What is a terminal degree?

A terminal degree is defined as the "highest" degree available in a particular field. A Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is an oft mentioned terminal degree in several fields of study. Other terminal degrees include: DA, DBA, Ed.D., DEng, DM, DMus, DMA, DPS, DSc, MD, DPH, et al. The purpose of a terminal degree is to ensure the highest level of competence in a particular discipline and to certify the person's ability to think independently. According to etiquette, only terminal degrees may follow a person's name, e.g., Jane Doe, Ph.D. Most, if not all, terminal degrees merit an earned (as opposed to inherited) title, such as Dr. Jane Doe.