Licentiate Explained

Licentiate is the title of a person who holds an academic degree called a licence. The term may derive from the Latin licentia docendi, meaning permission to teach. The term may also derive from the Latin licentia ad practicandum, which signified someone who held a certificate of competence to practise a profession. Many countries have degrees with this title, but they may represent different educational levels. In some universities it is a degree between that of bachelor and master or doctor; in some countries it is comparable to a PhD degree.[1]


Originally, for the student in the medieval university the "licentia docendi" was of a somewhat different nature than the academic degrees of bachelor, master or doctor. The latter essentially indicated the rank of seniority in the various faculties (arts, theology, law, medicine), whereas the licentia was literally the license to teach. It was awarded not by the university but by the church, embodied in the chancellor of the diocese in which the university was located. The licentia would only be awarded however upon recommendation by the university, initially shortly before the candidate would be awarded the final degree of master or doctor, the requirements for which beyond having been awarded the licentia were only of a ceremonial nature.

Over time however, this distinction in nature between the licentia on the one hand and the bachelor, master and doctor degrees on the other began to fade. In the continental European universities the licentia became an academic degree between the bachelor degree on the one hand and the master or doctor degree on other, in particular in the higher faculties. Moreover, the costs for obtaining the doctorate could be significant - including a grand feast for the entire faculty, which in the Spanish universities would include a corrida. As a result most students not intending on an academic career would forego the doctorate, and as a result the licentiate became the common final degree.

An notable exception to this development were the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the universities modelled after them. As their locations were not the seats of bishops, the granting of the licentia docendi happened by proxy, and its significance faded away.[2]

Regional variations


In Argentina, the Licentiate degree (Spanish: Licenciatura) is a four to six year degree.[3] This may become six years in some cases, under the accomplishment of the "licentia doctorandi" thesis dissertation, generally equivalent to an M.Sc. or M.A. in North American universities, or Master in any country of Europe given by the Bologna Process. Occasionally, the achievement of the "Licentiate" degree does not require the formal writing of a thesis, although almost always, some amount of research is required. The successful defense of the "Tesis de Licenciatura" automatically habilitates the candidate to apply to a Master or Doctorate degree in a related field of science.


Currently the only institutions in Australia to grant licentiates, apart from theological colleges, are the Australian Music Examinations Board and the Australian College of Music, which confer licentiate diplomas, including the Licentiate in Music, Australia (LMusA). The status of this award is similar to that of an Australian diploma - currently one year of post secondary education. It is therefore a lesser award than a degree. Similarly, for theological colleges in former times, the licentiate was a specific post graduate award, analogous to a current graduate diploma. It was used specifically because theological colleges did not not enjoy university status, and could not award degrees such as baccalaureates, masters and doctorates.


In Belgian universities, a person titled Licentiate (or Licentiaat in Dutch or Licencié in French) holds the equivalent education of a Master's degree. In the past, students received a license after 4 to five years of successful study. The first two years were known as candidature (French) or kandidatuur (Dutch) (candidacy), meaning students were qualifying themselves for study at the licential level. This candidate-licentiate system is now being replaced by an American-style bachelor-master system. The Belgian licentiate was also equivalent to the doctorandus in the Netherlands.


In Bolivia, a Licenciatura is a professional degree distinct from the Anglo-Saxon Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor in Science, as it requires that the student take more credits for the completion of a professional curricula than those needed in the Anglo-Saxon system. The Licenciatura allows the holder to practice his or her profession in all of Bolivia, with the exception of those holding a Law degree. The durational requirements to obtain a Licenciatura vary depending on the profession studied, however, most universities require the completion of the curricula within five to six years. Aside from the durational requirements, Bolivian universities also require that all candidates, at the completion of the curricula, complement their studies by writing a thesis or by sitting for an oral examination in which State and University representatives take part by testing the student’s professional knowledge and skills.


In Brazil, the licenciate is a degree between three and four years of study. The licenciate is different from a Bachelor's degree, in that the licenciate includes subjects related to education and therefore also qualifies the degree holder to teach in primary and secondary education. However, in most cases, the core of the courses are very similar, and the option for the Licentiateship or the Bachelor's Degree is made at the end of the course.


