Vol. 2 – Defining University Degrees in Denmark

This is “Vol. 2 – Defining University Degrees in Denmark”, a follow-up on Vol. 1. The Danish education system for further education is complex and it’s difficult to navigate in how the system works. Six degrees will be presented in this article as a continuation of the first five explained in Vol. 1.

Katrine Lionett Pedersen

This is Vol. 2 – Defining University Degrees in Denmark, which is the follow up of Vol. 1 – Defining Educational Degrees in Denmark. Hence, we’ve introduced what a bachelor’s degree, professional academy degree, academy degree, and top-up bachelor’s degree are, including a professional bachelor’s.

In this article, we’ll introduce six more, which is listed to the right. The definitions and explanations take its point of departure in the Ministry of Children and Education (Børne og Undervisningsministeriet). Let’s get to it!


A Candidate’s Degree (Kandidatuddannelse)

A lot of people think that the Danish candidate’s degree is the same as a master’s degree. However, it’s not.

Introducing 6 out of 11 educational degrees in Denmark:

A candidate’s degree

A master’s degree

A diploma degree


A Ph.D.

A doctor’s degree

Søndre Campus of University of Copenhagen
Søndre Campus of University of Copenhagen. Photo by Fausto Bottini

A candidate’s degree is what the Danes call a ‘kandidat’. It’s a research-based, full-time type of program. The university degree typically lasts for two years and corresponds to 120 ECTS-credits. A few university degrees last for three years.

A candidate degree works as a progression to a lot of programs equivalent to a bachelor’s degree where you’ve got the ability to specialize within a certain field. Obviously, the aim is to develop your skills and expand your knowledge within that field. Hence, you can manage job tasks, which your candidate is targeted towards. After finishing your candidate you can either choose to work or educate yourself further with a Ph.D. 

A great tip: you can sign up on Excelerate just before doing your thesis writing to get a thesis collaboration with a company. The best way to apply your knowledge to real-life business cases! Moreover, to combine your thesis with your passion.

A Master’s Degree (Masteruddannelse)

Foreign universities often use the term ‘master’ equivalent to what we call a ‘candidate’.

In Denmark, however, it’s something else although a master’s degree is considered to be on the same level as a candidate’s degree. Nevertheless, you’ll still hear of candidate programs in Denmark, which are called “Master of…”, because the program is English based. 

Master’s degrees can be taken part-time, and you register for one module at a time. The university degree is targeted towards adults with relevant, professional work experience. A master’s degree typically lasts for two to three years and corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits. It’s a requirement that you’ve got an education on the level of a bachelor’s degree, at least, before starting on a master’s degree. 

Also, there is a student fee for all master’s degrees. The classes can be scheduled in many different ways. The teaching can take the form of lectures, seminars, group work, and remote learning. In the end, you will be a master’s graduate!

A Diploma Degree (Diplomuddannelse)

This kind of university degree is targeted towards adults, who have at least two years of relevant, professional work experience behind them. A diploma degree is on the same level as a bachelor’s degree or a professional bachelor. At a minimum, it’s a requirement that you hold a professional academy degree or just an academy degree. 

This kind of university degree typically lasts for three years, part-time, and some diploma degrees can be taken full time in one year. It corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits. You can find classes during evenings but also during the day and sometimes remote learning is available as well. 

You can take diploma degrees within some fairly broad areas; leadership, sales and marketing, financial consulting, software development, and etc. However, this type of diploma degree is not comparable to, for instance, the Bachelor of Engineering (diplomingenør-uddannelsen). A Bachelor of Engineering (of which there are many types of) typically takes 3½ years to complete.

Copenhagen Business School for university students
Copenhagen Business School’s main faculty at Solbjerg Plads, Frederiksberg. Photo by Fausto Bottini

An HD degree

An HD is an abbreviation of ‘diploma degree in economics and business administration’ (erhvervsøkonomisk diplomuddannelse). The university degree works as supplementary education for adults, who have a couple or many years of work experience behind them and want to expand their knowledge within the areas of economics and business administration. 

This university degree typically lasts for four years of part-time studies, which are divided into HD part 1 and part 2. Each part takes two years to finish. If you do a full-time HD, it lasts for two years. In the HD part 1 program, the student/adult will learn about the fundamentals of business economics. In the HD part 2 program, the student/adult has the opportunity to choose a specialization within the areas of accounting, organization, finances, marketing, and etc. However, there are different admission requirements in part 1 and part 2.

An HD is on the same level as a bachelor’s degree and corresponds to 120 ECTS-credits. Therefore, you can admit for ‘cand.merc.’ programs with an HD. Nonetheless, there is a student fee on all HD programs. The classes are typically in the evenings because a lot of people actually work full-time in a company while being a student studying for an HD.

A Ph.d. degree

A Ph.D. is an abbreviation for ‘doctor of philosophy’, which in Denmark is a bit of a misleading title since you’re not called a ‘doctor’ when finishing your Ph.D.

That is something you can call yourself after completing a doctor’s degree. However, if you complete a Ph.D. at a foreign university, you can call yourself a doctor because it means something else abroad. Highly confusing.

If you work on a Ph.D., you’ve signed up for three years of advanced research into a particular subject of your expertise. Make sure you pick good thesis topics that is really interesting to you, otherwise those three years are going to feel like 10 years… Definitely use your creativity and passion on this one. A Ph.D. corresponds to 180 ECTS-credits, and it’s a requirement that you’ve five years of study behind you.

There are different requirements when you work on a Ph.D. For instance, you’ve to take part in research communities and teach others in your subject. Moreover, to do your own research and lastly, finish your research with a Ph.D. thesis.

Ready for the last part of Vol. 2 – Defining University Degrees in Denmark?

A Doctor’s Degree

The very cherry on top. This is the highest university degree possible a person can take at a Danish university. A doctoral thesis is a great, scientific research paper written by an author, who holds significant knowledge and has taken science to the next level. That implies that you, in one way or another, actually have to reinvent the wheel. You’re one hell of an intelligent student within your field and you have to make a significant contribution to science. Right, Einstein. No, but really you do.

Students. Vol. 2 - Defining Educational Degrees in Denmark.
Can you imagine having a doctor’s degree? Photo by Fausto Bottini

Once you’ve finished your doctoral thesis, there is a committee, who will go through your doctoral thesis. An oral, public defense will most likely take place as well. If the findings of your doctoral thesis are considered outstanding and unique you’re honored with an honorary doctorate. This will add an ‘honoris causa’ (h.c.) to your doctor’s degree title (dr. ‘area of expertise’).

You can take a doctor’s degree within a lot of different areas; law, medicine, political science, and etc. How cool can it possibly be to call yourself a doctor in something?

Education and University Degrees

This is Vol. 2 – Defining University Degrees in Denmark, introducing six different degrees and titles, while Vol. 1 – Defining Educational Degrees in Denmark introduced five. We hope, that we have reduced your confusion and increased your knowledge of the Danish education system for further education. Of course, there might be other education and university degrees and titles, these are just some of them. Are you ready to be an academy or university student?