1. Graceandhonor

    Though we would hope your daughter has married a self-effacing man who comfortably adds, “Please call me John.”

    This reminds me of a conversation with a long-ago sorority sister about another sister she hadn’t seen in awhile. I told Beth, “Bonnie’s been appointed to the Superior Court.” Beth asked, “How do I address her?” I responded, “Why, ‘Bonnie’ of course!”

    One can tell much about the holder of a title by the way in which they use it.

  2. carrie.

    Reading this reply makes me wonder why G&H was among those so insistent upon children and adults referring to others by title — Mr./Ms/Mrs., etc. That’s just as pompous as a PhD wanting to be called Dr. among friends and outside the academic arena.


    • Graceandhonor

      It is important that children learn societal rules first before earning the discernment about which to break at certain times. As for calling someone by their title, this is the polite thing to do, and it does not assume familiarity where there is none. It is up to the holder of that title to amend what they are to be called by a new acquaintance.

  3. Kym Puga PhD

    As someone who holds a PhD, I prefer to be introduced as Dr., at that point I will let people know “Please just call me Kym” if it is appropriate. Believe me, after 20 years of dedicated study, research and the hard work and money that is necessary to gain a PhD. You definitley want to be introduced as Dr. It is most certainly NOT pompous…

    • Thank you – Amen!

      My brother, a medical doctor, is happy – even ecstatic – to call me “Doctor.” Even he will admit that we spent an equivalent number of years completing our respective degrees, including his changing of his residency adding a year to his program.

      Anyone who makes the committment of time, WORK, study, “blood, sweat & tears,” stress, distress, expense, sacrifice, determination, long-suffering and perseverance (Did I make myself clear? I could go on…) that it takes to complete a doctorate degree is certainly deserving of this honorary title. Anyone who has not gone there has no right to call them “pompous ” – be respectful and call them “Doctor” unless they suggest otherwise. We have earned it, believe me!

      • Chris Davis, Ph.D.

        A second amen! People do not realize the amount of work that goes into earning an advanced degree. Until recently, it was Ph.D. holders exclusively who were referred to as doctor and M.D.s were referred to as Mr. or Ms. This served to recognize the fact that a Ph.D. is a research degree that requires one to make an original, significant, and scholarly contribution to their chosen field. Degrees such as an M.D. are practitioner degrees that do not require the same contribution to the field. Now that the terms physician and doctor have become interchangeable, it becomes frowned upon to refer to a Ph.D. as doctor, which is utterly ridiculous.

          • Amanda

            Check wikipedia for the terminology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_%28title%29). The term “doctor” comes from Latin, meaning “to teach”, which is more appropriate for a professor than for a physician. Somehow, it’s been reversed these days, to the point where this Ph.D holder is tired of hearing that she’s “not a REAL doctor”.

          • Burk Smith


            He is not mistaken, in fact the MD is not equivalent to a PhD it is a lesser degree. The appropriate way to address an MD is either “Physician” or “Medical Doctor”, that would distinguish the MD from a PhD in Medicine. When you list your credential next to your name the highest degree is listed last. A person with both an MD and a PhD will then list: John Smith, MD, PhD. The fact that most people do not realize that is actually sad as the MD is a professional degree closest to the Masters than the PhD.

            Burl Smith, MD, Ph.D.

          • Joanna

            That’s how it still is in countries like Germany or France or Poland. For an MD to be called Dr. they have to complete a medical doctorate which is much shorter than a PhD (about 1 year)

          • Terry

            This is true due to the type of research and dissertation that must be done to earn a doctorate. It, however, does NOT have anything to do with making a scholarly contribution as stated above. Every dissertation is a scholarly contribution. The difference is the type of research and topic covered in the dissertation. That is the main difference between the various doctoral forms.

      • AG

        I am sure that was an honest typo seeing as though the two letters are transposed. It seems your comment is somehow meant to suggest that the doctor is making a fuss about what to be called based upon the achievement and yet can’t spell.

        I serve in a pastoral role in my church, I have a master’s degree, and will soon pursue a doctorate. Titles are not a major concern unless the person fails to use the title as an intentional form of disrespect. There are certain protocols that are based upon honor not one being pompous. What is the issue with respecting a person’s accomplishments?

  4. jimphd

    The correct address of a person who obtains their PhD is “Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc”. ONLY an MD is a Doctor and only an MD should be addressed socially as “Doctor”. It is not insulting to someone who has a PhD to leave their honorific title off when introducing him or her since the “D” in Ph.D. stands for “Doctorate” not “Doctor”. Typically, in a roomful of academic professionals, each knows what the other person’s degree is, and it is not necessary to address each as “Dr. He or Dr. She”. You may usually safely address any individual with a PhD in an academic setting as “Professor”. It is a serious breach of etiquette to refer to a person with a PhD as “Doctor” when introducing them to an MD. It is very insulting to an MD to have some bookworm introduced to them as a Doctor.

    When corresponding with someone who has a PhD, you may address it as “Mr. John Smith PhD.” or “Mrs. Sally Jones PhD”. When introducing your son in law, who just received his PhD, you may introduce him, as “this is my daughter Sally, and her husband, John”. If he wants to let people know he is a plumber, a dishwasher, a scientist, or that he has a PhD, then he can tell them that in the course of their conversation. One of the reasons that you introduce someone in a social setting as “Doctor.” is so that if there is a medical emergency, you know to whom you can turn for help. Similarly, the reason you introduce a clergy person as “reverend, father” or whatever their honorific title is, is so that others will not offer them alcohol or behave inappropriately in front of them socially. It is unlikely that you will have an emergency requiring a PhD to use their knowledge to solve. Unless someone has gotten into an argument about 13th century poetry or what is the weight of an iron molecule according to the periodic chart that is threatening to lead to a physical altercation unless someone with a Ph.D. can intervene with the correct answer.

    • This sounds like a trolling comment. My m-i-l, f-i-l and most of my coworkers at the university have Ph.D.s (everything from Statistics to Amerindian cultural studies). They are referred to as “Dr. Smith” and never as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss.” Ever. They are introduced as “Doctor,” and if they then choose to tell others “Oh just call me Sam,” that is their decision. It is a mark of respect to call them by their degree on which they spent a great deal of time and money. My cousin earned her Ph.D. and then married a neurosurgeon. They are both “The Drs. Jones,” and I assure you he has never mentioned taking issue with that.

      • Graceandhonor

        Hello, Laura…Please explain to me what you mean by “a trolling comment” in your response. I’ve heard of trolling for compliments or information, but don’t understand what you mean in this instance. Thanks!

        • A trolling comment is typically a comment that purposefully intends to “stir the pot,” but not in an informative, philosophical way. A person who simply disagrees with prevailing opinion might say, “I see what you’re saying, but this source, this source and this source say something different;” or, “I have a personal experience that defies what you’ve written.” That is not trolling.
          An internet troll is nearly always new to the board, and will go out of his way to make his comment more provocative than necessary. Some trolls resort to foul language, but (obviously) not all. They usually don’t come back to the board after the post, though some will hang around simply to post nasty things (look at the comments section of any given CNN political article for examples). I’d post a link to the urban dictionary, but there are more colorful metaphors on that site that wouldn’t be family friendly. I felt that jmphd’s comment was quite sarcastic and somewhat demeaning toward those who have worked very hard for their advanced degrees.

          • Graceandhonor

            And to think I just thought they were obnoxious! Though his tone might have been offputing to some, he nevertheless gave a good summary of the historical norm. I found it interesting he, apparently a Phd., didn’t advocate for change, which I prefer to think an indication of his, dare I say, humble character? Great discussions, all around! Thanks, Laura!

          • I was also uncomfortable because his history was incorrect.
            “Doctor” derives from the Latin doctoris, which means “teacher.” A Ph.D. in history, teaching at a university, has every right to call herself “Dr. Jane Smith.” He also left out lawyers, who earn a JD (Jurus Doctor), though most refrain from using that honorific unless they are teaching (referring back to original meaning).

            In short, I agree with the original advice given by EPI. Advanced degrees deserve recognition. But your advice was excellent as well – a person who lords his degree over others isn’t much of a person.