While the term licentiate is not generally used by Canadian academic institutions, a Licentiate in Laws (LL.L.) is offered by some Canadian universities for the completion of studies equivalent to a Bachelor of Civil Law.A Licentiate is also offered by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) upon completion of a series of Medical Council of Canada Qualifying examinations for Canadian and International medical graduates. This licentiate is required to obtain an independent medical practice license in Canada.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the title is awarded to students after four to five years of study (usually between two and four more semesters with courses after the completion of the bachelor's degree). Students are also required to write a thesis in some universities, attend a graduation seminar, or develop a project in order to graduate, while some degrees involve almost the same credits are a master's degree, the level of difficulty is not the same as graduate level work. The Consejo Nacional de Rectores (Council of Rectors) defines a licentiate as lower than a master's degree but in some instances slightly higher than a bachelor's degree.

Further evidence of the difference between a master's degree and a licentiate is that the two major public universities, the National University of Costa Rica and the University of Costa Rica are phasing out faculty members with licentiate in favor of those who hold graduate degrees. Thus, in summary, a Costa Rican licentiate is higher than the Costa Rican version of a bachelor's degree but lower than a master's degree..

Denmark and Norway

The Licentiate was formerly awarded in Denmark and Norway, and was roughly equal to the American PhD degree. In Denmark it has formally been replaced by the PhD degree. The proper doctorates in Denmark are considered higher degrees than the PhD (i.e. higher doctorates).If this is the case, how is it explained that teachers who hold a licenciatura degree in Costa Rica receive 6 points for professional qualifications equally as those holding a master degree. On the other, a teacher with a bachelor degree receives 5 points. These professional scale is determined by the Civil Services Office and is used by the Education Department to determine teachers salary.

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, a Licenciatura is awarded to students after studies of four to six years. Students are required to write a thesis in order to graduate. The Licenciatura is one of the major University degree previous to doctoral studies.


In Haiti universities, a licenciate (licencié(e)) is the holder of a licence, which is a four-year degree, roughly equivalent to a Bachelor's degree. There are two kinds of licence: general and professional.


In French universities, a licenciate (licencié(e)) is the holder of a licence, which is a three-year degree, roughly equivalent to a Bachelor's degree. There are two kinds of licence: general and professional.

Finland and Sweden

In Swedish and Finnish universities, a Licentiate's degree, recognised as a pre-doctoral degree, is equal to completion of the coursework required for a doctorate and a dissertation which is formally equivalent to half of a doctoral dissertation. In Finland, the extent of Licentiate Degree is 120 ECTS equivalent and it requires two to three years of full time research. Its prerequisite is a completed academic Master's degree. Licentiate degree holders are officially eligible for independent scientific research in Universities, and entitled to the right to supervise Master's and Licentiate degree theses.

Until the early 1970s, the degree in Sweden was equivalent to the U.S. Ph.D. requiring four to seven years of study after the Bachelor´s (or Master´s) degree, and a publicly defended thesis. It was gradually substituted with the "Doctor's exam" in 1969 and was re-instituted as an intermediate level in research training in the 1980s, now requiring only two years of study. The licentiate is particularly popular with students already involved in the working life, for the reason that completing a full doctor's dissertation while working would be too difficult. The Licentiate's degree is called a filosofie licentiat in Swedish and filosofian lisensiaatti in Finnish (Licentiate of Philosophy), teologie licentiat and teologian lisensiaatti (Licentiate of Theology) etc., depending on the faculty. Furthermore, the requisite degree for a physician's license is licentiat/lisensiaatti; there is no Master's degree. (The degree lääketieteen tohtori, medicine doktor, "Doctor of Medicine" is a traditional professor's degree, or a research doctorate, with Licentiate as a prerequisite.)

The Licentiate of Engineering is an intermediate postgraduate degree used only in a few countries, among them Sweden and Finland, and can be seen as an academic step halfway between a Master's and a PhD. In Swedish, it is called Teknologie Licentiat, usually abbreviated as Tekn. Lic., and in Finnish, tekniikan lisensiaatti, abbreviated as TkL. The Licentiate of Engineering corresponds to 120 ECTS credits (80 workweeks (old credits)), or nominally two years of full-time work, whereas a PhD amounts to 240 ECTS credits (160 workweeks (old credits)), or a nominal period of four years of full-time work (one old credit equals one week of full-time studies). However, as a result of the differences in requirements and individual performance, the time to complete a Licentiate of Engineering degree varies.

