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I notice that in Germany, basically all the professors are addressed as Prof. Dr. XXX, say Prof. Dr. Mueller.

However, in other parts of the world, only Prof. would be sufficient, since a non-doctor can never be a University professor.

So why are the German professors addressed this way? Isn't it kind of redundant?

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    Logic and customs don't mix. – F'x Sep 3 '13 at 13:31
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    Who said a non-doctor can never be a University professor? – emory Sep 3 '13 at 14:39
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    I've often wondered how many titles one could accumulate. If a university professor were to join the military and then go into politics, could she become Frau Chancellor Colonel Professor Doctor Schmidt? – Nate Eldredge Sep 3 '13 at 15:04
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    Professor is (usually) not a title, but is associated with the profession. If you quit to become chancellor, I think you cannot call yourself professor anymore. – Pieter Naaijkens Sep 3 '13 at 15:10
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    It's worth noting that we often do this with titles in English as well. For instance, "Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II". The "Queen" title implies the HRH title in much the same way Professor implies Doctor. Using a full title is generally to indicate increased respect. – John Doucette Sep 3 '13 at 16:45
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In Germany, professorships and doctorates are considered to be "legal" titles, and have special status not accorded to other degrees and professions. In particular, university professors in Germany are Beamte (appointed civil servants, sg: "Beamter"/"Beamtin"), which places them in a relatively small class of government employees.

It is to be noted that a professor in a German university can be called "Herr Professor" or "Frau Professorin" only so long as he or she is actively working as a professor. Following retirement or leaving the university profession, it is technically not permitted to use the title.

Thus, in this sense, the appellation "Professor"/"Professorin" is legally part of someone's name, and should therefore be used in formal greetings and salutations. (This can sometimes be annoying—for example, in a physician's waiting room, you can hear them call for "Frau Professorin Schmidt!")

  • I know several professors who just introduce themselves with "Herr/Frau X" in order to avoid awkwardness. Regarding retirement, though, I have seen "Prof. em." (for emeritus) several times. I think professors (at least those with older contracts) kind of keep the title in retirement. – Raphael Feb 11 '15 at 8:15
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    Professor is not legally part of the name, the doctorate is, however. And even after retirement the Professor can be used. Germans like titles, Austrians like them even more. – Debora Weber-Wulff Mar 31 '15 at 19:50
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    It is to be noted that a professor in a German university can be called "Herr Professor" or "Frau Professor" only so long as he or she is actively working as a professor; following retirement or leaving the university profession, it is technically not permitted to use the title. This is wrong: cf. Wikipedia, Hochschullehrerbund – morxa Feb 22 '17 at 12:03
  • There are some flaws in this answer: a) "Professor" is not part of someone's name (otherwise you would have the option to add it to your passport (you can do this with "Dr." which is part of the name) b) You do not loose the permission to use the title after leaving university. The rules vary, but hlb.de/fileadmin/hlb-global/downloads/members_only/… gives a good overview. – OBu Aug 3 '18 at 14:10
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    This answer makes several factually wrong statements. – user2705196 Feb 21 at 21:04
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In Germany, in rare cases also non-doctors can become a professor. Then it's just "Prof. Müller". Regarding Doctors, we don't have a "PhD" title. "Dr." is the official title for a doctor which is traditionally a prefix to the full name.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_(title)#Germany

  • Very good answer. Those few professors without a doctorate are usually very successful people from the industry, government, media etc. – superuser0 Sep 3 '13 at 14:17
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    It can also be the case that the person is a doctor, but not from a university or country whose titles are automatically recognized in Germany (and didn't go through all to trouble to do so). – Pieter Naaijkens Sep 3 '13 at 15:11
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    I don’t think this really answers the question: both points you give here apply just as much in other countries that don’t stack their honorifics. – PLL Sep 3 '13 at 17:44
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    It should be noted that these people are almost certainly not university professors (a job which, iirc, by definition requires not only a doctorate but also habilitation or something similar). There are other forms of higher ed in Germany, and a docent there may be called "Professor" somewhat informally, but they would not be able to, say, have doctorands on their own. (If this is incorrect and there are indeed university professors with the right to confer doctorates, I'd appreciate a reference.) – Raphael Feb 11 '15 at 8:17
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    @Raphael An example of a university professor without without doctorate is Prof. Henke (now at DLR). – Gypaets Nov 19 '17 at 19:33

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