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A professional degree prepares the conferee for a particular profession by emphasizing skills and practical analysis over theory and research. Most but not all of the professions associated with professional degrees are professions that require licensing in order to practice as a professional in the field. For example, professional practice in architecture; dentistry; dietetics; many fields of engineering; K-12 public education; law; medicine (M.D./D.O.) or MB BCh; chiropractic; podiatric medicine; nursing; medical laboratory science; music therapy, occupational, and physical therapy; optometry; pharmacy; radiography; social work; psychology; and veterinary medicine, all require a person to first obtain a professional degree in the relevant subject area(s) prior to professional licensure, certification or registration. Other fields, such as audiology and speech-language pathology, requires the professional to earn a graduate degree as well as the additional required licensing, registration, and certification to obtain employment. Most accountants, for example, do not need a license; but only accountants licensed as a CPA may use that professional designation; only speech-language pathologists who are also certified teachers may work in the public schools, in most states; and so on.
In some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the study of vocational subjects at undergraduate level, and post-graduate qualifications outside the academic degree structure, also play a large role in professional training.
In Europe, the first academic degrees were law degrees, and the law degrees were doctorates (see Juris Doctor). The foundations of the first universities were the glossators of the 11th century, which were schools of law. The first university, that of Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 11th century who were students of the glossator school in that city. The University of Bologna served as the model for other law schools of the medieval age.
The first entry level professional degree to be granted as a clinical doctorate was the MD degree which was granted by the ancient universities of Scotland upon completion of medical school until the mid-19th century when the public bodies who regulated medical practice in the UK at that time required practitioners in Scotland as well as England to uniformly hold the dual Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degrees (variously abbreviated MB BS, BMBS, MB ChB, MB BChir, BMed and BM BCh etc.). These degrees are still awarded today, with the exception of students graduating from Southampton who are awarded MB only.
The MB or Bachelor of Medicine was also the first type of medical degree to be granted in the United States and Canada. The first medical schools that granted the MB degree were Penn, Harvard, Toronto, Maryland, and Columbia. These first few North American medical schools that were established were (for the most part) founded by physicians and surgeons who had been trained in England and Scotland. North American medical schools switched to the tradition of the ancient universities of Scotland and began granting the MD title rather than the MB mostly throughout the 1800s. Columbia University in New York (which at the time was referred to as King's College of Medicine) was the first American university to grant the MD degree instead of the MB. The MD was the first entry level professional degree to be awarded as a clinical doctorate in the United States. This was nearly sixty years before the first Ph.D. was awarded in the U.S. in 1861.
Recently there has been a world wide movement to structure professional programs as "graduate-entry" (meaning requiring a previous degree). In countries where professional degrees are undergraduate degrees, graduate-entry undergraduate programs have been established to allow students with a previous bachelors to enter the profession. This movement towards the graduate-entry model reflects an emphasis that has been placed on teaching professional skills at an advanced, intensive level. The switch to graduate entry also allows for a greater diversity of applicants who are more mature and motivated to study at the professional level.
Currently, physical therapy programs in the US are transitioning their entry-level or "first professional degree" from the Bachelors or Masters to a "doctorate" (Doctor of Physical Therapy) as well. Most countries outside the U.S. continue to only award doctorates as higher academic research degrees. Not all faculties in the U.S. have chosen to change their first professional degrees to "doctorates", and many new doctorate level programs are not as long as existing doctorates. For example in the field of architecture, the professional first degree may be either the Bachelor of Architecture or the Master of Architecture while in the field of fine art, its professional first degree is the Master of Fine Arts. There is currently some debate in the architectural community to rename the degree a "doctorate",. A growing number of universities in the U.S. have developed MPS degrees (Masters of Professional Studies) as a first professional degree before a professional doctorate.
Many of those who obtained their first professional degree outside of the United States (which may be a bachelors) are considered to have an "equivalent" qualification to their doctorate counterpart for professional reasons, but are never permitted to wear the same academic gowns as their U.S. counterparts. Equivalent does not equate to right to practice, as many are deemed not equivalent enough to grant a license to practice in the United States. Even in Canada, the medical degree of Doctor of Medicine is considered an undergraduate degree. For example, a British medical degree, the MBBS, is equivalent to the US-MD. An MBBS graduate if licensed to practice medicine in the United States is, in at least one state, allowed to use the "MD" and is referred to as "doctor" because it accurately describes their professional role.
Some first professional degrees (e.g. Juris Doctor, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Chiropractic, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Doctor of Optometry, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and Doctor of Audiology) have the term "Doctor" in the title. While such degrees are considered professional doctorates and are entitled to use the title of "doctor," they are not "equivalent" to the PhD in that PhD students generally complete a longer program that includes the production of a dissertation that adds to the knowledge in the student's field, according to the U.S. Department of Education (2008). In addition, some professional fields offer degrees beyond the first professional degree. For instance, in the United States, in order to earn an LLM, one must have received a JD. Likewise, SJD candidates must generally have an LLM, although in rare circumstances SJD candidates are admitted based on their first professional degree. Also, in the field of dentistry, MSD (Masters of Science in Dentistry) applicants must have a DDS/BDent/DMD/BDS before admission to master's programs in dentistry, and a PhD in Dental Science requires either a MSD or DDS/BDent/DMD/BDS. Joint MD/Ph.D students in the U.S. must be accepted by both the school of medicine and the graduate school of the same institution.
In medicine, the distinction between first professional and advanced degrees depends on geography. Outside North America and Germany, the first professional degree in medicine is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (B.M., Ch.B.), (M.B.B.S.), while an advanced professional degree can be a Master of Science (e.g. Surgery), and the terminal academic research degree can be a Doctor of Medicine (non-US MD) or a PhD in a medical science (e.g. Anatomy). To be eligible to apply for an MD degree from a UK or Commonwealth University, one must hold either an MBBS, MBChB, BMBS, BMed, BM or US-MD degree and have at least 5 years of postgraduate experience.
In engineering, Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are commonly awarded in the UK and Canada respectively, and the Bachelor of Science in an engineering field is awarded in the United States. In several countries the Chartered Engineer and the Incorporated Engineer qualifications represents the final stage of fully qualified professional engineer including both academic and competency components. In South America, the professional title Ingeniero is the first level to qualify as a Professional Engineer. The advanced professional degree usually awarded is the Master of Engineering, although some schools have the option of an Engineer's degree. The terminal academic research degree is the Ph.D., Sc.D. or DEng.
In addition, in the Netherlands, engineering students can earn Bachelor's (usually BSc.) and Master's degrees (usually MSc.). Those wishing to continue their education within the engineering field can continue with academic research in their field (Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D.) or a professionally applied approach (Professional Doctorate in Engineering or PDEng).
In the United States, a first professional degree in forestry may be awarded at either the Bachelor's or Master's level. Although the majority of forestry schools award a Bachelor's of Science in Forestry, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, founded in 1901, offer a Master’s degree as the first professional degree in forestry.
Some schools outside the U.S. offer professional doctorates (Pr.D) for part-time students in a broad range of full-time careers. These programs typically require 3–6 years of structured study towards advanced professional practice. Coursework is followed by a professional project that contributes to the students organization, industry or profession.
First professional versus research doctorate degrees in the United States 
The United States Department of Education (USDOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) maintain a list of recognized first professional degrees and research doctorate degrees on the USDOE's Structure of U.S. Education site. According to the USDOE, first professional degrees "are considered graduate-level programs in the U.S. system because they follow prior undergraduate studies, but they are in fact first degrees in these professional subjects. Holders of first-professional degrees are considered to have an entry-level qualification and may undertake graduate study in these professional fields following the award of the first-professional degree. Several of these degrees use the term “doctor” in the title, but these degrees do not contain an independent research component or require a dissertation (thesis) and should not be confused with PhD degrees or other research doctorates."
First professional degrees 
Below is a list of first professional degrees listed as recognized by the USDOE and the NSF:
- Dentist Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)
- Lawyer Doctor of Jurisprudence or Juris Doctor (J.D.)
- Medicine Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
- Optometrist Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
- Osteopathic Medicine Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
- Pharmacist Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
- Physical Therapist Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
- Podiatrist Doctor of Podiatric Medicine/Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
- Clergy Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Hebrew Letters (M.H.L.) or Rabbinical Ordination (Rav)
- Veterinarian Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.).
Research doctorate degrees 
Below is a list of research doctorate degrees titles recognized by the USDOE and the NSF. These degrees are not first professional degrees and are accepted as equivalent in content and level to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.
- Doctor of Arts (D.A.)
- Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)
- Doctor of Church Music (D.C.M.)
- Doctor of Canon Law (J.C.D./D.C.L.)
- Doctor of Design (D.Des.)
- Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
- Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng./D.E.Sc./D.E.S.)
- Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.)
- Doctor of Hebrew Letters (D.H.L.)
- Doctor of Industrial Technology (D.I.T.)
- Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D./S.J.D.)
- Doctor of Music (D.M.)
- Doctor of Musical/Music Arts (D.M.A.)
- Doctor of Music Education (D.M.E.)
- Doctor of Modern Languages (D.M.L.)
- Doctor of Nursing Science (D.N.Sc.)
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
- Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A.)
- Doctor of Physical Education (D.P.E.)
- Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.)
- Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D.)
- Doctor of Science (D.Sc./Sc.D.)
- Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.)
- Doctor of Theology (Th.D.)
Countries outside the United States may have different classifications for degrees.
See also 
- Landmarks in Yale’s history
- Harno, A. (2004) Legal Education in the United States, New Jersey: Lawbook Exchange, page 50.
- Graduate Entrant's Programme, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry; "Bachelor of Laws (3 Year) Graduate Entry," The University of Notre Dame, Australia.
- Albert James Harno.Legal Education in the United States. Lawbook Exchange, NJ 2004.
- "Graduate entry medicine: high aspirations at birth", Clinical Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2, April 2007.
- Joanna Lombard. LL.B. to J.D. and the Professional Degree in Architecture. Proceedings of the 85th ACSA Annual Meeting, Architecture: Material and Imagined and Technology Conference, 1997. pp. 585-591.
- "Practice, Organization and Interprofessional Issues", Wisconsin Medical Society Policy Compendium 2007.
- "Structure of U.S. Education: First Professional Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 01/05/2013.
- "Structure of U.S. Education: First Professional Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 01/05/2013.
- "Structure of U.S. Education: Research Doctorate Degrees". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 01/05/2013.
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