A doctorate – or Ph.D. – (doutoramento) is an academic or professional degree that certifies the holder’s ability to develop research and, in most countries, qualifies them to teach in the specific field of their certificate. With the implementation of the Bologna Process, of which Portugal is a signatory, this degree is equivalent and recognized across most European countries, namely those implementing the Bologna Process. At this level, it is expected from the student that he or she is able to work in an independent and creative manner. The ability to do so should be demonstrated by the creation of new knowledge and validated by being published or obtaining patents. In order to pursue a doctorate, a student needs to demonstrate good research qualities and experience, as well as achieve high marks in graduate studies.
The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach.” The “licentiate” degree is shortened from the full Latin title licentia docendi, which means “teaching licence”. In some countries, the highest degree in a given field is called a terminal degree and a distinction is sometimes made between terminal professional degrees and terminal research degrees.
Since the Middle Ages, there has been considerable evolution and proliferation in the number and types of doctorates awarded by universities throughout the world, and practices vary from one country to another. While a doctorate usually entitles one to be addressed as “doctor,” usage of the title varies widely, depending on the type of doctorate earned and the doctor’s occupation. In Portugal and in the African Countries of Portuguese Official Language, it is common to use the title “Dr.” (supposedly the abbreviation of “Doutor”) in reference to people with “Licenciatura” or “Mestrado” degrees. Thus, “Doutor” is commonly used in the extended form to denote someone with a doctorate. “Professor Doutor” is used with professional career teaching doctorates, usually university professors. The male title is “Dr.”/”Doutor”, while the female title is “Dra.”/”Doutora”.
Broadly speaking, doctorates may often be loosely classified into the following categories:
In Portugal, all doctoral programs are of research nature. Usually 3 or 4 years of study are required, mostly as a period of research. The student must write a thesis presenting a new discovery or contribution of their own to Science. If approved by his/her “supervisor”, the study will be presented to a panel of distinguished scholars. If the panel judges the thesis favourably, the student will be awarded the doctorate.
Before the Bologna Process reform, a “Licenciatura” was something between a Bachelor’s (“Bacharelato”, now extinct) and a Master’s, and it represented 4 to 6 years of graduate studies.
After the Bologna Process reform in Portugal, the new “Licenciatura” degree is equivalent to the old “Bacharelato” (Bachelor’s with 3 or 4 years). There are also the “Mestrado” (Master’s degree) and the “Mestrado Integrado” (integrated Bachelor’s and Master’s degree with 5 or 6 years, required in order to access some professional fields). Successful completion of these is required to undertake doctoral studies.