Candidate (degree)

Candidate (Latin candidatus or candidata) is the name of various academic degrees, chiefly in Scandinavia and the post-Soviet states. In Scandinavia, it is a higher professional-level degree usually corresponding to 5–7 years of studies, whereas in the post-Soviet states, it is a research degree roughly equivalent to an American PhD.

The term is derived from Latin candida, meaning white.[1] In Ancient Rome, men running for political office would usually wear togas chalked and bleached to be bright white at speeches, debates, conventions, and other public functions.[2] The term candidate thus came to mean someone who seeks an office of some sort.[3][4]


In Scandinavia, the term was introduced in the early 18th century and referred to the higher degrees in theology, law and medicine. A candidate's degree in the relevant field (e.g. Candidate of Law) was a requirement for appointment to higher offices in the state administration (embede), including as priests, judges and state officials, and doctors. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the term "candidate" was eventually used for most higher professional academic degrees, usually awarded after around 5–7 years of studies. In Norway, only a few candidate's degrees (such as cand.theol., and cand.psychol.) are still awarded, while in Denmark and Sweden, all candidate's degrees are retained.

Examples of candidate's degrees in Scandinavia:

There are several dozen such degrees in the three Scandinavian countries as well as Iceland and Finland.

Former Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union, Candidate of Sciences was a degree roughly corresponding to an American-style PhD.[5]


  1. "Candidate". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  2. "Candidate". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  3. Nordisk familjebok vol. 17 p. 471, 1912
  4. Peter Ørsted: Romerne. Dagligliv i det romerske imperium (p. 153), Gyldendal, København, 1991, ISBN 87-01-72010-4
  5. Ilya Zemtsov, Encyclopedia of Soviet Life, p. 278, 1991, ISBN 0887383505
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