Is it considered ethical to sign yourself with name followed by PhD when in fact your doctorate was a DTech?


Ethically, you should portray yourself accurately. So don't say PhD unless that is your degree. It might even be considered, by some, as an attempt to defraud.

If the DTech degree stands on its own, then there is no issue with using it. But if some consider it a "lesser" degree then they would interpret saying PhD as an attempt to give yourself a promotion.

So, not only an ethical issue, but a practical one.

Note that the US NSF has definitions of which degrees it considers "research doctorates" and hence "equivalent" to a PhD. But not that they are PhDs.

Of course, for usage outside the US, there are different conventions. If the country in which the degree was earned considers the degree to be equivalent then it is, but it still is not a PhD. Be accurate. When it matters, you can, of course, explain the background.

However, DTech is a bit tricky since it can be a higher level (than PhD) degree from some UK institutions, but a lesser level degree from others. Higher-level degrees normally require a doctorate be earned previously.

  • 2
    In the US, the term "PhD" means any research doctorate other than medicine or theology. This is what I was taught the term meant and this is how I have always used it. Any number of organizations (including the National Science Foundation) publish tables of degrees they consider precisely equivalent. (Other countries, of course, can be very very different!) Sep 7 '18 at 21:46
  • @DavidSchwartz Please make this an answer of its own.
    – usr1234567
    Sep 7 '18 at 22:06
  • 4
    @DavidSchwartz You are wrong on a couple of counts, There are at least two theology doctorates on the NSF list. But if a holder of a Doctor of Canon Law degree can fairly represent himself as holding a PhD, and they are, as you say "precisely equivalent", can I, holding a PhD in Mathematics fairly represent myself as holding a Doctor of Canon Law degree. In fact, you are degrading the PhD from a specific thing to a generic placeholder for any research doctorate. The NSF doesn't actually say that. They say that such degrees are "equivalent in content and level". Not the same degree.
    – Buffy
    Sep 7 '18 at 22:08
  • 5
    @DavidSchwartz Your dictionary is wrong, then. And, a PhD isn't a title, it's a degree. "Doctor" is a title, which, yes is used for anyone with a doctorate (except a JD). Sep 7 '18 at 22:17
  • 2
    @DavidSchwatrz That is definitely incorrect. An ScD from my alma mater MIT, for example, may be equivalent to a PhD, but it is not the same.
    – jakebeal
    Sep 7 '18 at 22:23

Of course it’s unethical. Misrepresenting your educational credentials is always unethical. The details of why you rationalize doing it are irrelevant - if you don’t have a PhD, don’t write the letters “PhD” after your name. For example, a friend of mine has a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford. Cool, right? But guess what, he doesn’t have a “PhD”, he has a DPhil, so that’s how he signs his name when he wants people to know about his doctorate.

Edit: the comments below go into lengthy discussions concerning the precise nature of the distinction between the PhD and DPhil degrees. This may be an interesting question, but is off-topic and has no bearing on OP’s question or my answer to it, because: first of all, OP asked about a DTech degree, not a DPhil; secondly, my answer addresses the specific context of signing your name “firstname lastname, PhD” when you have a degree other than a PhD. In that context, a person signing their name that way is engaging in an obvious misrepresentation of their educational credentials. As I said, intentionally misrepresenting such information is unethical, and I would advise against it.

As for other contexts such as a casual conversation with a family member who doesn’t know or care about the minutiae of various academic degrees and their significance, my answer might have been different, but that’s not what was asked about so I see no need to discuss it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – eykanal
    Sep 9 '18 at 15:15

In general it is a misrepresentation to list a kind of degree that you have not earned. The best way to list the degree is as it was awarded by the institution from which it was earned: if it's a "DTech," list it as a "DTech"; if it's a "DPhil" or "PhD" list it as "DPhil" or "PhD", respectively.

One other thing to consider is that in some countries—particularly in Central Europe—it is not only unethical but illegal to misrepresent one's credentials and to misuse titles one has not earned, so it is better to err on the side of caution and not claim anything for which you do not have "hard" documentation.

  • I am not sure how I feel about abbreviations. See academia.stackexchange.com/questions/34380/… and the MIT SM degree.
    – StrongBad
    Sep 8 '18 at 17:56
  • I would list MIT’s degree as “SM” and add “(Master of Science)” if space allowed. But I don’t think there’s a situation where it’s wrong to use the official designation of the degree.
    – aeismail
    Sep 8 '18 at 18:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.