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The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. The requirements to earn a PhD degree vary considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates. A PhD candidate must submit a project, thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research, which is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. In the context of the Doctor of Philosophy and other similarly titled degrees, the term «philosophy» does not refer to the field or academic discipline of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is «love of wisdom». The doctorates in the higher faculties were quite different from the current PhD degree in that they were awarded for advanced scholarship, not original research. No dissertation or original work was required, only lengthy residency requirements and examinations. Besides these degrees, there was the licentiate.
This situation changed in the early 19th century through the educational reforms in Germany, most strongly embodied in the model of the University of Berlin, founded and controlled by the Prussian government in 1810. These reforms proved extremely successful, and fairly quickly the German universities started attracting foreign students, notably from the United States. The American students would go to Germany to obtain a PhD after having studied for a bachelor’s degrees at an American college. The PhD degree and similar awards spread across Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The University of London introduced the DSc in 1860, but as an advanced study course, following on directly from the BSc, rather than a research degree. Finally, in 1917 the current PhD degree was introduced, along the lines of the American and German model, and quickly became popular with both British and foreign students. A new PhD graduate from the University of Birmingham shakes hands with the Chancellor.
Faculty of Arts had become dominant by the early 19th century. A Yale University PhD diploma from 1861. Until the mid-19th century, advanced degrees were not a criterion for professorships at most colleges. That began to change as the more ambitious scholars at major schools went to Germany for 1 to 3 years to obtain a PhD in the sciences or humanities. In the next two decades, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Princeton also began granting the degree. Major shifts toward graduate education were foretold by the opening of Clark University in 1887 which offered only graduate programs and the Johns Hopkins University which focused on its PhD program.