          • Graceandhonor

            I think jimphd was confining his comments to the subject at hand and presented them in a clear and objective way. I would rather not discourage a new visitor’s participation if his viewpoint differs from my own. I don’t believe there is an intentional slight under every bush.

          • Graceandhonor

            I need a Doctor for a migraine prescription after this thread and then I am calling my favorite Ph.D. to come on over and read Baudelaire to me.

          • Elizabeth

            All have doctorates of some kind, and so all are properly addressed as ‘doctor’.

          • Pat

            Thank you Laura, you were spot on with you comments. Jimphd by the way, medical doctors co-opted the term “doctor” from academia not the other way around as you suggest so please check your history before spouting. Charging the frontline with little to no backup smacks of an ABD.

            As for me, I am a licensed and nationally certified speech-language patholgist working toward’s completion of my Ed.D in educational psychology sometime this coming August (2013). Will I insist that my clients, in particular my pediatric-aged ones, call me “Dr.”? Absolutely not, but for a myriad other reasons than the ones proposed on this board not the least of which is to avoid the “white coat visual” a youngster has when he/she hears the word doctor.

            I could have gone for a Ph.D and was even enrolled in one program for a short time but once I got behind the scenes, I decided it was not a good fit for my professional goals. There were also a few clinical doctor of speech-langauge pathology program similar to the PsyD available to would-be psycholgists, but I opted for the Ed.D. Over the past 4 years I have been able to pursue a self-crafted program of study and original research while holding down a full-time job as a speech-language pathologist. I took the same core study design, research methods (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, survey), and data analysis courses as my fellow Ph.D students. Suffice it to say, we all worked very hard and I am proud to say that more than once I came out on top with regard to grades and presentation awards.

            So yes, after August 3, 2013 you can call me “Dr.” to which I’ll add, “Please, just call me Pat.”

          • Tom

            “Jimphd by the way, medical doctors co-opted the term “doctor” from academia not the other way around as you suggest so please check your history before spouting”

            And academia co-opted it from the Catholic Church. Beyond that the original use of the word signified teacher and many who use the term do not teach. So those professional PhDs who use Dr in their titles are also co-opting the term from academia. The use as Dr. to signify a medical professional pre-dates the use of Dr. to signify a PhD by centuries.

            I doubt you wish to go back to the historical basis for the use of the term Doctor which would require a licentia docendi granted by the Catholic Church. So any arguments on when and where it is proper to address someone with a PhD as Dr comes down to social norms and personal preference.

    • Graceandhonor

      Dear jmphd,

      I enjoyed reading your posting and agree, for the most part, with what you have stated. Yes, originally the usage of “Dr.” was reserved for those in the medical field, but as this blog notes, times, they are a changin’. I remember my dear blessed (read bless-ed, please!) grandmother speaking of Dr. Smaha in hushed, reverential tones; anything he declared was chiseled in stone and hung just below the Ten Commandments. He ranked right up there with FDR and Billy Graham.

      Sadly (or gladly), I’ve never had anything but a cursory relationship with a physician, mostly due to good health and frequent relocations, and I daresay this has been the experience of many people in our times. I’ve witnessed my own mother addressing her doctors in the same tones her mother did, and in most cases, the indifferent, impersonal care she received did not deserve it. If anything, it handcuffed her ability to make independent, informed decisions about what would be best for her life. I believe these types of experiences in our culture have contributed to the overall decline of respect for the medical profession. Heaven only knows what is to come in the next few years.

      This is not to say we should not extend professional courtesies to our physicians; of course, we should address them as Dr. Jones. However, I do not believe they may continue to be the only group to stake exclusive claim to the title, “Dr.” While an M.D. may be offended to be introduced to Dr. History Professor, I think Dr. Jones should consider that perhaps his collective industry has squandered much of the goodwill patients have toward the medical field. (Ever heard of three hour waits for scheduled appointments?)

      I believe it is right to address a Phd. as Dr., as their achievement uplifts our society, and we should endorse their attainment. In an age of dumbing down America, the pursuit of higher knowledge should be celebrated. Who knows, the a young student who will someday earn his own Phd. and solve world hunger may be present.


      • Aletheia

        Graceandhonor, thanks for your post, but you are incorrect to say that “originally the usage of “Dr.” was reserved for those in the medical filed [sic].” You have it backwards.

        “Doctor in Latin means “one who teaches,” It is the medical technicians (who have technical licenses to practice medicine) who have co-opted the term of the real academic doctors, and who then had the temerity to tell real doctors that they may not use their own title! This “jmphd” character who refers to real doctors as “bookworms” is an ignorant fool.


        • Graceandhonor

          And you are correct about the Latin meaning of Doctor. All this parsing and fence marking is silly in the end and speaks to egos and financial gain moreso than advancing or honoring learning or higher ideals. Countless trades use this type of posturing to promulgate their own ends…the majority of the American public now thinks they have to have a Realtor to buy or sell a home, for heaven’s sake.

        • Tek

          You have a poor understanding of the history of the doctoral degree as well as of the field of medicine if you do not understand why physicians are genuinely doctors. The word means to teach, and physicians are all sworn by oath to teach othe next generation of physicians. New doctors are trained by regular M.D.s with more experience than them, and the adage “see one, do one, teach one” is how every physician learns.

          And counter to your claim about PhDs coming first, the M.D. long predates the PhD by over a hundred years, so long before there was even a single PhD in existence there were doctors. It’s pompous nonsense to claim otherwise and lousy etiquette to introduce yourself as doctor outside of your field.

          • Simon


            Your history is wrong. Doctors of the PhD kind long existed before the doctors of the medical kind were even called such. The adoption of the “PhD” though was later as in the case of the US. Doctors of the the past were teachers and scholars. It just so happen that some of them were also physicians. At their time though, they were not called PhDs. They were just plain Doctors to distinguish them from the military, and the masses. In fact, there was a point in history wherein a doctorate can only be given by Royal Decree, which was the case of Spain.


        • Tom

          The term Doctor originated within the Catholic Church to signify teacher. Licentia docendi were granted by the church to allow to those who passed certain tests, paid certain fees, and had not angered the church enough to be blackballed. The use of Doctor to signify one who teaches was not an invention of academia but of the church.

          Likewise, the use of Doctor to signify a medical professional, medical doctors have professional licenses not technical licenses, was not co-opted by the medical profession. An outside agent, Emperor Frederick II, originated the use of the term Doctor for medical professionals.

    • BabyMD

      Wrong…. Someone with “Dr.” behind their name has a doctorate degree. A MD is a “Physician” and will not be offended. So, if someone has obtained any form of doctoral degree, refer to them as Dr.

      • Bb

        You are so right!! This conversation is sad to me. MD and PhD are both important in society. Medical doctors are now getting a PhD not because they want another degree it’s because the degree is relevant. I will receive my PhD soon and I will be referred to as a doctor in certain settings with no reservations, I worked to hard for it!!

      • kaila

        I just couldn’t help noticing that the once who are insisting that they should be addressed as doctors are the PhDs themselves..Can we also hear ideas from the MDs?

    • Simon

      Slight correction. PhD is Doctor of Philosophy not “doctorate”. Doctorate is often for the professional degrees.

      Either way, it is apt to call them doctors. Historically, physicians, whom we call MD nowadays, were called doctors not because they cure the sick. They were called doctors because they are allowed to teach. It just so happens that the learned people in ancient history were not only physicians but were also scholars.

      Therefore, I do agree that we should call them doctors, because they deserve such an honor. Most often than not though, the most learned among the PhDs will just tell you to drop the “Dr” in an act of humility. But unless you tell you so, dont call them by their first names as it is a sign of disrespect. It will be like being called from the crowd with your last name as if you were cattle.

