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Health Professional Acronyms

Is there a doctor in the house?


Updated June 06, 2014

You've read an article online and the author makes some claims that you wonder about. Something doesn't sound quite right. But the article was written by a "Dr.", so it must be true. Right?

The use of the title "Dr." means that the person has completed an advanced degree program. While it often refers to an M.D. or a Ph.D., it can legitimately be used by many others. Generally three to four years are required beyond a bachelor's degree, and an internship or residency may be required. Here are some of the U.S. and Canadian doctorate degrees:

M.D. - Medical Doctor. This one you already knew, right? Psychiatrists are usually M.D.s (although some are D.O.s -- see below).

Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy. This is the traditional academic doctorate. A Ph.D. is qualified to teach at a college or university. Psychologists often have this degree. In psychology, a Ph.D. can be in Clinical Psychology (with a focus on research and practice), Counseling Psychology (with a focus on practice in less pathological populations), School Psychology (although many school psychologists do not get a doctorate), or just Psychology (many experimental and social psychologists at colleges have this). You can also get a Ph.D. in Social Work, nursing, and even things like English, Mathematics, and Philosophy.

Psy.D. - Doctor of Psychology. This is a clinical psychology degree that places more emphasis on practice than research. Psy.D. programs developed to train practitioners who would keep up with research but might never do much research.

D.O. - Doctor of Osteopathy. Osteopaths generally get the same residency training as M.D. physicians. Their medical schools include additional training in physical manipulation techniques somewhat similar to chiropractic.

D.D.S. - Doctor of Dental Surgery - A dentist.

D.S.W. - Doctor of Social Work. An advanced social work degree, often held by educators in social work.

Ed.D. - Doctor of Education. Many schools of education confer this degree. A recipient can be a psychologist, an educational administrator, or someone in another education-related field.

DCM - Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine - A chiropractor.

D.Min. - A minister. - possibly a doctoral level pastoral counselor, but not always. Th.D. or D.Div. are also used.

J.D. - Doctor of Jurisprudence - An attorney. Some mental health professionals also have law degrees.

D.C.H. - Doctorate of Clinical Hypnotherapy. Is this a real degree? It is certainly not a standard doctorate. It is offered by the American Institute of Hypnotherapy. This degree should not be equated with the above degrees.

To search for the meaning of a health care professional acronym, visit the Better Health Channel's dictionary.

Keep reading for information on other degrees: Mastering the Material

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