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Doctor of Philosophy vs All But Dissertation: What’s the Difference?

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A doctorate is a lifelong goal that only a select few people pursue and attain. In general, it can be said that fewer people have been awarded the title of PhD than ABD. Doctoral degrees are demanding and call for the highest standards of academic writing and research.

The dissertation is sometimes regarded as the most difficult component of earning a PhD. Because of this, the term “ABD,” which stands for “all but dissertation,” has become widely used to refer to doctoral degrees.

What is a Ph.D. Candidate vs ABD?

One who has enrolled in a doctoral program is referred to as a PhD student. Candidates, known as learners, may do their coursework on campus, online, or a combination of the two.

In the pursuit of a research doctorate, understanding the distinction between ABD and PhD is crucial. And as you prepare for this journey, learning how to write a coaching resume could add an extra layer to your professional profile.

In order to graduate from a conventional PhD program, candidates must earn a certain amount of coursework credits and pass prerequisite tests. The dissertation research, writing, and defense procedure come after this.

ABD status puts you one step closer to finishing your PhD, but it is academically meaningless. This means that you can’t use the title “doctor” until your dissertation is complete.

Who is a Doctor of Philosophy?

The greatest level of academic achievement is a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), which is a doctorate research degree. Typically, three to four years of full-time study are needed to get the title. A Doctor of Philosophy will conduct research for and compose a thesis that makes a unique contribution to the field.

Who is a Doctor of Philosophy?

What is an All But Dissertation?

Students pursuing a PhD must also finish a dissertation, a lengthy research paper that demonstrates the student’s ability to make important independent contributions to their field of study.

After finishing the required courses, choosing their electives, and succeeding in the comprehensive test, students begin the project known as a PhD thesis. The student is required to demonstrate her knowledge of a subject of study and to make a fresh, original addition to it in her dissertation.

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You can only get the title of doctor if you have successfully completed your PhD and completed your dissertation. ABD is part of a doctorate and brings you one step closer to finishing your PhD, but it’s academically meaningless. You can only call someone a doctor that finished the dissertation.

Applying for a PhD

Generally speaking, admission to PhD programs is competitive; however, this varies by subject and program. There are essentially two ways to obtain a PhD, and both of them start with finishing a bachelor’s degree in an institution of higher education with accreditation.

After earning an undergraduate degree, it is often feasible to enter a PhD program; in this instance, students may need to devote five or more years to rigorous study and training before finishing the program.

You can apply either with a rolling admission vs regular decision, about which you can find more information on our website.


A master’s degree in that field of study is often required for entrance to a program in that subject, and the average length of time to complete one of these programs is closer to four years.

All But Dissertation (ABD) or Ph.D.? Regardless of the stage you’re in, knowledge is power. Uncover details about the worst colleges in America and make an informed decision for your future.


ABD students pursuing a PhD should unquestionably include this experience on their resume. It still represents a significant accomplishment and signals to potential employers that you have completed your education.

Always include PhD ABD in the education part of your resume and include your previous research experience on resume. If you want to know how to list Ph.D. ABD on resume, you can find more information on the website.

To know the differences between cover letter vs application letter and where to mention PhD ABD, you can read about it on our website.

Why Do People Quit at Their ABD?

When you are ABD, all that is left for you to accomplish is your original research before working with your advisers and the members of your dissertation committee to write your dissertation.

Surprisingly, the completion percentage for PhD students is still low at 56.6%. This means that students won’t finish their doctorate programs, despite spending years and thousands of dollars on graduate school.

At this point, when it is hardest to pursue a degree, it may become incredibly unstructured and lonely. For many students, this stage is difficult on an emotional, psychological, social, and practical level in addition to an academic one.

An ABD doctorate student must learn how to handle their personal affairs, stay focused, make the most of their time, fight off exhaustion and despair, and get beyond any lingering academic challenges.

Why Do People Quit at Their ABD?

What Can You Do With an ABD?

Although the term “ABD degree” may occasionally appear, it’s crucial to realize that ABD is not a degree. Students who receive an ABD status do not have the same chances as PhD recipients.

For instance, you need a PhD, not an ABD, to apply for a job in the academic world. If you can demonstrate that you’re quite near to earning your doctorate, you can, in some extraordinary circumstances, be qualified to apply. Those circumstances are uncommon, though, as the academic employment market is very competitive.

However, you won’t lose out on any employment chances if you leave your PhD program without your dissertation. The difference between ABD vs PhD is that for academic jobs, a PhD degree is needed, while looking for jobs outside the academic world a PhD degree is not needed.

What Can You Do with a PhD?

PhDs are often meant to lead to academic careers because they are research degrees. It may be compared to an apprenticeship in which students learn from academic professionals how to conduct their own research.

When they graduate and get their degrees, most students want to work as professors at universities. Although academic professions are extremely competitive, PhD program abilities frequently translate effectively to other sorts of careers.

Some graduates decide they would rather teach than do research and go on to work as professors at liberal arts institutions or even secondary schools. Others hold jobs that require a lot of research, whether they are in the public or private sector or at think tanks.

So, What’s the Difference?

The path to a PhD is filled with significant turning points. One of the most important is using the acronym “ABD,” which stands for “everything but dissertation” in academia. This title, obtained after finishing the required curriculum, is a key step toward receiving a PhD.

Your education will undergo a big transformation as you go from being a graduate student to being labeled as ABD. This transition will provide problems as well as possibilities. But this shouldn’t be the destination. A PhD is the final destination and the only destination where you get a degree.

The difference between an ABD vs PhD candidate is that an ABD is not a degree by itself, nor a title. You can only call yourself a doctor if you have completed your entire education and got past the dissertation.


Is ABD a real title?

ABD is a figure of speech used to describe a situation that many graduate students find themselves in and is not actually a title. However, it is used to indicate to people where you are in your PhD program while having no academic status.

Which is better a doctorate or PhD?

No, a PhD falls under the doctoral category. Hence neither is superior. One of the most popular forms of doctorate degrees, the PhD, commonly known as the Doctor of Philosophy, is given to graduates in a wide range of disciplines.

What degree is higher than a PhD?

It is the third and last cycle in the evolution of higher education and the highest academic degree that may be granted. For anybody thinking about a future in academia, such as eventually becoming a professor, these research degrees are all but a requirement. They require a large investment of a candidate’s time, money, and energy.


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