    • Louis

      Jimphd, you are incorrect! I don’t believe that you are aware that, “Doctor” means teacher not healer. Initially, when the title evolved it was NOT bestowed upon physicians. It was meant for students who achieved the highest degree in an academic field as Ph.D.s have achieved the highest degree. Only later were physicians given the title of, “Doctor”. So, the fact of the matter is that Ph.D.s are entitled to be called, “Doctor” and should be addressed as such. Now, don’t get me wrong. It depends upon whom the Ph.D. is interacting with. It would be rude for any doctor regardless of which doctorate that he or she holds to insist on family members or friends to call him or her doctor. You should NOT address an envelope nor a wedding invitation to a Ph.D. as Mr./Mrs./Mr. It should be Dr. You will insult a Ph.D. if you do that. Moreover, as regard to your comment about introducing a Ph.D. to an MD, you are way out of line. Many physicians respect Ph.D.s as well and consider them doctors. The one who works in our psychological practice calls all the Ph.D.s including myself, “Doctor” in front of the clients”. He even introduces us as such and we reciprocate.

    • I hate to disagree, however I most emphatically do. I work with a team of MDs who congratulated me and called me doctor as soon as I passed my dissertation defense. On the street, they introduce me as “doctor.” Interpersonally, we use first names on both sides.

      In academia, professor is for someone with a Master’s degree. Once a doctorate is completed, “Doctor” is appropriate. As far as what my degree stands for, Ed. D. stands for “Doctor of Education” per my university.


    • Joe Murray

      Sorry, jimphd, you are wrong. MDs, or in the UK GPs, are NOT doctors. Medical schools simply pinched the name doctor for medical practicioners to make them sound more important in society. The title of doctor is far older than the medical profession as we know it now.
      Doctor is an academic term for those who have studied and reseached and have added to their field of knowledge – a PhD is a teaching degree . Medical or General Practitioners are not teachers. It normally takes around 8 years to complete a PhD from scratch (in Scotland where I come from, it takes a four years honours degree then a one year Masters degree and then 3-4 years study and research for the PhD … it is certainly NOT an honourary title.
      Medical Practitioners do not do that much study nor do they conduct academic research – they mostly go through an ordinary degree. This is the main reason that surgeons in the UK do not address themselves as doctor. but as Mister (even though they are, in fact, doctors), as it the title doctor confuses them with medical practicioners who they consider to be lesser beings.
      Surgeons are actual Doctors as they do have to conduct research and have it vigorously contested by their peers, as do all doctoral candidates. They all develop and add to their field of knowledge, if you do not, then you fail. Medical Practioners do not do this and it is a misnomer to call them doctor. However, we have done so for so long now and we need to feel we trust them so it is comforting for many people to continue to do so. it does not make it correct, though.
      Having said all that many MDs (or GPs) do go on to earn the title Doctor as some do condcut proper academic research (I don’t mean surveys for pharmaceutical companies) which is then vetted and published by their peers.
      Like others onhere, I prefer to be introduced as doctor then addressed by my first name thereafter, I generally only use the title in a professional context.

    • Chris Davis, Ph.D.

      “ONLY an MD is a Doctor and only an MD should be addressed socially as “Doctor”.”

      This is absolute bunk! Ph.D.s deserve to use the title doctor just as much as an MD. The term physician and doctor are not synonymous, even though our American culture has made them so.

    • Dr. Oliver Hunt

      jimphd – “the “D” in Ph.D. stands for “Doctorate” not “Doctor”

      No it doesn’t. PhD stands for “philosophiae doctor” meaning “for the love of wisdom”.

    • Patty

      Actually, in a medical emergency, I would inquire as to whether any health professional was present, a nurse, paramedic, etc. An M.D. would be deferring to a specialist and considering the liabilities.

    • Joe

      The phrase on the engineering degree to which my Ph.D. refers is “Doctor of Philosophy”. You seem testy and snide as to whether the title “Doctor” is or is not reserved for M.D.’s. I take exception to this. – I’m going to speculate that you’ve either no clue of the rigor required for a Ph.D., or your ignorance is purely a function of your biased emotion.

      The implication that reference to a Ph.D. as “Doctor” is somehow demeaning or degrading to an M.D. is absolutely detestable and mars your own credibility.

      Dr. Joe

    • Dr. John Coleman, Ph.D.

      If John Smith successfully completed his graduate school education regardless of his specialty and officially earned a Ph.D., you should address his name, ‘John Smith, Ph.D.,’ ‘Dr. John Smith’ or ‘Dr. John Smith, Ph.D.’ on the letter.

      Interestingly, Juris Doctors (J.D.s) in the US and surgeons in the UK are always called, ‘Mr.’ For instance, Bill Clinton earned a J.D. from Yale Law School but people always call him, ‘Mr. Clinton’ or ‘Mr. President.’

      It is very impolite and rude for you to write his name like ‘Mr. John Smith’ or ‘Mr. John Smith, Ph.D.’ on the letter. The latter one, ‘Mr. John Smith, Ph.D.,’ is wrong. You should also know that using the tile, ‘Dr.’ and ‘Ph.D.’ without finishing formal graduate school education and obtaining the degree is ILLEGAL in English speaking countries.

      As other people already posted here, medical doctors (M.D.s) usually call Ph.D. holders, ‘Dr.’ The value of M.D.s and Ph.D.s as doctorates are equal but an M.D. means that the person is qualified to see his or her patients.

      Therefore, the comments from jimphd is NOT agreeable. It is against universal academic rules in English speaking countries.

      Ah, I just remember one exception. I don’t know why but the people in the Philippines called me, ‘Mr. John Coleman,’ and addressed my name like ‘Mr. John Coleman, Ph.D.’ though they knew my educational background. I always felt they are very impolite, rude, cheeky, and intellectually poor (actually so).

      Many people in the THIRD world like Filippinos do not know universal academic rules at all. Probably, there is no internationally accreditted graduate schools there.

    • Dr. Viking

      The “rules of etiquette” are clearly ridiculous in many instances and disregard logical thinking. Not sure who decided the rules of etiquette and what his/her credentials are? The PhD is the highest academic degree awarded by a university. The MD professional degree is often held with the same esteem as a PhD.

      Any person holding a doctoral degree should be addressed as Dr., unless otherwise informed…period. The idea the ‘right’ of being referred to as Dr. is reserved for physicians is utterly ridiculous and frankly ignorant.

      I submit a person’s credentials be communicated clearly. For example: Dr. John Smith, MD or Dr. Jane Doe, PhD

      BUT…this would make sense!

    • joe d.

      I know this comment is old, but in case someone stumbles upon it…

      It’s patently false for all the reasons responders have mentioned. Furthermore, “Professor” isn’t appropriate for everyone with a PhD, because not everyone with a PhD is a professor. Professor is an earned position, available to those with PhDs, but not automatically conferred.

    • KDD

      Correct, unless one is a Clinical Practitioner and/or Clinical Psychologist/Clinical Counselor/ Clinical Socialworker who hold several state licenses as part of the Medical Mental Health model of parity billing insurance as a Clinician.

    • TJ Phillips

      Do you have a valid source for the information you shared or is it anecdotal? I am not sure that your claim that only medical doctors may be called “Doctor” socially is as broadly accepted as you might think. I understand that everybody has opinions on this issue, but who has access to The Sacred Scrolls on this issue? I am interested in knowing about the laws that regulate who may use the moniker of ‘Doctor’ in their title, especially here in Florida.

  5. Kiley

    What an interesting thread. I did have an awkward experience with this type of situation not long ago. I had a doctor (MD) as a client who, shortly after we become familiar, expressed that he would much rather have me call him by his first name, and always corresponded with me using simply his first name. Becoming so familiar calling him “John”, once when I called his office to speak with him, by sheer habit I asked for “John”. The receptionist had a complete melt-down that I would dare call a doctor by his first name, and how disrespectful of me.

    Lesson learned I suppose. Perhaps it is better to error on the side of caution.

  6. Ralph Philip


    You do have quite a bit of tolerance to differing viewpoints. Quite unusual to see that in an open forum. One part of Jimphd’s post met the basic criteria to make it worth challenging – a claim, an assumption, and an argument defending the claim using the assumption.

    The assumption was “The formal title of Dr. is used socially only to make it easier for medical doctors to respond in an emergency.” Argument: “Since Ph.D.s don’t respond to an emergency, they shouldn’t be introduced as doctors”. The assumption however is wrong; if a medical doctor is introduced as Dr at a table, does he respond only to emergencies at that table? Do people yell “Is there a doctor who has been formally introduced as a medical doctor in the room?”

