When I began my PhD studies in 2014, I looked forward with excitement to the point where I would move from PhD student to candidate, because I knew that, once I advanced to candidacy, I could use PhD (candidate) as part of my credentials to let the world know I had successfully completed two-thirds of my PhD program, and that I am on the final leg of the PhD marathon, which I have been doing now to deal with my dissertation. Yeah “a dissertation”, that requires the creation or discovery of new knowledge.

However, some scholars said that students never use “PhD Candidate” or “doctoral candidate” because when students state that they are PhD candidates they may be in violation of two principles in APA’s Ethics Code-“Informed consent to therapy,” which requires trainees to inform clients that they are in training and being supervised, and “Avoidance of false or deceptive statements,” which prohibits psychologists from misrepresenting their training, competence, academic degrees or credentials–says Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD, director of APA’s Ethics Office. It means – don’t be proud of being PhD Candidate. Hahaha you’d better say that you are in training to be a crazy PhD.

But you know, in spite of the argument above, I feel happy to use PhD (candidate) as an honor, because there is something special about a person who has earned a PhD. However, I try my best to keep updating my credentials for the moment my PhD is actually conferred.

But some people might be confused whether they are able to use it or not. Well, it’s your choice. Some are also even confused to differentiate between “PhD student and PhD candidate”, and even using it interchangeably behind their names. It is because these terms vary from university to university.

Generally, the student is known as a “PhD student” or “doctoral student” if the student is in the process of completing most of his or her required coursework by the first or two years of study.

While the term “PhD Candidate” is granted after the student completed a “Comprehensive Examination” or “Qualified Exam”, which occurs sometime after the first or two years. From this stage on, the bulk of the student’s time will be devoted to his or her own research, culminating in the completion of a PhD dissertation.


This is an open access article distributed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


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