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I finished my Ph.D. research in computer science a few months ago and started writing my dissertation. Meanwhile, I applied for a postdoc position before my Ph.D. fund could run out. So, I found and started a postdoc position around a month ago in another University in Germany, and I'm going to have my disputation in 3-4 months from now (that's the usual waiting period in CS in Germany).

However, I'm not sure what title I should use regarding my position in the new institute until I do my Ph.D. disputation, especially in email correspondences and when I introduce myself or other similar situations?

Of course, I do not use the "Dr." title until I do the disputation, but should I declare myself still as a "Ph.D. researcher" or a "Post-doctoral researcher" or something else regarding my position here?

BTW, my contract just says a research employee.

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  • How are other post-docs at your institution referred to? I.e. if you go to the web page for your institute/department, under what kind of header are they listed?
    – TimRias
    Nov 28, 2019 at 10:18
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    I'd say it depends who you are writing to. Most people will be more interested in your position (post doc) then on formalities (if you received the Dr. yet).
    – user115896
    Nov 28, 2019 at 11:05
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    What is a disputation? Is that the same as a defense? Nov 30, 2019 at 23:11

7 Answers 7

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I would use research fellow as your title in English and in German use whatever your contract says or research fellow as well. That leaves out the slightly awkward postdoctoral part.

In general, unlike a doctorate, using the title 'postdoc' is not something that people in academia worry a lot about (and outside academia many people will have no idea what it means). So using postdoc to describe your role wouldn't be outrageous even though linguistically it seems wrong because of the implied doctorate.

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  • Does research associate carry the same meaning?
    – Bob
    Nov 28, 2019 at 14:44
  • Yes, I think research associate would work very similarly. Nov 28, 2019 at 17:12
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I think it's fine to call yourself a postdoctoral researcher. After all, that is the job you are doing. As cbeleites' answer points out, a PhD isn't a hard prerequisite for the job, so calling yourself a postdoctoral researcher does not imply that you are a doctor.

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Mr. (presumably) Bob, computer scientist, researcher.
You may throw in your MSc (computer science) or Dipl.-Inf. - whichever it is in your case.


For many (most?) such positions (my experience is Italy/Germany) the PhD isn't a hard prerequisite. The actual prerequisite is that you have the required research abilities, and having a PhD is one way to show that this requirement is fulfilled.

(I've colloquially referred to such postdoc-type positions I had before handing in my PhD thesis as "pre-postdoc".)


IIRC the formal speech at the end of the disputation procedure, you cannot use the Dr. until you get the PhD certificate (Urkunde) but after passing the disputation you don't need to correct others any more who refer to you as Dr. Bob.

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  • At some German universities that require publication, there's also Dr. designatus (Dr. des) for the period between successful defense and publication of the thesis. Nov 28, 2019 at 11:04
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ABT seems to be a new acronym being branded about - 'all but thesis'

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    bandied about is what you mean
    – Deipatrous
    Dec 28, 2021 at 17:43
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I saw people referenced as "cand. inf.", but DE-Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studiosus) tells me that is for students prior to the masters degree. Possibly you could refer to yourself as "cand. Phd.". Its not standardized, but should do the trick.

Note: legal problems, see comments

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    I would discourage using an academic title without an official permit for doing so. At least in Germany, that's thin ice. Nov 28, 2019 at 15:09
  • Maybe if you used lowercase? "cand. phd."? The prefix should(tm) make it reasonably non-confusable, because all titles are postfix in germany, right?
    – til_b
    Nov 28, 2019 at 16:21
  • The relevant law about unpermitted use of academic titles mentions foreign titles, too. Nov 28, 2019 at 16:35
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If I were you, I would just humbly say that I am a young researcher in X field, and spend more time explaining my ideas. In my signature, I would just put something like PhD (ABD) or nothing at all.

By the way, in my humble opinion, I don't think titles matter in academia. Researchers care more about mutual interests and your ability than positions. Putting the obligation of advising students aside, a professor would never refuse collaboration with a college student, if s/he is equally good as a PhD holder.

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You are a post-doc, as per your job.

"But I am not a doctor yet" I hear you protest. Irrelevant. You have entered the post-doctoral employment stage, and that makes you a post-doc. You did get the job on the basis of the expectation that you will resolve this paradox within a year or so.

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