approved by the dissertation committee, the candidate must
defend his dissertation at a meeting which may be attended by any member of the
faculty. The faculty asks questions of the candidate and decides whether or not
the dissertation is accepted. It is very unusual to have a dissertation rejected
at the defense. Once successfully defended, the committee chair notifies the
registrar and the doctor’s diploma is awarded the candidate.
teaching a class is seldom a part of the education of an aspiring professor,
some newly minted doctors become teaching assistants at a university, thereby
gaining some experience in teaching a college class.
Others begin their career as an assistant professor. As assistant
professor will usually be given a one year contract, followed by a three year
contract and then another three year contract, for a total of seven years’
employment. If the assistant professor is renewed in that manner, he faces a
review of his performance after seven years. At that time his department will
recommend or fail to recommend promotion to associate professor with a lifetime
contract called “tenure” a Latin word derive from tenare, or to hold. Those
who have published enough to satisfy the department and some adminstrators are
lifetime associate professors, even if they never do one more thing. Those who
do not achieve associate professor rank are dismissed and need to find another
job, usually at a junior college that does not require scholarly publications.
associate professors who publish regularly, there are those who will be promoted
to professor, earning more money and enjoying the security of a lifetime
employment. Obviously, tenure is abused by many who simply cease doing anything
except sit on some committee. Others, who cannot write and/or teach flee into
administration, which is equivalent to giving up and leaving the profession
entirely, since administration at colleges and universities depends on politics,
not scholarship, and is most insecure since the faculty reviews the performance
of deans and other administrators every three years.
of colleges and universities are in the main politicians who know “How to
influence people” but who seldom contribute anything to a college or
university that a high school graduate could not do as well or better.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).