    I always thought the title Dr was a mark of respect for knowledge earned, not to make sure everyone knows who to go to if they choke on their food. Some parts of jimphd’s post were simply ridiculous. No medical doctor can take offense at a Ph.D. being introduced as an equal. After all, modern medicine is extremely interdisciplinary, and the MRI, pacemaker and essential medical equipment were invented by teams of physicists and engineers, many (not all) of whom are presumably Ph.D.s, collaborating with medical doctors. New drugs are invented by biochemistry Ph.D.s. I’m pretty sure jimphd has neither degree, for he would have known this basic fact if he were any kind of doctor.

    I’m a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and I personally prefer that people introduce me formally first, and I usually say “call me Ralph”. I have received 115 Volts a dozen times while working an an energy efficiency project, that’s the least society owes me :)

    • Graceandhonor

      Dear Ralph,

      Regardless of your kind words about me (which I do try to reflect while not always succeeding), I am quite taken with your reasoned approach to this issue and your grounded 😉 humor. I second Laura. Come back often, please.


  7. Country Girl

    In writing a professional letter to a doctor (with whom one has a business relationship) would you address the envelope to Dr. Jason Smith or Jason Smith, MD?

  8. Ralph Philip

    @G an& H and Laura,
    Thank you for the gracious invite. I’ll certainly be here often since I’m trying to get used to the standards of etiquette in the professional world, after ten years in a relaxed university environment.

  9. Surely, I believe jimphd has certainly acquired the knowledge needed in the appropriate use of the title Dr. For more on the history, the doctorate dates back to the 12th century academia. Another note on the subject, jimphd seems to think that us bookworms really have not acquired as much knowledge as the medical doctor and therefor do not deserve such titles. But truth be known, M.D. students attend school for approximately 4-7 years without specialty additions, yet PhD. students attend at least 10 or more. (4 yrs for Bachelors), (4 more for Masters) and at least (7 more at least to complete the doctorate)…seems much simpler and faster to just be a good ole’ MD……

    • I came to this site because I have a psychologist friend who I suspect includes his PhD title a bit too often. My once lofty opinions of the PhD and especially the EdD have slid over the years, while my respect for doctors has only grown. A self-effacing friend of mine with a PhD in math told me long ago that it merely meant he had learned more and more about less and less until he knew absolutely everything about absolutely nothing. I thought he was joking.

      Some of the PhDs’ comments here have reinforced my poor opinion, unfortunately. Kym, for example, made several mistakes in her brief post: she misspelled the word ‘therefore'; she misspelled the colloquialism ‘good ol” (Too bad we can’t use italics here.) Something that helps is to remember is that the apostrophe indicates a dropped letter (d); she used ‘us bookworms’ instead of ‘we bookworms’ ; In another post, she misspelled the word ‘definitely’, which is odd, because it should have been underlined in red when she wrote ‘definitley’. The word is a tricky one, so the way I remember is that ‘finite’ is in the middle. And finally, Kym claims it takes way longer to get a doctorate than a physician’s degree! (Maybe it did for her.)

      S.Smith PhD above confused the terms ‘honorary’ and ‘honorific’.

      One more point before I go to the Emily Post website for the last word is that I think this discussion should be divided geographically, since Europeans and North Americans have different customs.

      • Chris

        I’m sorry but I disagree with this view. Your logic is seriously flawed. There are many MDs who have trouble spelling, and many others who are really awful at their jobs.

        1) Any idiot can get a PhD (I’ve seen a few lousy PhD theses get passed).
        2) Any idiot can get an MD (Even the lowest guy who passes the exam in the class still get’s his MD).

        Therefore having a PhD or an MD does not in and of itself mean you’re intelligent. However, nor does a PhD or MD mean you’re an idiot.

        So, what then, is the most logical thing to do when meeting somebody you know nothing about, other than that they posses such a title? Call them by it. Assume they earned it. It’s simply polite.

        One last point that is more emotion than logic. I spent 5 years of my life pursing my PhD (not including my honors degree). I’ve spent the past 2 years of my life dedicated to cancer research. I have, thus far, taken a good $50,000 a year salary cut to do so instead of applying my knowledge to say military applications. If you want to call an MD doctor, great. But assuming that I don’t deserve respect for also dedicating my life to saving yours, and then arrogantly correcting my spelling….. that’s just rude.

        …the irony is I don’t even care about being called Dr. until somebody calls the MD beside me Dr. and then fails to extend me the same courtesy.

  10. Caitlin

    What about a doctorate of physical therapy? This is a more recent advance in the field of physical therapy within the past 5 years or so, so I was unsure how to properly address my fiancé for the wedding invitation. While I feel he has earned the title, I want to make sure I do what it is etiquettly correct.

    • Alicia

      Anyone who gets a PhD /doctorate be in in medicine physical therapy, chemistry, economics, underwater basketweaving, politics, ect it does not matter they get to claim the title Dr for having gotten their PhD

    • Elizabeth

      I’ve been hunting around on this one, and I find conflicting advice.
      This wikipedia page discusses the use of “Dr.” with respect to physical therapists, you might find it useful (if inconclusive). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Physical_Therapy#Use_of_the_title_Doctor

      I should note that the 18th edition of Emily Post Etiquette says (with respect to wedding invitations) that “Physicians, veterinarians, and dentists use “Doctor” and clergy use their religious titles.” Ph.ds would be left out of this usage, and so perhaps would physical therapists? It seems like a grey area. If it were me, I’d err on the side of modesty and omit his title, because I’d hate for some cousin to receive the invitation and say to his wife, “Oh did you know Johnny became a doctor?” and the wife to reply, “No, he’s just a physical therapist!” I think the world of physical therapists, having been helped by them many times, but I don’t know that I’ve ever called one by anything but their first name and didn’t know that physical therapists receive a doctoral level degree. If it were me, I would not want to be seen as “putting on airs.”

      However – perhaps your fiance is called ‘doctor’ in his daily practice and friends and family are accustomed to thinking of his title that way (addressing mail to him as Dr.)? In that case, maybe I would go with ‘Dr.’ on the invitation.

  11. Lauratoo

    I stumbled upon this site looking for the etiquette in use for wedding invites. My fiance and I are Ph.D. candidates and his father has a Ph.D. Although his parents’ guest list included all info–Dr/Mrs/Ms AND middle initials— we decided due to the informality of our wedding events, we’re definitely not addressing invitations this way. Period.

    While our degrees are taking a lot of work and we will be proud to have earned the title “doctor”, we find it to be almost tacky to be addressed so formally, and very old-fashioned. We would rather acknowledge all our guests as equals and living in a title-free society (or so we think, right??). No Lords, no Ladies, and no Drs.

    Of course, this is our wedding and we’re trying to set a casual tone, but I do agree we should consider a variety of factors and if you know you _might_ offend someone, why take the risk? I think it’s a bit over the top, but in other situations, it might be appropriate. It’s my personal preference not to make people feel like they are of a lower social class than I am, and being referred to as “doctor” in a non-academic setting will surely make me uncomfortable. (I am also guilty of totally judging people who demand to be called “doctor” in all social settings as…eeek…pompous!! It’s a power move to me, and I don’t like being around people like that).

    Aside from that, I’d like to offer some clarifications on some of the titles that have been tossed out across these comments. A Ph.D. is a doctorate of philosophy, and so that person is typically referred to as a doctor in an academic setting. However, having a doctorate does NOT make you a professor. The big secret behind being a doctor is how much MORE work it takes to become an actual professor. You might be an adjunct for a while, then soon perhaps an assistant or even associate, and in time and after tenure, only THEN are you granted the status of professor IF you are approved. The title doctor seems like small potatoes then; it’s just the beginning of the journey….if you stay in academia that is.

    As a Ph.D. candidate, I also have to admit, it’s quite irksome when I hear someone with a non research doctorate degree referred to as “doctor”. I’m talking here about those who have a “Doctor of X” degree or “X Doctor” degree, like a PsyD or MusD. There is a HUGE difference between these degrees! Not knowing what that difference means is a reflection of a lack of understanding of the academic process. To obtain a Ph.D., you have to propose a project, carry it out, and defend it. You are required to contribute original thought via synthesis of existing information, so that you make academic progress in your field. The other degrees, while still of course requiring a lot of work and effort, are generally regarded as the “less intense” or “corporate” versions of Ph.D.’s; they are all the research without the original thought and the extra two years of primary research. My cousin just finished a doctorate in physical therapy, and my fiance and I are so burned up that everyone keeps calling him “doctor”!!! He’s not a doctor! Like other posters have commented, he didn’t actually reach the highest level of studies in his field. He just completed an oversized Master’s. It’s like a Ph.D. without rising to candidacy.