The program for a Licentiate degree is equivalent to a total of two years of full-time study for those who are awarded a doctoral position. A person who has a doctoral position normally teaches on the undergraduate programs, equivalent to a maximum of 20% of the working time. It is then usually possible for a Licentiate degree to be taken within two and a half years.[4]


In Germany, a person titled Lizentiat holds the equivalent education of a Master's degree or Diplom. Until the 1990s, the degree was offered as a law degree at the Saarland University as a single university degree (Lic.iur.) with a duration varying between five to eight years. For political reasons, this degree was discontinued, mainly because the Staatsexamen (Law degree) became the predominant representation of the mainstream education of a lawyer. The Lizentiat is largely equivalent to the 1. Staatsexamen but, unlike the latter, is assessed by the university, not the state administration. It also allowed specialisation in areas of the law which were either not covered by other legal qualifications, e.g. ecclesiastical law etc., or not covered to the same extent. Other disciplines, such as theology or journalism (FU Berlin), used to offer a Lizentiat qualification instead of a PhD.


In India, the Licentiate is a vocational qualification offered by the special vocational boards or professional bodies. These are offered after completion of school education and are somewhat less extensive than a full-fledged university degree. Issuers of the Licentiate degree include but are not limited to the Insurance Institute of India,[5] the Association of Mutual Funds of India, and the Diploma Examination Board of the government of Andhra Pradesh.

Licentiate Certified Physician and Surgeon (LCPS) was a recognized medical qualification in India before 1946, when the Bhore Committee effectively made the MBBS the sole entry point into the medical profession in India.[6]


See also: Education in Mexico.

As in many Latin American countries, the Licenciatura is a general term denoting the first higher-education degree awarded at universities, varying from 3 to 5 years of study, depending on the field. It is thus an undergraduate degree, and require a licence to practice in the learned profession.

In Mexico, a distinction is made between simply passing all the required courses, just being a graduate (graduado or pasante), and actually obtaining the degree diploma (título profesional). Obtaining the diploma means the student completely concluded his or her studies, and has the right of using the title of Licenciado (Licenciate). Statistics show that historically only about 60% of those graduating actually obtain the diploma.[7] At the same time the diploma is awarded, a professional credential (cédula profesional) may be obtained from the National Directorate of Professions (Dirección General de Profesiones, DGP), which serves as a licence to practice and as a national ID card. Some professions do not require the professional credential, but for others, like Biology, Accounting, Engineering, or Social work, it is mandatory by law.[8] The law also establishes penalties for crimes committed regarding the professional practice, including those in which an individual offers professional services without having the proper diploma or licence.[8]

For a number of years, presenting a thesis was the only method to obtain the diploma (título). Nowadays, some universities, like the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), may still require the thesis, while others, like the federal Institutes of Technology, may forgo the thesis in exchange for demonstrating professional experience, research work, or excellent academic grades.

By their nature, some disciplines such as Nursing, Medicine and Law require an intense theoretical background as well as practical training, and so a first university degree in those areas may take longer to complete (up to 6 years). Even after obtaining the diploma, graduates require passing a national exam to finally be awarded the professional licence.

In Mexico, every graduate who obtained a Licenciatura diploma is technically and legally a Licenciado (abbreviated Lic. before the name). However, it is mostly common to use Lic. for graduates of the social sciences, while more specific titles and prefixes are used for other professionals such as engineer (Ingeniero, Ing.), architect (Arquitecto, Arq.), or biologist (Biólogo, Biol.).

In Mexico, the Licenciatura qualifies the recipient to pursue a Master's degree (Maestría). In exceptional cases, the recipient may apply directly to a Doctoral degree (Doctorado), in which case the study plan integrates coursework from the master's program, and may take up to five years to complete.

According to the Bologna process in Europe, virtually any Licenciado has the equivalent qualifications of a 3-year bachelor's degree. The Mexican Licenciatura, however, should never be confused with a more advanced postgraduate degree, such as the Swedish "Licenciate of Technology" (Teknologie Licentiat).


