What are the differences between doctorate (PhD) and Russian graduate school?

We tell you what differences there are between Russian graduate school and foreign PhD programs, as well as why the degree is called Doctor of Philosophy, what advantages it provides, and how to get this degree at foreign universities. 


What is a PhD?

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is the highest academic qualification that can be obtained at foreign universities. It is awarded to students who have completed a PhD program in the USA, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Australia, India, Singapore and others. Only those who have completed bachelor’s and master’s programs can obtain a degree. The training takes more than three years, during which time students conduct socially significant research and defend a dissertation. A PhD degree opens the door to the real world of science and, according to statistics, increases wages by 1-1.5 times. Thus, the salary of a PhD in the USA ranges from $55,000 to $200,000 per year. This is what the average salaries of specialists with a PhD look like according to the portal :

Why Doctor of Philosophy?

The PhD degree, although it stands for Doctor of Philosophy, is not associated with philosophy. Researchers in a variety of fields can earn this degree. Why? Its name is simply connected with the history of European education. In the Middle Ages, students at Europe’s oldest universities received four types of degrees: in medicine, law, theology and philosophy. And philosophy meant everything that was not related to medicine, law and theology. It was only from the Middle Ages that the term “philosophy” began to become less vague and, eventually, philosophy became an independent scientific field. But the name of the degree remained the same.

Popular PhD specialties

The direction in which the researcher has received academic recognition is indicated as follows: PhD in Media Researches, or “Doctor of Philosophy in Media Research.” You can get a PhD in any field, but the following areas are considered some of the most popular and promising: physical therapy, pedagogy, chemistry, clinical psychology, electronics, communications engineering, physics, audiology and linguistics.

Russian postgraduate study and PhD: what are the differences

Russia joined the Bologna Agreement in 2003, and since then the structure of Russian education has changed dramatically. But domestic universities have not yet completely switched to the European system.


Russian universities still focus on the two-stage gradation of academic degrees of the German model and award two types of academic degrees: candidate of sciences and doctor of sciences. Bachelor’s and Master’s students receive relevant qualifications, but do not receive degrees. In the master’s program, the student is just beginning to prepare for research activities, and in the graduate school one can receive the first scientific degree, officially confirming the status of a scientist – candidate of sciences.

In countries with the Bologna Agreement, a three-stage system operates and at each educational level students receive an academic degree:

1. Bachelor’s degree – lowest academic bachelor’s degree;

2. Master’s degree – master’s degree;

3. Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Bachelor’s and Master’s levels in Russia are not legally considered scientists until the Russian Federation implements the Bologna recommendations. 

Thus, starting from bachelor’s degree, students of foreign universities are already officially assigned the title of scientist, albeit of the lower categories. Step by step, performing research work and undergoing complex training, university students gradually reach the highest level – PhD. In Russia, graduate school is not considered as such: it is only the first stage of academic education. After this there will be doctoral studies, in which scientists are awarded the degree of Doctor of Science. But here again there is a discrepancy: there is no such degree in foreign countries. And it is not correct to equate Russian doctoral studies with a foreign PhD degree. As a result, despite the differences, PhD degree is translated as a candidate of science degree.

A Candidate of Sciences degree and a PhD degree are not the same thing.

It is very difficult for students who have completed Russian postgraduate studies to prove that their diploma is equivalent to a PhD Diploma. Many foreign universities consider Russian diplomas as Postgraduate Diploma. Often universities translate the degree of “Candidate of Sciences” as PhD candidate, which is also incorrect. A PhD candidate is a graduate of graduate school who will only defend a dissertation for the award of a degree.

PhD and Sc.D

In the American education system you can find another abbreviation: Sc.D. It stands for Doctor of Science and is historically related to the Latin term ScientiaeDoctor. The term is interpreted slightly differently from university to university, but there are no big differences from PhD: this degree is awarded to researchers who have written a doctoral dissertation and thus received recognition in the scientific world. Often Sc.D. awarded by branch of science, for example, Doctorate of History – Doctor of Historical Sciences.

Is it possible to get a PhD in Russia?

At the moment, there are two scientific degrees left in Russia – candidate and doctor of science. However, more and more universities are introducing an alternative to Russian graduate school, the PhD program. To achieve this, domestic universities cooperate with foreign universities, offering double degrees and student exchange programs. The Ministry of Education is considering the inclusion of the PhD program as an additional one in the Russian education system.

How to get a PhD abroad?

To enroll in a foreign university for a PhD program, you need:

  • Have completed higher education – bachelor’s and master’s degrees;
  • Provide letters of recommendation from university professors and a language certificate;
  • Pass the GRE exam to study in the USA or UK;
  • Provide an admission thesis – a thesis about future research.

Once admitted to university, graduate students focus on independent research and consult with supervisors. A PhD program usually lasts three years and ends with a PhD thesis, or dissertation.

PhD Study Opportunities

Some universities allow admission to graduate school in a completely new discipline that has nothing to do with the candidate’s experience. For example, a similar practice exists in Canadian universities. In addition, Canadian universities offer four-year postgraduate programs: they are entered immediately after a bachelor’s degree. Such courses, in fact, combine master’s and PhD courses and represent an accelerated course.

Knowledge of the language of instruction

The language requirements for those wishing to study for a PhD are as high as possible: at the highest educational level you need to have excellent knowledge of the language, and for those studying history, linguistics, philosophy and art, knowledge of several foreign languages is welcome. If we talk about English, you will need an IELTS certificate with results of at least 7.0 or TOEFL with 90 points.


When entering the USA, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of Asian countries, you will need to pass entrance exams for the level of analytical and mathematical skills. The tests are complex and require preparation, which should begin at least six months before the test.

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