    My bottom line: To conflate my Ph.D. with a doctorate of music or a doctorate of psychology or a JD is more insulting to me than to forget to call me doctor at all. It’s definitely not an “all or nothing” title. That’s insulting.

    Also, I was wondering why according to one post, medical doctor’s bachelor’s don’t count towards their educations, but my BA does count towards my total Ph.D. education? I thought becoming an MD was a minimum 7 year commitment including schooling and residency, etc., but Ph.D.’s ought to be done in 5. If not, you typically have an additional 5-6 years grace to remain ABD, but NO ONE hires ABD anymore, so most students complete their degrees asap, and before funding runs dry.

    That’s my two cents!

    • Ron

      Point of information: Your statement is partially incorrect. Many non PhD doctorates (PsyD, Ed.D, D.H.Ed and the like) go through a rigorous dissertation process which includes forming a formal committee, writing a proposal as well as conducting and defending original research.

  12. Pauline

    May I just add one “soft” comment : it simply depends on the country where you live. In France it not well seen to “show off” with diploma (engineers/PhD/Pr. etc.). Some people does though.
    However in Germany, people are paying attention to this title much more than in other part of Europe : it appears on your ID card, passport, official mailing and even on your lab coat if you wear one. But this is not a self decision. This is the society recognition. So my opinion is just to check in your own country/region/industrial area, etc.

    And it’s not because it is hard to have a PhD that we need to feel superior to others (who probably also faced challenges/problems in their own fields). And if you ask : yes I got a PhD but HUMILITY is certainly one of the most important thing I’ve learned during this time of hard work. 😉

  13. Louis Todd Teller

    I have a question. I hold a Ph.D. in psychology. You indicated that Ph.Ds. are not used socially. This makes sense in a way. I prefer to be called Louis socially and not Dr. Teller. However, is it reasonable to expect if someone wants to formally address you to call you Dr. and not Mr.? I am under the impression that when one earns a doctorate that Mr./Ms./Mrs. is no longer appropriate. Is that true?

  14. Winifred Rosenburg

    I suspect that the custom of addressing only medical doctors as Dr. may be for practical purposes and not to imply that medical doctors are of a higher status, achieved more, etc. It may just be so when someone starts choking at a party everyone knows whom to a call for help rather than having to check if Dr. Smith’s degree was in medicine or English literature.

    • I work at a university with a large amount of Ph.Ds, and both in-laws have the terminal degree. I assure you that they are referred to as “Dr. Smith” until they let us know otherwise.

      Besides, our psychiatrist on campus has an M.D., but I doubt she is up on the latest tracheotomy techniques in the event someone starts choking at a party. She relies on the Heimlich maneuver just like the rest of us.

  15. GeoffH

    Jimphd remaked that an MD shouldn’t have to address an MD as Dr. He also said that the D in PhD stands for doctorate, which is not correct. It stands for Doctor of Philosophy (I’m sitting here looking at my diploma). He also apparently doesn’t understand the history. A few centuries back, Philosophy encompassed all of science. the PhD is the original Dr’s degree. The others all spun off as specializations, including MD. And, the Phd is the only doctor’s degree that is never awarded honorarily — it has to be earned.

  16. Curiosity

    I have a good frend of mine who has recently got a doctorate in medicine

    She can now be called Dr Smith. I would like to know what the etiquette is when it comes to her little Sister using Miss Smith instead of Miss A Smith like she was using before? Any body know?

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I’m not sure I understand the question. Why would a person’s sister getting a degree have any affect on what she is called?

      • Elizabeth

        I think the OP believes that siblings must be known by different names socially. So younger sister was going by Miss A Smith as a way to differentiate herself from Miss Smith (the older sister). However, that is not the case. Younger sister can go by whatever she likes.

        • Elizabeth

          Also – women older than teenagers should really not go by Miss, but Ms. This is similar to the French: only young girls are addressed as Mademoiselle. Even unmarried women are referred to as Madame when they reach adulthood.

          • Alicia

            Unmarried adult women may and often still go by Miss in America. I go by by Miss even in my thirtys.

            Ms has only a weird pronunciation that is hard and awkward for people to say.There is nothing wrong with being a Miss no matter your age.

            Miss Alicia

          • Elizabeth

            The wikipedia entry on ‘Ms.’ has a very interesting history of the term in relation to Miss and Mrs. (apparently they all came into use at a similar time in the 17th century). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms.

            What I like about Ms. is that it does not connote a marital status. Though, the article does say that in the south many women prefer to be known by Miss Firstname irrespective of their marital status. However, that seems to be a social convention rather than a professional one.

  17. Alicia

    Ms is used very very rarely by married women and mainly by single women making a feminist rhetorical point and as such has a connotation of being a single woman who is upset at her single status. I dislike it for this reason. I’m a femanist but beyond the rhetorical point need. Ms still means Miss and implies single. There is no neutral like Mr for women in the English language. Miss has the benefit of not having the angry and upset about status connotation and is easier to say and clearer. Yes Ms technically can be used for a married woman but never is.
    I’m happy with Miss I dislike Ms I’m also happy with just Alicia.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      That’s not true at all! Ms. is the female equivalent Mr. as it is not restricted by marital status. It’s basically a catch-all for women and can be used by any woman if they prefer it. It is especially useful when neither Mrs. nor Miss fits the bill like for divorced women, married women who kept their maiden name, married women who simply don’t like being referred to by their husband’s name, and (according to the 18th edition of Emily Post Etiquette) single women over 18. It should also always be used in business situations as Miss and Mrs. are reserved for social uses.

      • Alicia

        Ok perhaps I am wrong. It has been known to happen. I will admit that I work in a profession where Mr, Mrs Miss Ms Dr is never used. People are Introduced simply by first and last name not with a title. This is “Emily Post” not this is “Mrs Emily Post”.
        So titles like Mr, Mrs , Miss, and Ms only show up in formal invites ( which are rare) and when my family want to hassle me on why I am still single.
        I will admit I know not a single married woman who goes by Ms. Every one I know goes by Dr, or Mrs.

    • Elizabeth

      I think you didn’t read the wiki article I posted…that’s just not true at all.

      Ms. is the equivalent of Mr. for women. It is short for Mistress. It actually began as the male equivalent (ie does not indicate marital status). It has nothing to do with feminism or anger or rhetoric or any of the other things you mentioned. There are a great many women who no longer take their husband’s name upon marriage (like me) and hence use Ms. It doesn’t make sense to use Mrs. with your maiden name. Alicia is a lovely name to use socially or with people you know, but you need a proper form of address in a professional situation, and if you are not married (or if you are but kept your name), Ms. is it, I’m afraid. Or unless you teach kindergarten.

  18. Bill

    This is an interesting discussion indeed. Yes, the original context for the term doctor referred to a holder of an academic doctorate characterized by a novel contribution to scholarship- such as traditional dissertation project. In this regard, J.D.’s and M.D., fall somewhere between a masters degree and the Ph.D. They are not formal doctorates in the classic sense but are professional doctorates. Ph.D. itself stood for Doctor of Philosophy because until about two hundred years ago most areas that have now become fragmented into their own discplines which subspecialties of philosophy. Newton for instance in his day was known as a natural philosopher not a physicist. To be considered a medical doctor in some countries, such as Germany, one must complete a research degree in medicine, more akin to our Ph.D. in medicine. Purely professional training, such as our standard M.D. training, may allow one to practice medicine but not to be understood as a “doctor” in this formal sense because of the absence of the traditional research linked doctorate. Yet the situation gets more complex in certain contexts. Its appropriate for instance of a Ph.D. psychologists to be called “doctor” in most settings unless there is a risk of this being confused for physician title if the psychologist is employed in a medical setting. They would desrve the “doctor” title in terms of academic tradition but licensing bodies may be concerned about patient confusion when employed in some contexts.

