Two friends successfully defended their dissertations yesterday, and many people have congratulated them, calling them Doctor so-and-so. I explained to my wife that they actually don't have that title until the graduation ceremony, that it's similar to a President-elect, who isn't called the President until they are sworn in. So, what title does a doctoral candidate take after they've defended but before they graduate?


5 Answers 5


There isn't a formal, universally accepted title here. The general standard has been to call them "Doctor" since everything else is in principle a formality.

The only other note that I'd make is that it's not commencement that makes the student in question a doctor, but rather conferral of the degree by the university. Some universities may confer degrees multiple times per year, but only have one commencement ceremony.

So, I would not include "Ph.D." next to my name, but in the education of my CV, I'd write "Ph.D. (to be conferred Month Year)," as that is entirely accurate representation of the state of affairs.


Formally, they don't take a title before the university awards it, and the awarding is usually done by handing out a certificate stating the title (independent of whether that involves a ceremony or not).

In informal situations, it's nice to address them with the title because they are usually happy and proud of their accomplishment, and what remains to be done before they actually get the title is more or less a mere formality. But you shouldn't put any doctoral title on name tags, staff directories, or anything formal like that before they actually get the document.

  • 6
    I suppose this is similar to me calling myself a "dad" even though my daughter won't be born for another two months? Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 19:00
  • 4
    @JonathanLandrum Yes, that's a nice comparison. Everybody will be fine with that, but you can't put it down in any official documents yet.
    – silvado
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 6:32

In most countries "Dr" is an honorific (in Germany I believe it is a legal title and part of your name) that is typically used when referring to individuals that hold certain types of degrees (most doctorates but not all, for example holders of the JD degree are not typically called doctor, and some non doctorate degrees, for example a BMedSci in the UK). As it is an honorific I think it is perfectly reasonable to bestow that honor to someone during a party to celebrate a doctoral defence. Similarly when seeing someone the first time after the defence using doctor is a nice why of honoring them. In some countries one can pass the defence and still need to make substantial revisions. I would use the honorific as long as the person passed.

In non-formal situations I would avoid it, but then again I avoid using the honorific even for people with doctorates. In formal situations where honorifics are being used I would definitely avoid it. I think it would set a bad tone to go to a job talk an allow yourself to be introduced as doctor. In that situation I would deflect the honorific and say "not yet"


In the (British) English Language the correct name for someone who has qualified to graduate but has not yet done so is a graduand.

One could formally say you are a doctoral graduand, but only other academics would understand.

Also, at the ceremonies in British Universities, the point at which you hold the title is when the Chancellor (or similar awarding officer) intones the word "I award upon those students who have qualified the degrees listed in the official record.. etc". Until those words have been said, whatever handshaking and parading has happened, you do not have a degree!


In Germany, it is "Doctor Des." standing for Doktor Designiert (designated doctor)

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