How address a person with a PhD/Doctorate?

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How to Address a Person with a PhD
How to Address a Person holding 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 PhD professor at a college, a PhD in biology doing scientific research, and a PhD principal at an elementary school all use Dr. 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).  If you know it is the tradition it is correct to use it. But for those outside the academic community it is acceptable to address holders of doctorates as Dr. (Name) in writing or oral address.

    2) Protestant clergy with doctorates are typically addressed as Dr. (Name) in a salutation or conversation too. 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. 
     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 PhD in finance working at a bank or a PhD 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! 
     And, outside the USA I observe people holding a PhD do want to be addressed as
Dr. (Name).

    4) In hospitals and some other healthcare environments as well there is often a practice no one holding a doctoral degree except the physicians (medical doctors, dentists, osteopaths,
podiatrists, veterinarians ... ) is addressed as Dr. (Name). This is out of consideration for the patients who want to know who are the doctors and who are nurses, support staff and allied professionals. It can be confusing with so many people walking around 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 address a doctor?  See also ...
     How to address a dentist     
     How to address a chiropractor        
     How to address a medical doctor    
     How to address a military doctor  
     How to address a veterinarian     
     How to address a person holding an academic doctorate    
     How to address an optometrist
     How to address an osteopath     

FYI, here is what's come into the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.

When To Use Dr. (Name)? 
And When To Use (Name), PhD?

My daughter is receiving her PhD 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), PhD?
              --  AP

Dear AP,
         (Full Name), PhD 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.
         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" – but there it is for the patient's benefit to know that 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 a office name plate use the official form of her name -- (Full Name), PhD  
                  -- Robert Hickey

Can I Call Myself a "Dr." with my PhD?
    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 a Music Director at Church
Dear CJ:
    Academic doctorates are frequently used professionally: Faculty members with a PhD are usually "Dr. (name)" at the university or when speaking in the context of their degree. Scientists with a PhD are typically "Dr. (name)" at the research lab and at professional conferences.
    Socially? Usually academics and researchers use "Dr." socially. But ultimately whether a particular PhD holder is "Dr."
socially ... especially outside of academia or research ... is at the preference of the bearer.
    List yourself in the bulletin using the professional form ... which is "(First name) + (Last name), DMA"  It specifically acknowledges your academic credential in your professional domain.
     It however doesn't specify if you prefer to be addressed orally as "Dr. (name)" or "Ms. (name)."  In my book (page 160) I show
that outside academia or research in oral address "Ms. (name)" would be the default, but advises one check preference of the person you are addressing.
                       -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Know if a PhD Should Be Addressed as "Dr."?
   May I ask question regarding those with PhDs?  Would you please clarify for me -  if a person holds a PhD -  should Doctor be used in front of his name? I apologize if these questions are answered in your book! I'll try to get it.
     -- Mac Bozman, Council Bluffs

Dear Mr. Bozman:
    This 'doctor' question comes up often.
    Holders of medical doctorates (medical, osteopaths, dentists, podiatrist, vets...) use Dr. (Name) professionally and socially.
    Holders of academic doctorates in academia and research usually do too.
    Holders of academic doctorates outside of academia and research ... in corporate and business ... usually don't. E.g., every lawyer now-a-days is a JD ... doctor of jurisprudence, but none use
Dr. ... and a holder of a doctorate in finance at a bank probably doesn't either.
    So the good news is that if it's a doctor and if he works at a college or in scientific research ... you can address  him as
Dr. (Name) safely.
    And the bad news is with PhD's outside those arenas ... you will need to call to see what his or her preference is.
    The key is "the preference of the bearer" .... it's not up to me or you to decide when or if someone with a PhD is addressed as
Dr.   If that's what he or she want's I will go along with it. A person's name belongs to them.
                     -- Robert Hickey

May I Call Myself Dr. (Name) if my Degree
Is Not in the Field Directly Related to the
Professional Service I am Offering?

     Please help me. I have a PhD. I have also a 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 be using my name -- Dr. Kevin Schoffner. 
     They cannot see that someone does more then one thing. I have worked in clinical behavioral counseling/integrative health counseling. I've taught yoga at a hospital, have many articles and PR on my work, and always as
Dr. Kevin though I am not presenting myself as a clinical psychologist. When I have looked up the legality of this they say that any advanced degree can say PhD. I need to address this situation immediately.  I greatly appreciate your help.

      -- Kevin Schoffner, PhD, LPC, CMT, IKYTA
           Counseling, Yoga Therapy, Integrative Health & Healing

    I have an MD, but don't have a license to practice medicine. I now work as a naturopathic health consultant in the office an Osteopath. The State Medical Board has brought charges against me for practicing medicine without a license, even though I have every client sign a consent form which states that I have no medical license. Everyone calls me Dr.  –– Dr. is a academic title that I should be able to use.
      -- Dr. J.D.

Dear Drs. Schoffner & JD,
    So you have a PhD / MD.  In one instance it is not related to the service you are offering, and in the other, you are a health consultant addressed as "Dr." since you hold a doctorate, which happens to be an MD, but you have no medical license.
    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 his or her complete biography or complete introduction.  It just wouldn't be part of her/her name at the school.
   So, I can see if you are using Dr. 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 ... OR using Dr. in a doctors office advising on a healthcare topics  ..... it would be confusing to me ... and the state officials must think it is misleading to the public.
        -- Robert Hickey

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.
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

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists 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 (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 23 March 2020


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