  19. Vita

    Reading this discussion, I feel like Moses has led me out into the desert–and left me there! I am interested in a more specific question: When addressing an envelope to a PhD in Musicology, e.g., Music Theory, how would one distinguish him from a PhD in Music Performance?

  20. Susan

    Interesting string of emotions. Personally, as someone who recently went through the ‘less intense’ doctoral process, I had to propose a project, carry it out, and defend it. In addition, I contributed original thought through synthesis of existing information, and made headway in my field. While friends and some co-workers call me ‘doc,’ the only place that I require to be addressed as Dr. xxx is in front of the classroom. While I admit I do not know everything in my field of study, in academia, I have earned the right to use my title. For all other purpose, my given name is just fine. At the end of the day, we all – Dr. or no Dr. – put on our proverbial pants, one leg at a time.

    • Doctor Who?

      Technically, wouldn’t we “take-OFF” our proverbial pants at the END of the day? Unless you’re talking about pyjama pants, I tend not to put my pants ON at night, as that’s when I tend to at least wish I was asleep! I’m not trying to troll, and this is totally off-topic; just finding the fun in the English Language, and the way that our expressions don’t necessarily make sense!

  21. Doctor Who?

    All I know is that my father has a D.Sc. (doctor of science), and that when he receives mail it is to DOCTOR Sullivan, not MISTER. As far as I understand (but I presumably don’t know much), you call a person “doctor” if they have gone-through the rigours of getting any sort of doctoral degree. Personally, as I am working towards a Ph.D. in physics, I’d sure like to be called “doctor,” after I earn that degree, even if life takes me down a path where I’m not doing physics, I’ve “wasted” enough years of my life that I’ve earned it. But, again, I’m not a maestro at the whole etiquette stuff, and just figure that if you’ve got a doctor, you’re a doctor until you say otherwise, and I will not think more or less of you if you want to be a doctor. If anything, it is a nice way to differentiate in a discussion between someone who knows what they’re saying and someone who doesn’t. For instance, if there were two people, one had a doctorate in political science and one had a BFA in pottery, and for some reason they were arguing about the state of current political affairs, I’d presume that the guy with the Ph.D. (or whatever “type” of doctorate he has) would be more useful for a clear, supported argument. Therefore, possessing a degree of doctoral denomination ought to be something to respect.

    Also, J.D.s and M.D.s are PROFESSIONAL doctorates. This means that there is a specific course-set that people go through, and it takes a set amount of time, and in the end you’re a doctor (as you should be called, particularly in formal situations). By contrast, Ph.D.s and their various spawn are RESEARCH doctorates, making it so that there is more ambiguity as to time commitment, and also having (in addition to course work) various other requirements that need to be met. When that’s over, though, you’re a doctor.

    Bottom Line (if any of this still makes sense): in Star Trek (as well as various other pop-culture shows) the term “doctor” is used for anybody who has a doctorate, even IF it’s flower-arranging. It’s a sign of respect, and if someone thinks a person has a bloated ego for wanting to be called doctor, that implies that they have some sort of resentment (even if they don’t admit it) of the title, and if M.D.s are insulted by it, that’s their problem, because they’ve done nothing more or less special than Doctor Flower-Arranger, in the sense of mastery of their field, and, news flash, medicine is NOT the most respected field within the academic community, it’s just where the average-Joe most frequently comes into contact with a “doctor,” physicists aren’t treating your arthritis, so you’re not noting them as easily.

  22. Patty

    As a multiple Ph.D. holder, I am always annoyed when an M.D. presumptuously calls me “Ms.,” because (1) using a purloined title, I am suspicious of their integrity, (2) as the paying customer/client I should be treated with all the dignity and respect due me, and (3) in spite of amassing extensive details about my health history, they know (and care) nothing about who I am as a person. That’s why I promote myself as protoplasm bag #466521996 and always ask what the “M” stands for in “M.D.” I also point out that their calling me “patient” is purely wishful thinking on their part…

    • Chocobo

      Yes, you simply say pleasantly, “Actually, it’s Doctor/Ms. So-and-So,” while extending your hand for the handshake and a smile.

  23. Chocobo

    Etymology aside, it’s true that today both doctors of philosophy and doctors of medicine have the right to be addressed as doctor if they so choose.

    However, I always find it charming to find out the Mr. Smith is actually a prestigious physics professor at Yale, and Mrs. Brown is actually a local brain surgeon through conversation, rather than title. Honestly, I wish both types of doctors would give up their fight to be superficially recognized as a doctor in the social circle. It seems silly and self-aggrandizing to be squabbling and demanding recognition from our peers when practically the first question ever asked after an introduction in America is “So, Sally, what is it you do?” Isn’t being recognized in one’s own profession as a doctor by title enough?

    No? Very well. I am still a believer that people reserve the right to be called what they wish, so I will continue give each doctor whatever title they please. But I will remain much more impressed by Ms. Kagan when I find out later, after a thrilling conversation about gardening and the juicy plot twist on Downton Abbey, that she is actually a Justice.

  24. Sheri A. Wilson

    I am a psychologist with a PhD who recently participated in my son’s elementary school career day. A few weeks before the event, the participants were asked to complete a form on which we were to indicate our title (Mr., Ms., Mrs.). The title Dr. was not included so I wrote it in. When I arrived at the career day, my name tag contained the title Ms. Wilson. I chose not to say anything but can’t help but think how ignorant the organizer was in that using academic titles would have been a great teaching moment for the students on career day of all days. Next year, I’ll simply write it in myself. It’s amusing yet sad that jealous people believe they can change what you have earned and what will always be yours no matter where you go in this world with their petty little slights.

    • SHS

      Maybe next year, you should give your first name as Dr.Sheri and request no title– see if that’s a workaround.

  25. Mary

    I find it pompous that people who MADE THE CHOICE to get a degree expect that they now should be respected for All the Hard Work they did because, of course, they are more worthy than others.

    • D.

      I agree – as a holder of a PhD I think the argument that “I worked hard for my degree” is complete bunk. There are all kinds of career paths requiring huge amounts of hard work and skill. The effort involved has nothing to do with the title – if that were the case we should probably be calling MLB players “Dr.” for instance. It took them just as much effort or more, and just as much skill to get where they are as it took me.

      Frankly, I think the original article had the best assessment – Dr. is my appropriate title in a professional, not a social context. It would be unacceptable for an academic press or a university to refer to me as “Mr.” My research degree confers meaningful status in those contexts which should be recognized, just like a judge in a courtroom should be addressed as “your honour” or “judge” because of his or her status in that context.

      However, calling me “Mr.” at a cocktail party, or at work (if my job is not closely related to the degree) or in any other setting is completely fine, and in fact feels more comfortable to me. Calling me “Dr.” in those settings would not be an absolute faux-pas either, but I would probably politely ask you to stop if you did since it would just feel out of step. I don’t see what my degree has to do with a party, school event, job selling insurance, or anything like that. Returning to the above example, if you’re a judge, don’t expect me to call you “your honour” when talking about hockey over beers. That strikes me as just as inappropriate as calling you “Jim” in your court-room.

      Back to wedding invites? Do it’s up to the inviter – this is a social grey area at this point. If you, like some, think of invitations as grand objects upon which old fashioned rules of decorum are to be observed, then I guess I’m “Dr.” If you think of them as slips of paper letting me know about your party, then “Mr.” or no title at all is fine by me. All I would note is that your use or non-use of the title will send a signal to me about the kind of wedding you’re planning, so be aware and send the signal you intend to send, casual, formal, whatever. Either way, I’ll certainly be at your barbeque reception with a smile after you invited “Mr.” and I will show up happily in tails to your white-tie event for which the invite was addressed to “Dr.”

  26. TE

    I have a PhD in chemical engineering. No one calls me ‘Dr.’ and I never introduce myself as such….but the ONE exception I allowed myself is to change all my magazine subscriptions from ‘Mr.’ to ‘Dr.’ Sue me!

