How to Use a Doctorate with Your Name

—-For more on the the use of Port-Nominal Abbreviations, see that page.
—-For more on use of an Honorary Doctorate, see that page.

1-2-3-4-5 How to Address a Person with a Doctorate

—-#1) Holders of doctorates who work in academia or research institutions are addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’ professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation. Thus, a Ph.D. professor at a college, a Ph.D. in biology doing scientific research, and a Ph.D. principal at an elementary school all use Dr. (Name) and everybody thinks it is normal.

NOTE: At some universities it is traditional to address faculty holding of academic doctorates as ‘Mr. (Name)’ or ‘Professor (Name)’ and not to address as ‘Dr. (Name)’. For those outside the academic community it is acceptable to follow the insider’s rule or to address holders of doctorates as ‘Dr. (Name)’ in writing or oral address.

—-#2) Protestant clergy with doctorates are addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’ in a salutation or conversation. I specify ‘Protestant’ here because not all clergy is. For example, neither priests (addressed as Father [Name]) nor rabbis (addressed as Rabbi [Name]) holding doctorates are ever addressed as Dr. [Name]. They stick with Father[Name]) and as Rabbi [Name].

—-#3) Holders of doctorates who work outside academia or research don’t always prefer to be addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’. in a salutation or conversation.
—-—-A) In the USA ‘Dr.’ may be used depending on the work environment and/or when the degree isn’t pertinent to the conversation. E.g., a Ph.D. in finance working at a bank or a Ph.D. in American history working in software development are not likely to insist on being addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’. But always ask for their preference. Use of, or omitting, the honorific can be a sensitive issue to some individuals!
—-—-B) And, outside the U.S.A. everyone holding a doctorate will want to be addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’ in every instance.

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

—-#4) In hospitals and healthcare environments there is often a practice that only physicians (medical doctors, osteopaths, dentists, podiatrists, veterinarians, etc. ) are addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’. This is out of consideration for the patients who want to know who ‘the doctors’ are and who are nurses and allied healthcare professionals. It can be confusing to patients with so many people in white!

This makes for some unhappy professionals who earned doctorates in hospital administration, pharmacy, physical therapy and nursing, etc. – who might prefer to be addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’ too. It’s my understanding that all of these professionals might well be addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’ in other situations outside healthcare (teaching or consulting, for example). But for patients in the doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital the practice of reserving ‘Dr. (Name)’ for the physicians makes sense.

—-#5) All that said, ultimately how one is addressed by others is up to the individual and usually everyone goes along. For example, if you and I meet a woman who identifies herself as ‘Monsignor Alice’ … I think it is unlikely she’s a Roman Catholic Monsignor. And, it’s unusual she has only one name, like Pink, Rhianna, Sting, Cher, or Madonna. But we should directly address her in conversation as ‘Monsignor Alice,’ it’s nice to meet you …’ because that’s what she says her name is.

But, when she’s out of range, we will all be talking about her.

– Robert Hickey

How to Use a Doctorate with Your Name

When To Use Dr. (Name) and When To Use (Name), Ph.D.?

My daughter is receiving her Ph.D. and will be teaching. I would like to give her a name plate for her desk. Should it be ‘Dr. (Full Name)’ or ‘(Full Name), Ph.D.‘?
——————-– AP

Dear AP,   How to Use a Doctorate with Your Name

‘(Full Name), Ph.D.’ is the official form of her name. You will use it on the envelope, or in the address block of a letter, when you write to her with regard to her professional pursuits. This is the form the university will use when she is listed among the faculty. It is used by the degree holder, when specifying the exact degree is pertinent – like on business cards or in a list of academics.

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

‘Dr. (Full Name)’ is the social form of her name. You will use it when you write her name on a personal letter’s envelope, e.g., one sent to her home. This is the form everyone will use on the envelope when they send her a birthday or holiday card. It is rarely used by the degree holder since one does not correctly give oneself an honorific. The degree holder – in their signature or when introducing him or herself – just uses their name … no ‘Dr.’ It’s up to the other person to add the ‘Dr.’ E.g., I just introduce myself as ‘Robert Hickey’ – never ‘Mr. Robert Hickey.’

Sometimes you will observe a physician in a healthcare setting introducing him or herself as ‘Dr. (Name)’ – but there it is for the patient’s benefit to know they are the physician in a field of people wearing seemingly identical white coats!

