Doctoral programmes leading to DFAs are of equivalent level as a PhD, with the same requirement to demonstrate new knowledge, but typically contain a practical component and a more structured programme of learning than a PhD. DFA programmes are offered by universities including University of Hertfordshire and University of East London.
The honorary degree is typically conferred to honor the recipient who has made a significant contribution to society in the arts. Notable individuals who have been conferred the honor include Zamri Zainuddin from Malaysia, Michelle Burton, Frank Stella, Richard Serra, Stephen Colbert, Carmen De Lavallade, Anna Deavere Smith, Jacques d'Amboise, Bill Pullman, Abelardo Morell, Twyla Tharp, Kanye West, Gordon Parks, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep 
At Yale University, the D.F.A. is conferred on students who hold a Master of Fine Arts degree in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism from the Yale School of Drama, and who have "completed M.F.A. qualifying comprehensive examinations, and have written a dissertation of distinction whose subject has been approved by the D.F.A. committee" of faculty.
In 2016 ELIA (European League of the Institutes of the Arts) launched The Florence Principles on the Doctorate in the Arts. The Florence Principles relating to the Salzburg Principles and the Salzburg Recommendations of EUA (European University Association) name seven points of attention to specify the Doctorate / Ph.D. in the Arts compared to a scientific doctorate / Ph.D. The Florence Principles have been endorsed and are supported also by AEC, CILECT, CUMULUS and SAR.