Which Doctors can't teach?

The thread about pharmacists’ education got me thinking. Presumably one of the arguments for making the basic pharmacy degree a doctorate is that it is a terminal degree in the sense that it qualifies one for a tenure track position in a university (in Pharm School, obviously).

I know there are some non-doctorates that are also terminal degrees, such as M.Arch. and M.F.A., but the ability to teach at university level seems to be a common factor in deciding that an accademic program qualifies as a doctorate (J.D.s for example). (*Doctor[/d] of course, comes from the Latin for to teach.)

In my field of theology, however, tenure-track faculty all have Ph.D.s, despite the fact that many seminaries offer a Doctor of Ministry degree (D.Min.). A D.Min. is strictly a professional degree that doesn’t qualify one to teach at university level. (The president of my school, has a D.Min., but he doesn’t teach.)

What other doctorates don’t count as terminal degrees? Are there any? I assume that in the medical field, optometrists take classes from Doctors of Optometry and podiatrists take classes from Doctors of Podiatric Medicine as well as from M.D.s. Am I right? What about other fields?

(Speaking of doctorates in theology, I occasionally see D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) mentioned on the boards, especially as an example of a doctorate that isn’t on the same level as a Ph.D. There is no such thing as a D.D. anymore, except as an honorary degree. Pastors who call themselves Doctor usually have a D.Min., and many have actual Ph.D.s.)

Witch doctors can’t teach.

Sorry for that… :smiley:

There really aren’t any such things as universal qualifications. Many midwest colleges were started in the early nineteenth century by basically entrepreneurs who had given themselves their Ph.D.s, for example.

Most colleges tend to require a Ph.D. for the title of professor, but I act as an instructor with the equivalent knowledge of (but not formal commencement as) someone holding an M.S. Obviously, one can teach at a highly-renowned university without holding a Ph.D. In fact, one of the most famous full professors in my department doesn’t even have his Ph.D., but he’s sort of a special case.

Really, any school can let anyone teach that they want, but schools with less ability in their teaching staff will generally not be as well respected, just as schools that operate without accreditation (KOFFKOFFbobjonesKOFFKOFF) lose respect.

As far as regular colleges and such, there are no real “teaching certificate” rules.

A college will have its own rules, and the regional accreditation agency (if one is used) will have some minimal guidelines, but having a PhD is not a must in all cases.

The last college I worked at had just switched over to a “all tenure track faculty must have a terminal degree in their field” rule. But that was the college just worrying about its image and nothing more. It was accredited before and after the rule.

(Note that it only applied to tenure track faculty. Years ago, I was 21 and teaching college with only a Bachelors degree when I started out as a TA. No one walked up to me with a magic wand and said “Poof, you are qualified to teach college.”)

The college before that, our department had a large number of non-PhD faculty teaching. Doing all the low level scut courses. Some earned tenure without somehow ever being tenure track. Never figured out that one.

In my particular field of Computer Science, there weren’t any PhDs in Computer Science to teach and award degrees until the 1960s. (My “grandmother” in my advisor tree is the first person to get a PhD that said “Computer Science” on it.) Most low level colleges couldn’t attract many PhDs in Computer Science until the 1990s so they made do with Math, EE, etc. types.

One of the most famous Computer Scientists of all time, Bob Floyd, never earned a PhD. He was a Full Professor at Stanford and all that. Albert Meyer at MIT had several students finish their PhD under him before he got around to finally finishing his. And on and on.

Note that before the 60s there was no such thing as Computer Science as a field in and of itself. It became an overgrown subfield of mathematics and still many older folks in CS are “really” mathematicians, either in the style of their CS or the fact that they have other math fields of interest.

Just a big word of advice here. Never say this face to face with a Computer Scientist. You will not appreciate the reaction. It’s like calling Chemistry an overgrown field of Physics.

Computer Science is a completely distinct field from Math. I am a Theoretical Computer Scienctist and what I do uses some basic Math, but I don’t create Math. I solve problems in Computer Science that no Mathematician has the least bit of interest in.

If you want to insult a whole field, go ahead, it’s a free country. But be prepared for the consequences of insulting such a large and diverse group of people.