  27. Tom

    It is appropriate to call both PhD’s and MD’s “Dr.” especially in a professional or academic setting. Whether you think the degree is useful is not relevant. “Graceandhonor” and “jimphd” don’t quite understand this. Their snide, childish comments remove any credibility. PhD is the abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy. In other words, doctor is the title and has been for centuries. You may resent these people for any number of reasons, but that does not change their earned title, or somehow eliminate their degree. It is up to the doctor (medical or academic) to decide on how they would like to be addressed.

  28. As one person noted, jimphd was a troll, made his inane comment and never showed back up. I have a feeling you will not find jimphd on any other forum. I believe he made up the name only for this discussion. He was pretending to have a PhD by his screen name. As a Sports Psychology Coach for a Woman’s Football Team, I go by Doc or Coach, neither is preferential, since they both are part of my title. I also don’t mind if they just call me Dan.
    Now my question is, am I not a Dr., since I am not in a Academic environment. Or in my Sports Psychology Clinic, which is a clinical environment, when I am working with clients, will they think I am a Medical Doctor if I introduce myself as Doctor?
    Just wondering…

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I do not think you would be misleading anyone if that’s what you’re asking. I would not assume someone going by Doctor in a sports psychology clinic was an MD. I would think he might have a PhD in psychology for example.

  29. Greg

    If you are not a M.D. you are not worthy of calling yourself a Doctor. Let’s take for example someone who works in a hospital who earned their “PHd” in business admin with some online college. Should they introduce themselves to you as Doctor? Should they sign their emails to fellow employees as Doctor? Would this not be confusing to the real doctors??

    Most people who think they need to be called something due to “hard work” and “years of devoted study” are pompous narcissistic asses that need to get over themselves.

    Focus on what is important in life, and this is helping others and making some notable change on people and the planet that outlives your life on this sad, sad “me” world we live in.

    • Elizabeth

      You are certainly entitled to your opinions, however you should know that they are not in line with legal codes, historical precedent, and contemporary common usage. Further, the idea that someone could obtain a phd online is ridiculous. It takes years of hard work to obtain a doctorate – years with very little renumeration – and the production of a dissertation, which is a book-length work that must introduce new knowledge. I don’t know many phds who use “Dr.” in their everyday lives, but I do know they’re entitled to it. Every world-class scientist, philosopher, historian, psychologist – all of them hold doctorates.

  30. g king

    its simple

    An MD is a doctor by profession . A PhD is a doctor by title. A MD is called Dr at work . A PhD is called Doctor at Work . Outside a MD and a PhD are called Doctors. In case of emergencies its always called as “Is there a medical Doctor in the House ,plane ETC.

  31. Cynthia Smith, Ph.D

    I have earned my Ph.D., but my husband stopped after receiving his Masters. When our daughter was married, we used Mr. and Mrs. on the invitations. Had I wanted to have my Ph.D. indicated, what would be the correct way to do so?

    • Elizabeth

      It would have been dr. And mr. Smith. The person with the higher degree or title goes first regardless of gender.

  32. Workman

    I think a lot of people’s issue with when to call someone a Dr. Is when you don’t know anything about them and you say Mr. Or Mrs. Ect and then the jump down your throat like there a king or queen of the world. I have had that happen and I know others who have. I have a bachelor degree could have easily gotten a masters if I wanted too. I had no desire for a PhD but I did spend time in the military. So I usually just fire back, well my name isn’t Mr either it’s Veteran Workman lol. I guess we can all demand something if we feel like trying to embarrass someone when there is no need. There’s a proper way to say things but one thing isn’t I spent a lot of money to get Dr. A lot of people can buy a name but it’s more proper to say by the way I prefer in this environment to be called Dr. But away from here you can call me such and such. This however never happens as it’s usually a yelling of “I spent a lot of money and time on this degree blah blah blah”, makes people want to say you and how many people did the same? Geez would people like it if a ww2 vet always corrected someone who called them Mr. By saying no I’m a Colonel or Lt. Or master sgt. Ect. And then said sonny you’d be speaking German if it wasn’t for me? Probably sounds a little over the top right? Well same can be said by a lot of PHDs when they flip out. Be courteous should be taught when getting a PHD because nowadays you can get a PhD online and more and more people will be going the old internet route aka University of Phoenix ect. While the cost is high and yes it’s nice to be called Dr ect. There’s also times you have to live with the fact you were born a man or woman and mr. Or Mrs or Miss is acceptable form of human language. I call people Dr when I know they are but after a few whiners and tantrum throwers like children it can ruin it for the rest that want that want to be courteous about it.

  33. This refers to the comment of a Phd holder, quoted here under:

    “Dr. John Coleman, Ph.D. June 14, 2013 at 8:32 am
    If John Smith successfully completed his graduate school education regardless of his specialty and officially earned a Ph.D., you should address his name, ‘John Smith, Ph.D.,’ ‘Dr. John Smith’ or ‘Dr. John Smith, Ph.D.’ on the letter.

    Interestingly, Juris Doctors (J.D.s) in the US and surgeons in the UK are always called, ‘Mr.’ For instance, Bill Clinton earned a J.D. from Yale Law School but people always call him, ‘Mr. Clinton’ or ‘Mr. President.’

    It is very impolite and rude for you to write his name like ‘Mr. John Smith’ or ‘Mr. John Smith, Ph.D.’ on the letter. The latter one, ‘Mr. John Smith, Ph.D.,’ is wrong. You should also know that using the tile, ‘Dr.’ and ‘Ph.D.’ without finishing formal graduate school education and obtaining the degree is ILLEGAL in English speaking countries.

    As other people already posted here, medical doctors (M.D.s) usually call Ph.D. holders, ‘Dr.’ The value of M.D.s and Ph.D.s as doctorates are equal but an M.D. means that the person is qualified to see his or her patients.

    Therefore, the comments from jimphd is NOT agreeable. It is against universal academic rules in English speaking countries.

    Ah, I just remember one exception. I don’t know why but the people in the Philippines called me, ‘Mr. John Coleman,’ and addressed my name like ‘Mr. John Coleman, Ph.D.’ though they knew my educational background. I always felt they are very impolite, rude, cheeky, and intellectually poor (actually so).

    Many people in the THIRD world like Filippinos do not know universal academic rules at all. Probably, there is no internationally accreditted graduate schools there.”
    etiquettedaily.com etiquettedaily.com

    My comment is for Dr. John Coleman, Ph D to know how to merit a real good name is not by giving a bad name to Filipinos for a mistake not done in deliberate bad faith but by being a polite, good person in correcting a mistake in addressing him. By doing so, I think,he is worthy of an esteem greater than just stating his educational attainment in a correct manner.

    Angelina B. Espiritu
    Graduate of U.P. Diliman and one time U.P. scholar

  34. Sun

    Is it okay to put Doctor of Education (Ed.D) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) next to your name? For example, Sophia Marreal B. Cruz, Ed.D, Ph.D?

  35. Victoria

    I am not sure why one person in society deserves greater deference than another, solely based on station. I know plenty of hardworking and wonderful people who work in construction, office administration and the service industry who are no less deserving of respect by other people. Titles perpetuate a culture based on caste. Furthermore, the assumption that a person requires a certain amount of distance from others in order to preserve their position of power seems quite cold, and based on an antiquated way of life. Instead, I think that familiarity and equality lead to genuine liking, respect, rapport and trust and is on a whole much warmer and more human.

  36. modestasker

    I have a JD and I am addressed by the standard “Ms.” But recently, I’ve become involved in an academic think tank abroad, where people keep addressing me as “Doctor.” If I correct them they get confused and ask if I don’t have the juris doctor degree they recall seeing on my CV and I have to get into a long, unduly self-deprecating explanation about difference between my “doctoral” degree and a “real” PhD. (incidentally. I went to a law school that requires something very similar to a dissertation — though it doesn’t have to be “defended” orally). Anyway, that parenthetical aside is not intended, in ANY WAY to suggest that I think I deserve to be called “doctor”; but only to point out that trying to explain how my JD is not a PhD is having the unfortunate effect of making my JD sound like it is nothing at all or that it is some kind of meaningless honorary degree. Under the circumstances, is it acceptable for me to let people call me doctor if they so choose? Or would I violate some kind of ethical norm by not correcting them?