‘Dr. (Surname)’ is the conversational form of her name. Use it both officially and socially in a letter’s salutation as well as in oral conversation.

So, for an office name plate use the official form of her name – (Full Name), Ph.D.

– Robert Hickey

How to Use a Doctorate with your Name

Can I Call Myself a ‘Dr.’ in Music?

I hold a DMA, Doctorate in Music, from a Boston university and am a Church Music Director. Please could you advise me as to whether it is acceptable for the church where I work to list me in the service bulletins as: ‘Dr. (first name) + (last name)‘?
—————-– CJ

Dear CJ: How to Use a Doctorate with your Name
It would be correct to list yourself in the bulletin using the professional form … which is (First name) + (Last name), DMA.   It specifies your academic credential in your professional domain.

It however doesn’t specify if you prefer to be addressed orally as Dr. (Surame) or Ms. (Surname) in professional situations.  In the USA – outside academia or research – in oral address Ms. (name) is the default. And among protestant denominations many their address clergy with a doctorate orally and in a salutation as Dr. (Surname).  If your church is one of those, and it is your preference is to be Dr. (Surname), tell everyone that it is your preference to be addressed Dr. (Surname).

Socially? Usually academics and researchers use Dr. (Surname) socially. But ultimately whether a particular Ph.D. holder is ‘Dr. (Name)’ socially … especially outside of academia or research … is at the preference of the bearer. Some insist, some don’t care, others say they answer to anything they are called. Ultimately your name belongs to you and if you want to be Dr. (Surname), then it’s your right to request everyone address you that way.

– Robert Hickey  How to Use a Doctorate with your Name

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

May I Call Myself Dr. (Name) if my Degree Is Not Related to the Service I Offer?

I have a Ph.D. and license in counseling. Recently I sent out an announcement for a yoga class I will be teaching. The state of Colorado says I should not teach yoga as  “Dr. (Name)”. How can I convince them I can?
——–– Kevin S., Ph.D., L.P.C., C.M.T., I.K.Y.T.A.Counseling, Yoga Therapy, Integrative Health & Healing

Dear Dr. Kevin, How to Use a Doctorate with your Name

Your Ph.D. is in a field not related to the service you are offering.

A couple of typical practices I observe in the USA come to mind:

Professionals use with their name the degrees pertinent to their profession service. The degrees and certifications are provided for the benefit of the public so the public can quickly evaluate your credentials.

Here’s what I mean by pertinent. A pastor who would be the Reverend (Full Name) & Pastor (Name) at church on Sundays, would not use the Reverend (Full Name) & Pastor (Name) when teaching English Monday through Friday, at the local high school. That he or she is the Reverend might be mentioned in a complete biography or introduction. It just isn’t part of his/her name at school.

So, I can see if you are using ‘Dr. (Name)’ when offering a class in yoga, and your doctorate is not directly to the service you are offering, say a doctorate physical therapy or kinesthetics …. it would be confusing to me … and the state officials must think it is misleading to the public.

– Robert Hickey How to Use a Doctorate with Your Name

How to Use a Doctorate with your Name

Should I Use Dr. or Ph.D. on an Invitation?

If a person holds a Ph.D., should his or her name be ‘Dr. (name)’ a wedding invitation? Or ‘(Name), Ph.D.’?  Is this true for the father of the bride?  The groom?  Is the rule for names on wedding invitations and wedding envelopes different that the guidelines for social correspondence?
————–– Beverly Russell, Winchester, Virginia

Dear Ms. Russell:
Wedding invitations and their envelopes are social correspondence. Post-nominal abbreviations (Ph.D. is a post nominal abbreviation) aren’t used on social correspondence:

—-—-DON’T use Ph.D.

—-—-DO use Dr. (Name)

Another question that typically comes up is whether to use Doctor or Dr. (spelled out or abbreviated) on the invitation or on the mailing envelope?

The rule is to spell out everything and not to use abbreviations unless space is an issue.

But, Mr., Mrs., Dr., and Ms. (for which there is no spelled-out version) are typically used on invitations and when addressing invitations in even the most formal circles. I think ‘Doctor (Name)’ looks oh-so-highly precious, but I know some wedding planners who would wrestle me to the mat on that one.

– Robert Hickey   How to Use a Doctorate with your Name

Not Finding Your Question Answered?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  After checking the list and reading the posts, if you don’t see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – always changing the names and specifics.

— Robert Hickey

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