Can a PhD be called Doctor? Doctoral Degree Titles

If someone holds a PhD, they are able to call themselves Doctor. The doctor title is very prestigious and often projects expertise and respect in those who decide to use it.

A person with a PhD can be called Dr. However, many people with PhD degrees choose not to use their official titles unless they are communicating in an official capacity or are working in a professional role where they use their PhD.

I reserve the use my PhD title when I am giving a talk as it provides immediate credibility whereas, I do not often use my doctor title in many other instances.

When I first got my PhD I used my doctor title a lot more than I do now. I guess, the novelty has worn off and I have decided that it is not something that defines who I am as a person and, therefore, I would only use it in an official capacity.

Should PhDs use the title “doctor” after their doctorate? 

It is a personal choice for a PhD holder to use the title of “doctor”.

In many countries, it is common practice to use the title when referring to someone with a doctoral degree.

The title of doctor holds a significant level of prestige, and it generally signifies a high level of education and expertise in a particular field. Which is why it is important to use it in an official capacity.

Those who have earned a PhD have spent many years researching, writing and defending their work and have earned the right to use the title if so desired.

The title of doctor can also be used by medical professionals, and it is important to clarify the intended meaning when using the title to avoid confusion.

The decision to use the title of doctor is a personal one that should be made with an understanding of its significance and potential implications.

Even though the original use of the doctor title was for scholars, nowadays there are several different professional qualifications that can use the doctor title.

There are many honorific doctor titles, including those found in the table below.

Medical doctorsPharmacistsDentists
Veterinary surgeonsLawyers (Doctor of Juris)Podiatrists

The use of the doctor term for many healthcare-related qualifications can cause a fair bit of confusion about what qualification the person has achieved.

If you have any doubt about what degree a person holds look at the letters after their name.

If you want to know more about the doctor title check out my other article:

When can a PhD student be called doctor? After their dissertation?

A PhD student can be called doctor after successfully completing all the requirements of their program, including passing their dissertation defense.

More specifically, many universities only allow you to use the doctoral title after confirmation of your degree.

The University of Adelaide says that you can use it from your conferral date:

Students can be conferred on one of five dates during the year and for PhD students the conferral date will be the first available following the completion of all the academic requirements of your degree, including final thesis lodgement and the disbursement of any outstanding financial obligations to the University.

Personally, I felt comfortable using the doctor title as soon as I receive my notification letter from the University referring to me as Dr Stapleton. It was from this moment that I started using the doctor title.

There would be nothing wrong with someone using the doctor title after they have successfully defended their PhD – it just comes down to a matter of personal preference.

The title “Doctor” can still be used informally for those who hold other doctoral degrees such as a JD (Doctor of Law) or an EdD (Doctor of Education).

A PhD student can only be referred as a “Doctor” upon the completion of their doctoral program and after receiving their degree.

Why is PhD called doctor of philosophy?

A Ph.D. is called a Doctor of Philosophy because historically, philosophy was considered the foundation of all knowledge.

is a PhD a doctor

The word “philosophy” itself means the love of wisdom, and the pursuit of truth through reason and logic.

In medieval Europe, philosophy encompassed all forms of intellectual inquiry, including:

  • mathematics,
  • science,
  • theology,
  • and history.

As universities developed and specialized in particular disciplines, the title of Doctor of Philosophy became associated with the highest level of academic achievement in any field.

This means that a Ph.D. is not limited to the study of philosophy but refers to any individual who has demonstrated the ability to conduct original research in their chosen field and make a significant contribution to advancing knowledge.

A Ph.D. signifies not only mastery of a specific subject but also the ability to think deeply and critically about complex problems. There are now many professional doctorates that include the doctor titleIn recognition of the hard work and deep thinking required to complete.

Wrapping up

Yes, PhD holders can be called Doctor.

Once you’ve completed a PhD and been conferred by your university and institution you can officially use the Dr title before your name and the PhD tag after your name.

Many doctoral degree holders only use their academic title in official settings such as academia and official duties.

Even though I was very excited about receiving my doctor title, after a couple of years the novelty wears off and I only use my official titles in the same way that someone would want to include Mr, Mrs, or Ms.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.