In Peru, the Licenciatura is not an academic degree, but rather a "Professional Title" within a specific profession. The difference between the two is that academic degrees allow you to further your career studies at universities, while Professional Titles allow you to work in positions outside academia or perform as an independent professional in the Republic of Peru. Certain professions require the Licenciatura or "Professional Title" and the mandatory professional association (Colegio Profesional) registration.

The Bachelor's degree is the first academic degree and allows one to take part in a Master's degree program. The Master's degree is the next degree and it allows you to get a Doctor's degree (equivalent to a PhD). The Licenciatura is awarded to university graduates after they have completed a Bachelor's degree in their specific field (i.e. Bachiller en: Economía, Ingeniería, etc.) This usually requires five years of professional studies at a university in the Professional Department or Faculty to obtain the Professional Title.

To obtain a Licenciatura or "Título Profesional" the student is required to write a thesis, which in most cases includes developing a research project. Alternatively, it is possible a written exam and then an oral examination in front of a group of professors (who are registered in the Professional College of that specific profession). With this last option, it is usually required to have at least one year of professional experience in the relevant field of studies.

The Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in the Anglo-Saxon universities are not equivalent degrees to a Licentiate because they are completed within the first four semesters of the five years of studies. For some professions which used to be called carreras largas or long careers (dentistry, law, psychology and medicine), the university student requires more than five years of studies or ten semesters to complete their professional education.

Nowadays, some universities do not use the word Licenciado or Licenciada as a prefix before the professional title, e.g. Licenciado/a en Farmacia y Bioquímica (Licentiate in Pharmacy and Biochemistry) in their certificates. Instead they use Químico Farmacéutico, the same happens in with the other professions (i.e. Enfermero, Ingeniero, Psicólogo.) In such cases, both written titles are equivalent. The Professional Titles in Peru are equivalent to the first professional degrees in the Anglo-Saxon countries, therefore if a person obtained a Master in Counselling degree in the US will need to complete the university studies in Peru in order to obtain the Licenciate or Title of Psychologist and then the Licensure at the Colegio de Psicólogos del Perú. In Perú the Professional Title of Psicólogo is similar to the Psy.D. in the Anglo-Saxon degree.


A licencjat is a degree that introduced in Poland by the tertiary education reforms. The purpose of these reforms was to bring the Polish university system into line with Bologna system. It is typically a three or four year degree, equivalent to the bachelor's degree in Anglo-Saxon countries. Students completing a licencjat often go on to complete a magisters degree.


Due to the developments introduced by the Bologna Process in the mid-2000s, in Portugal the licenciate's degree (Licenciatura) may refer to both old and new Licenciaturas, which were awarded before and after the Bologna's reforms, respectively. Old Licenciaturas would range from four to six year degrees and are equivalent to the new master's degree, after the implementation of the Bologna Process. In the past, a Master' degree would add another 2 years to the 4 to 6 years of the old undergraduate Licenciaturas, thus taking 6 to 8 years in total to graduate with a Master's title. The new Licenciaturas, which have been awarded since then in Portugal and in almost all Europe with varying local designations, usually take three years to complete the degree.

After 2006, in the Portuguese higher education system, Licenciatura is the first degree awarded by institutions of higher education. It is the first degree used in the European Higher Education Area, and is equivalent to the Bachelor's degree used in other countries. The Master's degree entails a two year program of study, in which students would normally enroll after completing a licentiate's degree, and provides higher qualification for employment (e.g., for Engineering, Architecture and Medicine a Master is required, entailing 5 to 6 years of studies) or to prepare a student for his or her PhD research.


