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I just passed my dissertation defense. This means there is nothing left but paperwork to get my doctorate. Among the various congratulations I've received a couple have termed me: Dr. My assumption was that I'm not really a doctor until I go through the graduation ceremony, but now I'm wondering. Is there a convention as to when exactly I can call myself Doctor?

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It is apparent from your question that, you are excited to hear people calling you Dr. Ewert! Congratulations. –  user1162 May 11 '13 at 3:42
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This may be country-dependent. In some places (such as the US), use of the Doctor title is merely a question of etiquette and may be subjective; but in others (e.g. Germany) it is actually governed by law. –  Nate Eldredge Nov 27 '13 at 3:36
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“The name I chose is ‘The Doctor.’ The name you choose is like a promise you make.”Doctor Who –  F'x Nov 27 '13 at 7:16
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Following up on @NateEldredge, in Germany some (not all) universities grant successful PhD defendants the right to hold a "Dr. des." (Doctor designatus) until the degree is officialy conferred. –  non-numeric_argument Nov 27 '13 at 10:50
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that is not an ideal comparison, rather: should you call yourself married once you have said "I do" and the priest or civil servant has proclaimed you and your partner husband and wife (or husband and husband)? Or must you wait until you have signed the forms? –  user11189 Jan 24 at 19:59

6 Answers 6

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Writing as an Administrator:

It is appropriate to use the title when you are a graduate, ie, when the degree is conferred either in notice by letter or by ceremony (which ever comes first). Prior to that your status is that of a graduand. If you've been using the work-title PhD Candidate you might consider changing to PhD Graduand to indicate this status: that you're awaiting conferral but you've met the substantive criteria for fulfillment of your degree. Additional source: Swinburn on Postnominals.

Congratulations by the way!

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But in practice, nobody but lawyers and administrators will object if you claim to have a PhD once your thesis has been approved and deposited. The graduation ceremony is just a play. –  JeffE May 11 '13 at 19:56
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Following up on what JeffE said, in my experience it is quite common practice (but not one I agree with) for people other than the student to start using the title "Dr." from the moment the dissertation defense is passed. –  David Z May 12 '13 at 22:20
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While this is somewhat tangential to the question, if you are applying for jobs, a letter (usually from the University Registrar) or an official transcript that indicates that you have "fulfilled all requirements for conferral of the degree of Ph.D." is usually sufficient to indicate proof that you have a Ph.D degree. –  Irwin May 13 '13 at 16:54

First, Congratulations! Second, in about two weeks you'll forget about the whole issue with when to call yourself a doctor, simply because it will have been overcome by the events of your actual graduation. That is to say: at this point, it doesn't really matter, and no one is going to care one way or another; the gray area between when you pass your defense, and when you are officially conferred the degree is a short, finite time.

The bigger question may be, When should you call yourself a doctor (even after graduation)? Or, What is the proper way to address yourself. I recommend being tactful when considering introducing yourself as "Doctor X," because that can come across as pretentious, and you don't want that as a first impression.

On a lighter note, a professor I know stopped selecting the "Dr." salutation for airline flights after a flight attendant asked her to help with a medical emergency. Her reply to the request was, "unless the medical emergency can benefit from intricate knowledge of computer architecture, I'm not the doctor you're looking for!"

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Thanks. The time period is actually longer in my case because I've defended too late to graduate this semester, so I'm actually graduating in August. –  Winston Ewert May 11 '13 at 5:25
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@WinstonEwert Same thing happened to me -- either way, it is a matter of months, and not really long enough to stress about (though for official documents, I would refer to Samuel Russell's answer). My committee chair congratulated me with "Dr. Gregg" immediately after I came back into the room after defending, and that night to dinner I wore a "Trust me, I'm a doctor" t-shirt I was given. To the extent that you can, live it up now! :) –  Chris Gregg May 11 '13 at 6:08
    
I'm not really stressed about it, I'm just thinking I'm going to have a lot of people ask me about over the next months, and I'd like to have the correct answer. –  Winston Ewert May 11 '13 at 13:35
    
Congratulations! Also, from a lighter side, I am about 6 months off completion of my PhD, and are already called 'Dr. D' by my colleagues and 'Doc' by my students (ama high school teacher). –  user7130 May 22 '13 at 11:44

In British universities, the relevant point is when the result of the viva (thesis defence) is published. This usually takes the form of the result being pinned on a board in a corridor somewhere in the adiministration building - I like to think of the corridor being subterranean with the sound of constant dripping water, the only visitor ever to enter being the person who pins the results up. This is normally about a week or so after the viva, if you pass without corrections, or a similar period after the examiners have said that you have corrected the thesis to their satisfaction. Then you can call yourself doctor and have all your bank cards changed! The graduation could be 6 months after you pass, and when you get your certificate the date of the award will be the publication date rather than the date of the graduation ceremony.

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I defended my final dissertation defense two weeks ago, and my chair congratulated me and called me Dr. Woo! I always thought it was until when the title is conferred in a doctoral commencement, they can call you Dr. But on the contrary, you are called Dr. the moment you pass your dissertation defense.

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I'm not so sure if it's technical/legally correct, but it certainly is a common thing for committee and friends to do after the defense. I remember, it feels good! –  F'x Nov 27 '13 at 7:17

Quoting Yogi Berra, "it ain't over till it's over". Just because someone feels the degree has been earned, does not mean it will be conferred. After a successful dissertation defense, the graduand likely has some additional obligations to the institution.

Should you state that you are 'married' just because your wedding is near? Same thing for degrees. You do not have it until you have it.

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While others have given you the conventional notion and use of the word. I say that if you have to ask whether you can use the term, then you are not yet qualified to call yourself a Doctor.

Unfortunately, the original and true notion of Doctor of Philosophy has been diluted to the point of being identical to a Master's degree. The distinction should not just carved down to just "two more years of school".

The true notion of Doctor of Philosophy (Plato) included the idea of someone who has mastering the issues of society itself. Someone who is prepared to advise and sit on the bench of court, weighing the issues of ethics and justice that affect and maintain the health of society.

Modern academia has made the title a sad joke. Sad because the ideals of academia are noble, yet nearly everyone has used it to detach themselves from the society, not immerse themselves in it and become moral leaders.

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Given that the post explicitly asks "Is there a convention as to when exactly I can call myself Doctor?", it seems that the other answers address the question (as it was intended by the asker) and this one does not. –  ff524 Sep 14 at 4:50
    
@ff524: The OP's idea of the notion of Doctor is what I'm challenging him/her on, allowing the OP to clarify within him/herself his newly-conferred authority. –  Mark J Sep 14 at 4:54

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