The second part of your statement is also wrong. The place I went to graduate school was just starting its Computer Science program at the time. (It was a “Group” when I started and only became a “Department” near the time I graduated.) Most faculty were Computer Scientists, the next largest group were EEs. There was only one ex-Math prof in the group and he retired shortly thereafter. So for something like 20 years, that department hasn’t had a single Math or ex-Math prof in it. It’s also been ranked in the top 10 CS departments during that time. The first two CS departments I taught at had no Math people in them at all. The third had 2 Math PhDs, one with a CS Masters (thesis done under one of my PhD students!), but they left soon after and the entire department has been all CS since.

I said “it became”, which is in the past tense. The theoretical field started with Church, Kleene, Turing, von Neumann, and so on. They did their early work without any instantiation of a computer. Electrical computers came later and EE fused into the field. When the field grew too large to be considered a subfield of anything else anymore, it began to break off on its own.

I said “many”, not “most” or “all”, and “older”, meaning the holdovers from the days when the field was just coming into its own. Again we run into the fact that I’m not talking about the field as it exists now, but the history of the field. Yes, it’s definitely it’s own field now, but this is new since the middle of the 20th century.

That said, read closer and grow some skin.

Hey guys, if we could get back to my actual question… (Just kidding, I don’t mind a hijack, as long as I do get answered.) I fully understand that it is possible to teach without a doctorate. I also realize (though no one brought this up) that you can have a PhD and still not be qualified to teach beans. But if I tell you that my life goal is to become a college professor in computer science or philosophy or gerbil farming, you’ll probably tell me to get my PhD first. It’s a standard, if not universal, qualification for tenured teaching posts.

The gist of my question, though, is what doctorates are not considered terminal degrees. D.Min. is one (even though I know for a fact that some seminary professors have a D.Min. and not a PhD). Are there others?

Terminal in what sense? I think this presupposes a linear academic path. As an example, many people at my university (in a different school) are “M.D./Ph.D.” students. I’d consider both of them termini: the one in the practice of medicine and the other in the study of medicine.

M.F.A. is terminal since (at least as I see it) you can only study art so much and remain an artist rather than a critic. That isn’t to say someone couldn’t get an M.F.A. in composition and a Ph.D. in music theory, but the two are aimed at slightly different targets. M.Arch. is terminal for similar reasons: the art side only goes so far, while groundbreaking (pardon) work in the science of architecture leads really more into an engineering Ph.D., which I’m sure many architects have.

Then there’s the question of what degrees there are to begin with. Really, we need to find a doper who knows someone at a company which accredits schools to see what degrees are accepted as “existing” before we can winnow them.

To clarify: As Mathochist said, an MD is a terminal degree in the practice of medicine. MDs can practice clinical medicine as well as perform as instructors in a medical curriculum. At both of the institutions with which I’ve been affiliated, MDs can and have also taught basic science courses, although this is somewhat rare.

In my experience, most people who have obtained PhDs in biomedical sciences would not appreciate being known as experts in the “study of medicine”. Medicine and biomedical science are intimately related but are highly divergent with regard to the relevance to medicine itself. For example, a PhD Genetics investigator studying fly chromosome organization has a (terminal, teaching) degree in a biomedical science but is decidedly not studying medicine.


To not-really-answer the OP with regard to clinical doctorates: MD, DO, DVM, OD, DDS/DMD and DPM are all clinical, doctor-level degrees that can confer teaching responsibilities. The terminal practical nursing degree is a master’s (corresponding to a nurse-practitioner level of training) although most nursing professors at my school have PhDs in Nursing, presumably obtained with the intent to teach and do research.


OK, I’ll clarify what I meant. The Ph.D. side for the M.D./Ph.D. students in the Medical School is in the study of medicine. The genetics researcher would go through the bio department in the Hall of Graduate Studies, if only because they’d get an insanely huge stipend and free tuition.

Depending on the school of course, those MudPhuds can study almost whatever they want as well. Out of ten, we have a few in neuroscience, a few in immunobiology, one or two who will end up in cell biology, infectious disease, epidemiology, history of med but some have been known to go into dev bio, genes or even econ. In any case, they pay no tuition and get the aforementioned huge stipend which just makes the rest of us bitter. Hey: at least they’re usually good for a few rounds at the bar.