I will be teaching at a four year university as adjunct faculty. Is it okay to have my students to call me Professor LastName, even if I do not have this title formally? If not, what other options do I have? I quite dislike Ms.. At my old college, I had my students call me by my first name, but instead I got a strange combination of "Teacher" and "Ms. FirstName" and "Miss FirstName" which makes me feel like a kindergarten teacher.

(Note: I have seen this question asked in a variety of ways but not in the case where the asker does not have a PhD.)

  • 11
    An adjunct professor is still a professor, no?
    – Thomas
    Jan 4, 2019 at 16:48
  • 10
    Do also check with the dean and a couple colleagues about the convention in the department. Some places are more formal, some aren't. Jan 4, 2019 at 16:52
  • 4
    @MathStudent1324 I suggest reading the linked-to article They Call Me Dr Berry. That seems like a direct answer, even if it's not on this site.
    – Peter K.
    Jan 4, 2019 at 17:19
  • 5
    "Professor X is my father. Please, call me Legion."
    – Ink blot
    Jan 4, 2019 at 21:20
  • 3
    Which country are you teaching in? Please edit this to specify because it makes a huge difference. Jan 5, 2019 at 0:22

5 Answers 5


To a fairly large extent this can be student driven, actually. The students get into habits of speech. Some places it results in fairly formal address, in which case "Professor" would be fine in the US. Other places it is common to use first names. Your colleagues should be able to tell you the local custom.

In the US, "Professor" has both a generic and a technical sense. Students normally use it as a generic term. Undergraduates, at least. There are some places in which you are Doctor if you have a doctorate and Professor otherwise. Not especially consistent, but as the kids say, "whatever".

There are a few places that impose formal rules, but you'd have been informed of that if it were the case. But, no matter your wishes, the students will likely do what they do.

I once tried to impose "first names only" rules on a set of doctoral students. Some went along ok, but others couldn't make the jump. I was, forever, Professor Buffy to them.

If, on the first day of class, you write your name on the board as "Professor MathStudent1324", most will go along. And if you write "Maria MathStudent1324" you will probably wind up as Maria. But like I said, they will do what feels comfortable to them.

  • 2
    Yes, it really depends on the students. I'm an adjunct at two colleges, and the students all call me professor. Unfortunately, my family name looks hard to pronounce so they often stumble over it. I might try just putting up my name as "Professor K." in the future, so they know it's OK. :-)
    – Peter K.
    Jan 4, 2019 at 17:41
  • 5
    I sympathize with your students. If I had a professor named Buffy, I would not drop the honorific either :-)
    – Boris Bukh
    Jan 4, 2019 at 19:06
  • 10
    Professor Buffy, eh? Were you teaching in UC Sunnydale?
    – Ink blot
    Jan 4, 2019 at 21:22
  • @Inkblot, unlikely.
    – Buffy
    Jan 4, 2019 at 21:31

It all depends on the customs in your institution and in your country.

When I was studying at Cambridge University for my masters in pure mathematics, one course was given by Mr Swinnerton-Dyer - he had never bothered with a mere PhD, was already a Fellow of the Royal Society, and it would have been inconceivable to address him as Professor, a job title to which he was not then entitled. We all called him Mr and everyone was happy.

Now, many years later, I am a student at another distinguished British university, and it would be considered odd not to use first names to address the variously titled lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors with whom we have the honour of studying. If I addressed my supervisor as Professor he would assume that I was using formal language because I was upset about something.

These things are culturally dependent too. I worked at one time in Germany as head of a bilingual team. If they spoke to me in German I was always addressed as "Herr C" but if they happened to be speaking English I was equally invariably known as "Jeremy".

You just have to ask around to find out what is appropriate in your institution.

  • 8
    You must be really old. I am old myself and, by the time I was a student at Cambridge, he already was Prof. Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer. RIP. Jan 5, 2019 at 2:41
  • 6
    I am really old.
    – JeremyC
    Jan 5, 2019 at 5:24
  • 5
    @FelipeVoloch I had not realised the Sir Peter had died as recently as 26 December last year. Thanks for pointing that out. RIP indeed.
    – JeremyC
    Jan 5, 2019 at 22:47

I have to add a bit of local flavour to the answers: Whilst in some countries "professor" is just a job title, in others it is an academic title which may not be used unless you earned it. E.g. in Germany it could result in up to a year of prison (see https://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/132a.html) in severe cases. Therefore, in Germany you should not give yourself a title (neither "Dr." nor "Professor") unless you are holding the title.

  • @Alchimista yes, this will never happen if you are just writing "Professor XYZ" on a blackboard - this is why I cited the "up to". But I'll add a "in severe cases" to avoid misinterpretations.
    – OBu
    Jan 5, 2019 at 9:41
  • In the Netherlands it is possible to have the job title of professor but not the academic title of doctor. My daily supervisor was prof.ir. XXX
    – Eric
    Jan 5, 2019 at 14:59

One of my colleagues was called Doctor R by the students and he was happy, while they avoided the formality of his family name but showed sufficient respect. Honour on both sides then...


Professor 1234 is the proper greeting. You don't need to be permanent faculty or have a Ph.D. to get this title when in class and doing the work of a professor.

  • 9
    Please edit this to specify which country you're from. This would not be the proper greeting in many countries, for example, Australia. Jan 5, 2019 at 0:17

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