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How to get an honorary doctorate

Updated July 19, 2017

A doctorate is the highest degree conferred upon a person. These degrees are most often obtained through years of coursework, research and teaching. Many well-known public figures have received honorary degrees at commencement ceremonies. You can apply or be nominated for an honorary degree from a university or college without spending tuition or years in the classroom.

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  1. Prepare your resume. Make sure you include all of your educational and professional background, as well as any philanthropic work you have performed. You should also include any samples of your published work or honours you have received.

  2. Ask reputable sources to write letters of reference for you. These letters should indicate what you have accomplished, as well as their relationship to you and how long they have known you.

  3. Decide which doctorate degree you feel your most accurately depicts your personal and professional accomplishments. These degree choices include Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Literature and other educational areas.

  4. Research from which college or university you would like to receive an honorary degree. Larger, well-known universities are more difficult to obtain nominations and degrees from, since those degrees are usually given to highly accomplished individuals such as former presidents, authors, and humanitarians.

  5. Another option is to apply for an honorary degree through a program such as the University of Berkley Online Honorary Degree or the Cosmopolitan University Doctorate Project. You will most likely be required to make a donation to these programs.

  6. Contact the university directly for information about the application process and requirements, including the donation amount.

  7. Fill out an application, or in some cases, ask a reference to fill out a nomination form for you. Wait for your approval or rejection letter from the university or program. If you are rejected, try again through another university. Don't give up; it may take some time before you are accepted.

  8. Tip

    Your letters of reference will stand out if they are written by well-known individuals. You want to make sure the letter is genuine. Ask another professional to look over your resume for grammatical errors, misspellings or unclear information. An unprofessional resume will give the committee a bad first impression of you.


    Be careful of companies that ask you to pay application and handling fees. Do your research about the university or program so you don't lose your money to fraudulent companies. The University of Berkley Online and Cosmopolitan University are only examples of honorary degree programs and are not endorsed in this article.

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Things You'll Need

  • Resume
  • Letters of reference
  • Money for a donation

About the Author

Stephanie T. Scott is a middle school English teacher in Phoenix. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Grand Valley State University and an M.Ed. in educational media and technology from Eastern Michigan University. Scott is also working on her Ed.D. in organizational leadership at Grand Canyon University.

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