Thus far in my postgraduate academic career I have leaned towards addressing my (US MD) medical school professors who are MDs, MD/PhDs, or PhDs as "Professor", since we are not in a clinical setting. Today two of my classmates addressed one such MD as "Dr." in an email chain following my reply, as if to correct me (though maybe it was out of habit).

Was I less respectful than I could have been by addressing the professor as "Professor"? The latter title seems more prestigious in the context, but maybe I am mistaken.

  • 2
    The answer probably depends on the culture, so you may get better answers if you specify the country. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 4:43
  • @DavidKetcheson Thank you for the suggestion. I've edited my question.
    – Daniel
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 5:54

2 Answers 2


The answer strongly depends on local culture. For example, for Germany there has been a similar question some time ago (Do german professors like to be called "Herr X"?). To make things worse, the culture might vary even between institutions.

I learned that in Mexico the "professor" is just the job description, while "Dr." is the valuable academic degree.

In the US, some professors in my field (medical computer science) are very relaxed regarding titles, others are not (but this is an outsiders view).

The easiest way is to ask a professor you can trust in your institution. Most will happily explain the common habbits and I assume you'll her some interesting anecdotes ;-).

In general, the most respectful way to adress a professor is "Prof. Dr. XXX".

  • I would only add that in the US, people are pretty informal about such things. Either would do. At some levels, even first names will do. But it is easy enough to ask, as the writer here suggests.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 11:10

In Europe and US, Professor is more prestigious. In my experience, they won't care much in the US (it is quite usual to use first names once you get in confidence), while in Europe there is a sligtly higher probability that someone can feel "offended" if you use Dr. instead of Prof. (and calling by name is not as common as in the US, definitely something to avoid unless the setting is very informal). If you are in doubt, Professor will work both in Europe and USA.

  • Note that in various European contexts “professor” is only appropriate for “full professors”. I tend to slightly cringe every time I get an email addressing me as “professor”.
    – TimRias
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 22:26

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