A professional degree is a graduate-level college degree that prepares you for specific professions and only has value in particular careers. Two common examples are “JD” and “MD” degrees. The “JD” (“Juris Doctor”) applies to legal education, and the “MD” (“Doctor of Medicine”) applies to medical education. Professional degree programs are accredited by specialized accrediting agencies. For individuals seeking professional licensure, each state-level licensing board determines its policies concerning degree requirements, the accreditation of awarding institutions, and alternative paths to licensure. Licensure policies can vary by state and by profession.

The U.S. Department of Education has the following standards for professional degrees:

  • 6 academic years of college work, including prior college work plus the length of the professional program itself
  • Completion of academic requirements to begin practice in the profession
  • At least 2 years of college work prior to entering the program

Here’s a list of common professional degree titles:

  • Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.)
  • Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
  • Doctor of Dental Science (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)
  • Doctor of Jurisprudence or Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine/Osteopathy (D.O.)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine/Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
  • Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Hebrew Letters (M.H.L.), Rabbinical Ordination (Rav)
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)

Professional degree differ from academic degrees. Academic degrees are focused on scholarly work, can apply to multiple professions, and aren’t usually overseen by governing bodies in most cases.

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