How to use the PhD title and all the little doctorate “rules”

There are many conventions in the academic world that can make it difficult to navigate the PhD title. The PhD title is awarded to those who have completed a doctoral degree but, not many people know how to use it once they have it.

This article will go through everything you need to know about using the PhD title and when you can start using it.

The “rules” are relatively simple and can be broken as they are not officially set in stone – other than when you can officially call yourself a doctor.

There is no one correct answer but it may be misleading if you use the PhD title incorrectly. Here are the recommendations for effective communication.

It very much depends on the setting. Here are some examples of how I would use my PhD titles awarded to me after my PhD degree.

SituationPreferred titles
Full formal university businessDr Andrew Stapleton Ph.D, MChem
University emailsDr Andy Stapleton
Speaking to a primary school classDr Andy
Emails to students I am lecturingDr Stapleton
How I wish to be called while teaching university classesAndy

How do you Write PhD correctly after a name? Is it ph d or phd?

It can be confusing to know exactly how to write PhD after your name. Which bits are capitalised? Is there a ‘.’ In the middle?

When writing a name with a PhD after it, the correct way to do so is to use “PhD” or “Ph.D. or Ph.D”

Depending on the preference of the individual, either form can be used.

However, if the individual has a business card that states their degree in full, then the more formal “Doctor of Philosophy” should be used.

It is important to note that using “PhD” without any periods is incorrect; this abbreviation should only be used in informal contexts such as emails or text messages. I tend to use PhD in my YouTube videos and some people have pointed out that this is incorrect…

Following the individual’s preferred format will ensure that their name and credentials are properly represented.

Should you use Dr as well as PhD?

Some people like to use Dr and PhD in their official titles. There are a couple of important points that you need to know about markers and academic titles.

  1. A person can have more than one marker in their name. For example my full title is Dr Andrew Stapleton, PhD, MChem.
  2. The doctor title at the front can be used as a variant to the PhD at the end.

It can be a little bit ambiguous if I was to use Dr Andrew Stapleton, PhD as there are two markers. This could mean that I have two PhD’s, it could mean that I have a PhD and a medical doctorate, or it could just be that I want to use both the doctor and the PhD tags for the one degree.

However, in my experience, I still like to use the doctor title at the front and the PhD tag at the end of my name for official purposes.

Academics would rarely use the PhD suffix in everyday communication. They would much rather just use the doctor title.

What is the proper title for a PhD?

The proper title for a PhD is Doctor of Philosophy. However, some teachers and professors like to be referred to without their official title.

If you are not sure about how your professor, lecturer, or friend with a PhD wishes to be officially addressed you can ask them.

Most of the time, I like to refer to my colleagues with their doctor title for official purposes, but I do not include the PhD at the end of their name. That is much better suited to a business card.

Your lecture may wish to be referred to as:

  • Dr [last name]
  • Dr [first name]
  • first name

Asking them in the early stages of your relationship is the best way to work out which one they prefer.

If in doubt, always go for the more formal name and nomenclature.

When can you start to use your PhD title after your doctorate?

When you have earned your PhD, you can start using your title immediately. Although, it can be a little bit confusing as to when you have actually passed your PhD. Is it when you have submitted your dissertation? Is it when you have received the comments back?

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.

I started using my PhD title as soon as my confirmation letter arrived at my house. It was the first letter from the University that referred to me as Dr Stapleton. It was incredibly excited.

Generally, it is acceptable to use the title “Dr.” both professionally and socially but socially, people very rarely use it – at least in Australia. But you should never use it if you are a PhD student, PhD candidate or enrolled in a PhD program without a previous PhD qualification. 

I do use it in professional settings but it always makes me feel a little bit awkward.

However, there may be some restrictions for certain settings. For example, if have a research degree resulting in a doctor title and you are working in a medical setting – some institutions do not like you to use Dr as it can confuse patients into thinking that you have a medical degree. 

Instead, they ask that you use the PhD tag at the end of your name rather than the doctoral title for official and professional communications.

What is the correct way to write PhD?

When writing about someone’s PhD, the correct way is to write the term in full and capitalize each letter.

This should be done for all academic degrees, not just PhDs.

For example, it would be “Doctor of Philosophy” or “PhD” instead of “Ph.D.”, “Dr.”, or “DPhil”.

Additionally, it is common to mention the field of study in which the degree was earned if known, such as “Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics”. It is also good practice to include the institution that granted the degree if it is a recognized one.

When writing about someone’s PhD, use proper capitalization and include relevant information like field of study and institution if known to ensure accuracy.

How do you put a PhD in a title?

Putting a PhD in a title is not as complicated as it may sound.

Generally speaking, the proper way to list a PhD in an academic or professional setting is by writing “Dr.” before the name, followed by the person’s full name and the appropriate abbreviations for their degree.

For example, if John Smith has earned a doctorate in psychology, his credentials would be listed as “Dr. John Smith, Ph.D.”

In some cases, such as when addressing someone formally in speech or on a business card, it may also be acceptable to list their credentials as “John Smith, Ph.D.”

Depending on context and personal preference, some people may also choose to list their higher degrees after their names by writing out the entire degree instead of just its abbreviation.

For example, John Smith could choose to write his full title as “John Smith, Doctor of Psychology”

However, I have not seen this in real academic life.

Should the font size of Ph.D. be the same as someone’s name?

The question of whether the font size of a Ph.D. should be the same as someone’s name is an interesting one.

On one hand, it could be argued that the Ph.D. deserves to be highlighted and therefore should be given a larger font size than someone’s name to denote its importance.

On the other, it could be argued that this would not be necessary or appropriate, and that treating everyone equally regardless of their title or degree is more important.

It depends on context and usage – if both names appear in the same document then they should likely have the same font size; however, if one appears in a formal setting such as a diploma or certificate, then it may make sense to give it a larger font size than someone’s name to emphasize its importance and significance.

Ph.Ds (or PhDs) are an important academic achievement and should be respected accordingly but without going overboard by giving them overly large fonts sizes which can take away from rather than add to their importance.

Wrapping up – doctoral title rules

this article has been over everything you need to know that using the PhD title properly and effectively.

The doctor title can be used in place of the PhD and for incredibly formal communications, such as a business email or card, you can use both.

However, sometimes using both can cause confusion as to whether or not there is a reason first using both the doctor and PhD tags. Nonetheless, many people still use both.

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.