In Romania, before the Bologna process, a license (Rom. licenţă) was an academic degree awarded after four to six years of study, finalised by a thesis. It was a degree higher that the graduate diploma obtained after three years of study, which was mostly used in pedagogical institutes that trained secondary education teachers, and was considered inferiour to the doctorate. A Romanian license was the equivalent of a French maîtrise or a German Diplom. There are some Romanian licenses (obtained before the Bologna process was of application) which have been recognized as mr. and drs.[9] in the Netherlands, i.e. at the LLM and MA level.[10] Now, after the Bologna process, is the Romanian license similar to a Bachelor's degree.[11]


In Spain the Licenciatura degree is one of the major higher-education degrees previous to doctoral studies. A Licenciatura typically requires from four to six years of University courses, and has a typical credit workload of 300 to 400 credits. The Licenciatura academic degree is academically equivalent to the Ingeniero or Arquitecto degrees. A Licenciatura degree also provides direct access to professional practice or membership in professional associations such as Bar Associations for Lawyers (Colegio de Abogados), medicine, economics, and other regulated professions. This system is in the process of being progressively changed to the 'Grado' (Bachelor) and 'Master' system due to the Bologna Declaration on the European higher education area.

Nowadays Licenciatura consists of four or five years of study, or 6 years in Medicine, and allows direct transition into Doctoral studies. Currently, both "second-cycle" or "superior" degrees (like Licenciatura, Ingeniería and Arquitecto, which are four to five years), and "first-cycle" or "intermediate" degrees (Diplomatura, Ingeniería Técnica (technical engineering) and Arquitecto técnico degrees which are three years) are the undergraduate diplomas in Spain.

Note, however, that the label "undergraduate" may be misleading to an anglophone audience, since while a Spanish Diplomatura may be likened to an American undergraduate Bachelor's degree, a Spanish Licenciatura is comparable in scope to an American postgraduate Master's degree, as the anglophone distinction between "undergraduate" and "postgraduate" degrees does not properly apply to the traditional higher-education system of Spain. Many Spanish licenciados, when translating their CVs into English, use the formula BA+MA (or BSc+MSc) to indicate that a Licenciatura is equivalent to a Master's degree. Depending on the degree and study plan, some Spanish universities require a small thesis or research project to be submitted in the last year before the student can finally claim his or her degree.

After the Bologna process, all official university degrees will fall into one of these three categories: Grado (Bachelor), Master or Doctor. Most Grados will consist of four years (240 ECTS credits), unless it is otherwise ruled by a EU Directive (like Pharmacy, five years, or Medicine, six years). All university students completing these four years will get a Grado and may then go on with Master's studies (one to two years, 60-120 ECTS credits). Doctorate studies will in most cases require a research-oriented Master's degree and may or may not include specific courses.

Grados will take one year more than the old Diplomatura or Ingeniería Técnica degrees, and graduates from the old system may have to study additional courses to transform their degree into a Grado. Nevertheless, in most aspects, Grados will be the equivalent of the old intermediate degrees: Grado engineers will have the responsibilities of former Ingenieros técnicos. Lawyers will need a Master's degree, not a Grado. And in public service, Grado holders will by default be in the A2 level (the second highest), while A1 (the highest) will be for Grado holders with additional requirements (such as a Master's or a Doctorate, or a special Grado such as Medicine that is in many aspects equivalent to a Master).

It should be noted that, prior to the Bologna process, the Master's degree was not considered an official academic degree in Spain, as the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies could only be done directly from a Licenciatura to doctoral studies.


At Swiss universities, until the adoption of the Bologna Convention, the Lizentiat/licence was the equivalent of a Master's degree (there being no prior degrees) and qualified the holder for doctoral studies. The degree names are followed by the field of study (e.g. lic. phil., lic. ès lettres, lic. oec., etc.). In line with the Bologna Process, the degree has now been replaced by Master degrees (with Bachelor degrees being newly introduced).
According to the Swiss University Conference, the joint organization of the cantons and the Confederation for university politics, and the Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities, the old Lizentiat/licence is considered equivalent to the current Master degree.[12]

United Kingdom

The University of Wales, Lampeter offers Licences in Latin and Greek. They are postgraduate diplomas  - meaning that the student would normally have completed a (typically three-year) Bachelor's degree first  - and can be completed in either two years or three. The City and Guilds of London Institute Licentiateship award is at a supervisory/junior management level and mapped to NVQ/IVQ level 4 and National Qualifications Framework (NQF) revised levels 4 & 5. Trinity College London awards Licentiate in Performing Speech and Drama, which is tagged at Level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).[13] The Landscape Institute offers Licentiate membership to those who have completed a bachelor’s degree and a postgraduate Diploma in the field ofLandscape Architecture. The College of Teachers also offers a Licentiateship of The College of Teachers (LCOT). This program, which is offered at the degree level, is for individuals with a B.Ed (three year program) who wishes to do in-service advanced training in education or a related learning field.