    • modestasker

      FYI: I’ve learned that the ABA — my profession’s self-regulatory body — actually has an informal ruling on this issue, based on which it seems I MAY be called doctor (the old Model Code of Professional Responsibility also allowed it). Nobody in my profession really adopts the title and I certainly would NEVER do so sua sponte.
      Nevertheless, I’d be interested in hearing people’s views on whether I should feel obligated to prohibit others from addressing me in this way in all circumstances.

    • Elizabeth

      If this group typically refers to JDs as “doctor” then you should go with it and not diminish your accomplishments. You can explain that in the US, JDs are not typically addressed using that title, but I would just let it go as a quirk of international differences.

  37. Jim

    Anyone with a doctoral degree of any kind (MD, DO, PhD, etc.) who insists on being called “doctor” in informal social settings is a certified weiner. The idea the ONLY medical doctors (not PhDs) should EVER be called doctor socially is a load of crap. It is an embarrassing reflection of our society’s worship of prestige and money and our lack of regard for intellectual pursuit. Additionally, the reasoning that only medical doctors should be referred to as “doctor” socially due to the fact that some member of the public may need the attention of a physician in the event of a medical emergency is ridiculous. The ultra-rare event of having to possibly, maybe (probably never) deal with a medical situation in public does not mean that the world needs to fawn over you and call you “doctor” during the 99.9% of the time in which people around you are not having some kind of medical drama.

    As far as there being some sort of “etiquette rule” that states that only MDs should be referred to as “doctor”, I’m pretty sure that some MDs mommy (or possibly grandma) made up that rule. I think I read somewhere that when addressing something like a wedding invitation to a MD, you should address them in writing as “Doctor Firstname Lastname” (Spelling out the word “doctor”? Gag me.)

  38. Anek MD, Ph.D.

    Ph.D. is a more intricate educational degree than an MD. I can vouch for that. My patients call me doctor and I do not correct them. If my friends and family members call me doctor — I correct them and ask them to address me by my first name. If my students call me doctor or professor, that’s fine, but some students and colleagues address me by my first name and that’s fine by me too. There are many research scientists who have Ph.D.s in my work place and they get equal respect and are addressed as Doctors and they should be. There is nothing “pompous” about that. MD is a standard professional degree that took me 4 years to obtain. Ph.D. was endless. It required me additional 6 years of intensive research, publishing and collecting experimental data. Without my Ph.D. I would not be eligible to teach. An MD is a professional degree but in medical field it precedes a Ph.D. I would not call it a master’s degree either.

  39. Worker

    I think that the average person recognizes the contributions that doctors make to their individual lives and to society in general. The prefix Dr. recognizes this, and is also used as an important and simple way to acknowledge to a group of unknowing people in a public setting that in the event of a medical emergency, there is someone in their presence that should be consulted immediately. It’s always important to know if there’s a doctor near by and the most effective way of achieving this is to call them doctor so all can hear and know. I think that nurses should also have a common prefix for this reason, to let people know.

    As for a phd, they are not trained to provide medical care, and I don’t think that the average person is interested in their academic history.

    In my view a phd is a form of training that prepares you for a job where the real challenges begin in a competitive envoronment with responsibilities that carry weight and effect others. Academic training may be an important factor in contributing to ones knowledge, but real learning and deeper understanding aren’t confined to the limits of a classroom. This extends beyond academia into the higher realm of industry where titles mean nothing and reputations speak for themselves.

  40. Worker

    Phds can call themselves drs if it makes them feel good, but expect that people will find this pretentious and probably have a chuckle. And I wouldn’t expect others to call you doctor it just doesn’t make sense.

  41. Olutoye Walrond

    The vanity in the human heart never ceases to amaze me. Everybody wants to be larger than life. Why should your hard work in university impose an obligation on me to call you anything other than Mr. or Ms? It was YOUR hard work, done for YOU, not me. In academic circles and situations in which your expertise is being called on, I will accept the use of the title; other than that no.

  42. Dr. Dr. Herbert Barber

    Technically, only PhDs are doctors. Period. MDs, etc are vocational degrees, similar to any other degrees or diplomas received at a vocational school. In fact, many, many medical programs do not even require a bachelor’s degree for acceptance, as it is not necessary, for MDs are trained, not educated. Need an example? Look at the medical school at Emory University, a highly respected medical school. This explains why MDs can set a fractured bone but not understand the common cold; thus, the medical “practice.”

    With only few excptions, a PhD recipient has earned a minimum of a 4 year bachelor’s degree and at least one 1-3 year master’s degrees prior to acceptance. The PhD usually requires preliminary testing, 2-3 years of full time coursework, followed by more testing and a research proposal. Following admission to candidacy, a student then completes his dissertation, most often requiring another 4-9 years of full time research. The dissertation is followed by an oral defense by other PhDs. Then he is a doctor. However, in many fields, such as engineering, he must still complete an additional 3-4 years of experience, and pass not less than 2 seperate 8 hour written exams, before he can seal engineering design.

    In conclusion, the term doctor is an earned title, not a profession, and in keeping with the original intent of each degree objective and offering, a PhD is a doctorate, and an MD is a vocational degree. It is what it is. That said, many physicians can earn a higher income than doctors (PhDs) who work in academia. However, in my experience, PhDs in industry or consulting usually earn much more than most physicians, but this argument is not about money.

    In the end, it is a difference between education and training. Doctors are educated. Physician s are trained.

    There is no argument here, despite what many prefer to believe.

  43. Dr Robert J Irvine

    I earned my (UK) PhD and, as mentioned above, it was a lot of very hard work. However, I tend not to use the title of Dr much because it sometimes seems a little pompous (to say the least) – unless you are dealing with documents that specifically refer to you, or require you to state your title as Dr (and although these seem to be quite rare, you should take care when dealing with certain insurance companies).

    But there is a much more important reason for avoiding the title in day to day life – simply because the world of academia, which your doctorate makes you part of, requires you to respect the arguments posed by certain subject matter such as ontology and, more so, epistemology – and for those of you who have engaged with these subjects as doctoral candidates, you will have realised that they have little or no place in “normal” life – unless of course you don’t want any friends and honestly wish for a completely solitary and lonely life.

    So for me, just call me Robert.

  44. Cynthia Ferguson

    Wow, what a discussion! I hope at least one of you is deciding (or in progress) of writing a text on this topic. :) I just graduated from Walden University with my PhD after 8 long years of study (working, in the military and family tragedy caused some delays). I’m a registered nurse, a nurse-midwife and forensic nurse an a forensic nurse examiner and before I completed my PhD, I’d completed my masters in nursing, masters in public health, and masters in fine arts as well as full degree studies for my masters in criminal justice.

    I tell my co-workers to call me “Tara” but I do ask them that whenever I’m introduced to a member of faculty, a Board Member, or a Grant/Foundation member to call me Dr. My title of “Dr.” is not only important to me because I feel I’ve earned it (and I do research and teach), but it helps my facility when people know it is supervised by someone with a PhD. I’ve paid large sums and studied till my eyes are numb, and I’ve made learning (and teaching) a part of my life’s work. No, I never mind being called “Dr.” at all. After 26 years in the military as a Navy Nurse and Midwife, and spending time in Afghanistan, CDR or Dr will do for those I don’t know. For my friends, “Tara,” and for my students, “Supreme Demonic Overlord,” will do. :)

  45. Cynthia Ferguson

    Geez, sticky keys in that last post! Perhaps I need a PhD in typing. :) Sorry for the poor sentence structure. If I could edit–and the editor in me is dying–I would. Alas, this forum doesn’t seem to allow it. Ah well. Have a great weekend everyone!

  46. Truth

    I respect any educated individual, but I do not understand the logic of some of those who hold an MD certificate. The professional certificate is not the same as those degree which is given by universities. The PhD is the highest academic degree and holder of a PhD is given the right to use the title of Doctor.
    The professional degree given by hospitals, or medical establishment such as MD is not the highest degree although they are traditionally and by mistake are called Dr.
    I have nothing against the MDs but they should be called physician and not Doctor.
    If an MD is so keen to be called Doctor, he or she should go to university and get a PhD in his/her medical field.
    Some of the respect that MDs is getting in society is because they earn in most cases more money than people with PhDs. But that still does not entitle them to be called Doctor. Doctor should have a PhD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *