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Types of Research Degrees

There are three types of Higher Degree by Research offered to graduates:

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a higher degree by research course in which a student, under academic supervision, conducts independent and specialised research, disseminating the results of this research in either a written dissertation, portfolio of published works or creative work with an exegesis.

The maximum duration of the PhD course is 4 years full-time equivalent enrolment. Students have a target date for thesis submission of 3 years (36 months).

Course structure

The course incorporates an initial six-month 12 credit point coursework component. This coursework element is designed to provide a practical, solid grounding for new students as to the requirements of completing a PhD and ensure that they have all the requisite skills to undertake the realisation of their research proposal. Students will take out a Graduate Certificate in Research Methods and Design (AQF Level 8 qualification) upon completion to a pass level of all coursework units in the 1st semester of the PhD.

Following successful completion of this coursework, a student then progresses into the research only phase of the course. Please see the coursework component overview for both a description of the coursework phase of the PhD as well as level of achievement requirements for progression from the coursework into the thesis component of the course.

Entry requirements

Two entry pathways into the PhD – standard and accelerated entry.

Students entering the course on accelerated entry are granted advanced standing for the coursework component of the PhD and commence directly into the thesis component.

Entry requirements for standard entry are:

  • Evidence of advanced knowledge in an area relevant to the PhD topic;
  • A minimum of four years study at Australian degree level in a relevant area;
  • Evidence of the capability to undertake complex thinking and problem solving; and
  • Evidence of significant aptitude for research.

Entry requirements for accelerated entry are:

  • Have a degree of bachelor with 1st or upper 2nd class honours awarded by an Australian university or other recognised higher education institution and provide evidence of research training and aptitude for research; or
  • Hold an award or have completed work that has first or upper second class honour equivalence (see Honours Equivalence Guidelines) and provide evidence of significant research ability and professional performance.

How to Apply

  • These courses combine research, coursework and in some cases professional work/industry experience.
  • While they are research-based, professional doctorates focus on the improvement of professional practice.
  • Professional doctorates are available in the areas of business administration, public administration, information sciences and legal science.

For entry into the Professional Doctorate course applicants are required to have a masters degree or bachelor degree with first or upper second class honours; or equivalent.

For further admission requirements into the Professional Doctorate course please refer to the HDR Admissions policy.

What is the difference between a Professional Doctorate and a Doctor of Philosophy?

There are two differentiating elements between a PhD and a Professional Doctorate. Both are Level 10, AQF qualifications, both come with the same entitlement and both require a thesis to be written. The first differentiator is research experience and completion of significant research training or a thesis. A Professional Doctorate tends to focus more on professional experience and postgraduate such as an MBA. The second differentiator concerns the contribution of the thesis where a PhD traditionally contributes by developing academic knowledge of disciplines theory and methodology, while a Professional Doctorate focuses on contributions to professional practice.


A PhD normally takes 3 years and upon successful completion, you are entitled to call yourself a Doctor (Dr). To do a PhD, you need to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and ability to complete primary research. In the field you wish to study, you usually need to have:

  • a 1st class or 2A Honours degree with a thesis component of 10,000 to 20,000 words; or
  • a Masters (research) degree; or
  • a Masters (coursework) degree with a distinction average and a significant component of research training units and a research project with dissertation. Usually one third of the units should be for the research project and research training units.

We are able to consider other relevant research experience, such as publications in international refereed journals.

The Professional Doctorate (DBA, DPA, SJD)

The Professional Doctorate normally takes 3 years and is the equivalent to the PhD in the AQF framework. Graduates can call themselves Dr and this degree is highly regarded; successful graduates have options to work either in Universities or industries.This is because the research done in a Professional Doctorate is usually more applied research with an emphasis on practical professional outcomes.

It was designed for professionals with no or limited academic research experience, but with considerable work experience wanting to undertake a research degree at doctoral level. The Professional Doctorate in Australia is modelled on the US PhD program and combines coursework and substantial research. Usually the route into a Professional Doctorate is a Masters by coursework in the field of study, such as an MBA. In the Professional Doctorate, you will spend the first year in a taught program focusing on developing a knowledge of research. The thesis is normally completed over two years and the thesis is about two-thirds of the length of the PhD.

Professional Doctorates in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)Professional Doctorates in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law: Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

How to Apply

  • Most faculties offer master-by-research programs. These courses have the same underlying principles of a PhD program, however the length of the thesis submitted for examination will be less than for a PhD.
  • The masters by research can be completed as a stand-alone program or be used as a pathway to a PhD program.

For entry into the Masters Degree Course applicants are required to have a bachelor degree with first or upper second class honours; or a three year bachelor degree with above average performance; or a four year bachelor degree in the appropriate field of study; or a bachelor degree with H2B or H3 in the appropriate field of study.

For further admission requirements into the Masters course please refer to the HDR Admissions policy.

How to Apply