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Does Barack Obama have a PHD?

Barack Obama does not have a PhD, but he does have a doctorate.

ABOVE: Photograph of Barack Obama teaching a class at the University of Chicago Law School in the 1990s

The term “PhD” is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase philosophiae doctor, which literally means “doctor of philosophy.” PhDs are generally given in fields such as philosophy, history, literature, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and mathematics, since all of these fields are traditionally considered sub-fields of “philosophy.”

Obama’s background, however, is in law, which has always been considered a separate field of its own. A doctorate in law is not known as a “PhD,” but rather as a “JD,” which is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase juris doctor, which means “doctor of law.” A JD requires more years of study than a typical master’s degree, but fewer years of study than a typical PhD and, in the United States, it is considered a “professional doctorate,” rather than a “research doctorate.”

Obama graduated magna cum laude with a JD from Harvard Law School in 1991. After earning his JD, Obama went on to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years. From 1992 until 1996, he was designated a “lecturer” and, from 1996 until 2004, he was designated a “senior lecturer.” Although he was never officially given the title of “professor,” the University of Chicago Law School has stated that he “served as a professor” and was “regarded as” a professor.

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