return icon

Do public servants need a master's or doctoral degree?

The number of civil servants with doctoral and master's degrees in Vietnam in 2019 were 2,347 (0.8%) and 19,136 people (6.5%), respectively.


Illustrative image


After over 10 years doing the job of receiving incoming documents, sending dispatches and other archival work at a state agency, one day, Mrs. Thu applied for a master's course in business administration.

Upon receiving her agency’s decision to grant 50% of the tuition fee, Thu burst into tears because all of her colleagues who applied for a master's degree course were granted 100% of the tuition from the budget. Thu complained that she was treated unfairly.

Over 21,000 Vietnamese civil servants hold master's and doctoral degrees

A 2019 study by the University of Torrens (Australia) showed that most of the ministers of Australia only had a bachelor's degree.

Of the 44 ministers of the ruling party and opposition party surveyed, only nine had a master's degree and one had a PhD degree. The most popular degrees belong to three fields: Social Science, Law and Economics.

According to the Australian Public Service Commission, of 148,736 federal government employees (as of December 31, 2020), 2,645 had a doctorate degree (1.78%) and 9,324 had a master's degree (6.27%).

In Vietnam, according to statistics in 2019, the number of civil servants with doctoral degrees was 2,347 people (0.8%), and master's degrees were held by 19,136 people (6.5%). The agencies with many PhDs were the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Finance.

Why do civil servants need master's, doctoral degrees?

At a meeting of the HCM City People's Committee in March, Director of the municipal Department of Science and Technology Nguyen Viet Dung said: "I don't know why our civil servants need to be PhDs because PhDs are committed to scientific research. We have too many public servants who hold doctoral degrees. For example, I know a civil servant at a ward-level agency who applied for a doctoral course in biotechnology, while the public system needs expertise in public governance, public finance, public investment, and public administration.”

Dung's comments immediately caused a stir, although the question he posed was not new.

Why did Thu, who works as a clerk, want to get a master’s degree of business administration? All employees at Thu's agency have a master's degree (except drivers and security staff), which were all paid by the state budget, or in other words, the people's tax money, but did their effectiveness at work improve after they got the degree? How does the degree match with the job they are doing?

In Vietnam, there are probably no specific statistics on this. But many people implicitly understand that for civil servants who hold a master’s or doctoral degree the opportunity to be promoted is higher, and the degree brings “fame” for them.

A few years ago, public opinion was stirred up when some officials at an office of a ministry applied for the title of associate professor even though they had not spent time on teaching, writing books, giving instructions to students...

In fact, there are a number of civil servants who want to further study to improve their qualifications. In this case, the pursuit of master's and doctoral degrees is a self-need and is study for the sake of research, so it is a very good thing.

However, when budget resources are limited, it must be clearly analyzed why the state should grant funds for civil servants to pursue a master's or doctoral degree.

It is suggested that attending higher education levels such as master's and doctorate will improve civil servants' thinking and research capacity. After that, their advice for policy formulation is more effective.

“I don't know what their scientific thinking is like. But in order to make an effective, feasible and humane policy, there is no degree that can create this," said a Vietnamese-born official working at the Australian Federal Tax Service, adding that it is necessary to avoid turning knowledge into a wasteful race.

This is not unreasonable, when looking at some regulations set by the Ministry of Education and Training, one of the state agencies with the highest rate of employees holding master’s and doctoral degrees.

In a circular issued by this Ministry in February on teacher recruitment and teacher ranking, the Ministry set different ethical criteria for each ranking of teachers. A few years ago, this Ministry caused a stir with the regulation that students who are involved in prostitution for four times will be expelled from school.

The South Australia government has recently tightened funding for staff members studying for master’s and doctoral degrees. Many training programs are held for public servants, but most are short courses, from a few hours to a few days. The number of public servants who are granted full funding to study for a master's degree is 1-2 people/year, usually for managers or officials who are about to be appointed to important positions.

The reason is that master's and doctoral degree holders often do in-depth research on a particular subject, while a government employee's daily work requires someone with thinking experience and adaptive experience. So, if public servants want to get a master's or doctorate, they have to pay themselves.

Dr. Truong Nguyen Thanh, University of Utah (USA), said: “It is true that there are positions that require a doctorate. In the advisory policy research institutes, researchers have a very high level of expertise. And there are professors at universities working with these institutions that provide additional expertise. But why does one who is not in a position of research and advisory work need a PhD degree?”

Phu Sa

PhD production plan: Will Project 89 go a new way?

PhD production plan: Will Project 89 go a new way?

Before launching Project 89 that aimed to produce 7,300 more lecturers with a doctoral degree, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) ran two projects on preparing human resources with doctoral and master’s degrees, worth trillions of VND.

Practical skills matter as much as degrees

Practical skills matter as much as degrees

Public servant management should not be focused on professional degrees but practical skills.


Nam Dinh museum preserves traditional rural way of life

The Rural Museum, located in the tranquil village of Binh Di in Giao Thien Commune, Giao Thuy District, is about 110km from Hanoi.

M&A in Vietnam forecast to slow down in H2 2022

M&A activities in Vietnam is forecast to slow in the second half as investors become more conservative about several macro trends impacting the country’s economy.

Vietnam, Cuba strive to lift two-way trade to US$500 million in next five years

The Vietnam-Cuba business promotion forum took place in Hanoi on September 30, seeing the participation of visiting Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Le Minh Khai.

Vietnam defeat Saudi Arabia, top Group D at AFC Futsal Asian Cup

Vietnam beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 at the AFC Futsal Asian Cup 2022 in Kuwait on September 30, thereby topping Group D and having a high chance of securing a berth in the quarter-finals.

EuroCham Chairman praises strong and forward-looking government

Vietnam’s recovery has been ensured by strong and forward-looking government support which helped to bring in more high-profile FDI projects

Many firms suspend raising capital from stock market

Many enterprises have either stopped mobilizing capital or changed their capital-raising plans on the stock market amid existing uncertainties and disadvantages.

HCM City runs out of Covid-19 vaccines

HCM City has run out of Covid-19 vaccines over the past 10 days, said Nguyen Hong Tam, the deputy director of the municipal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.


Chinese police hand over wanted man to Lao Cai authorities

Foreign-invested enterprises face up to procedural barriers

Administrative procedures such as a prolonged timeline for obtaining business licences, as well as overlaps in the legal framework, are continuing to affect the expansion plans of many foreign-invested enterprises in Vietnam. Vietnam among ten attractive destinations to escape Europe’s winter

With its year-round warm tropical climate, breathtakingly beautiful scenery, and exciting culture, Vietnam is gradually becoming an attractive destination for German tourists.


Real estate sector faces debt default risk

Shan Tuyet tea, valuable timber plants named ‘Vietnam Heritage Trees’

More than 1,300 Shan Tuyet tea plants in Ha Giang province and a group of valuable timber trees in Dak Nong province have been recognised as “Vietnam Heritage Trees”.

Fast fashion brands scale up for growth

Surviving and developing in a competitive fast fashion market remains a challenge for many brands, especially for newcomers.

Arguments arise as properties required to be traded on exchange

Controversy has arisen over the Ministry of Construction’s draft of the amended law on real estate trading as it requires real estate products to be traded on an official exchange.

Boeing accelerates cooperation with Vietnamese suppliers

Boeing, the world’s leading aerospace company based in the US, are accelerating cooperation with Vietnamese suppliers and universities to provide a foundation for long-term industrial growth.