United States

The word "licentiate" is used only in the names of specialized degrees, like Licentiate of Canon Law, or Licentiate of Sacred Theology, granted by pontifical universities such as The Catholic University of America.


A Licenciatura is awarded to students after five years of study. They are required to write a thesis or develop a research project in order to graduate.

Domain variations


In Canada, anyone who completes the Level III Heraldic Proficiency Courses is granted the right to use the post-nominal of LRHSC (Licentiate of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada). This is awarded by the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada.

Medicine, surgery and obstetrics


A medical graduate must obtain the qualification of Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada from the Medical Council of Canada before they are eligible to apply for licensure in the province or territory concerned.

Britain and Ireland

These Conjoint diplomas were latterly awarded by the United Examining Board. The first two, and latterly the first three, were granted together in England, and the last three in Scotland, until 1999, after which approval to hold the examinations was withdrawn. The qualifications are still registrable with the General Medical Council, and allow the bearer to practice medicine in the United Kingdom, and used to be recognised by some state medical boards in the USA.

The Licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall (LAH) was a similar qualifying medical diploma awarded externally in Dublin until recognition was lost in 1968.

In Dublin, students at the School of Medicine of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland still qualify with licentiate diplomas from the two Irish Royal Colleges, coupled with a Licence in Midwifery from each, although in the past few years they have also been awarded the three medical bachelor's degrees of the National University of Ireland:

Certain maternity hospitals in Dublin used to award a Licentiate in Midwifery or LM diploma, not to midwives but to qualified medical practitioners who had been examined there after a three-month residential appointment. The Rotunda Hospital was the most recent to do so.

Theology and canon law

See main article: Licentiate in Theology.

See main article: Licentiate of Canon Law.

The degree Licentiate of Theology (LTh) is a theological qualification commonly awarded for ordinands and laymen studying theology in the United Kingdom, Malta, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.A qualification similar to the LTh is the two-year postgraduate Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL), available from many Roman Catholic schools of theology that possess the authority to grant Pontifical degree. This compares with, for example in North American institutions, the four year program for a B.A. at many universities, a two year program for an M.A., and the writing and successful defense of the doctoral dissertation for the Ph.D. or Th.D. (an additional two to three years).The degree Licentiate of Canon Law is similarly awarded like the license in Sacred Theology at pontifical universities. Other qualifications for canon law include an inter-denominational LL.M. program at least one university (Cardiff), though this degree would not have canonical effects in the Roman Catholic Church.

Bologna convention

In 2003, the European Union organized the Bologna convention on higher education, more commonly known as the Bologna process, in order to create uniform standards across the European Union in that field. The resulting conclusions called for all European universities to change their degree programs to an undergraduate degree and a master's degree.

See also

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Definition. Oxford Dictionary. 2009-11-04.
  2. Book: Pedersen, Olaf. The First Universities - Studium Generale and the Origins of University Education in Europe. 1997. Cambridge University Press. 242–270.
  3. Web site: Coneau. Ministerio de Education Republica Argentina. 2009-06-08.
  4. Web site: Degree of Licentiate. Chalmers. 2009-06-08.
  5. Web site: Welcome to Insurance Institute of India. Insurance Institute of India. 2009-06-08.
  6. Web site: BY THE OLD MOULMEIN PAGODA. Bharatiya Vayu Sena. 2009-06-08.
  7. "Estadísticas de Educación. Educación Básica, Media Superior y Superior. Edición 2005"
  8. "Ley Reglamaentaria del Artículo 5º Contitucional, relativo al ejercicio de las profesiones en el Distrito Federal"
  9. See Doctorandus.
  10. As these Dutch titles were replaced with their corresponding international degrees, after the application of the Bologna process in the Netherlands.
  11. Cf. Landenmodule Roemenie by Nuffic.
  12. Web site: Équivalence entre licence / diplôme et master. 2009-06-08.
  13. UK National Qualification Framework for Licentiate in Performing Speech and Drama by Trinity College London