My question is about using a Ph.D. title/grade from an EU University in Germany. Germany recognizes (properly obtained) Ph.D.s from other EU countries. People with an EU Ph.D. are allowed to use the abbreviation "Dr." in front of their names without mentioning the country of origin (which is AFAIK required for some other countries) or using the original version. However, reading this information letter from the Bavarian State Ministry of Sciences, Research and the Arts, section 1.3.2. (German), you are not allowed to use both together.

I'm confused about this and its exact scope. Does this mean a Ph.D. holder can't call themself "Dr. Firstname Lastname" on a business card and then list "Ph.D." together with the other titles like "M.Eng., Dipl.Ing." on a second line? Using "Firstname Lastname, Ph.D." in Germany would not have the same effect then the first form. Not mentioning the Ph.D. at all however would keep many people wondering what kind of doctor grade you have. Maybe it only means not to use "Dr. Firstname Lastname, Ph.D.", but the business card example is very close to that.
Also, can "Ph.D." be used in one occasion and then "Dr." in a different one, or do you have to stick with one? Would it be ok to use "Dr." on your German business card and "Ph.D." on your English one? Even if both are on opposite sides of the same card?

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    I always thought "Firstname Lastname, PhD" was a very American thing to do. Jun 7, 2012 at 13:45
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    For those who are not aware of the background of this, the title of "Doctor" in Germany used to be a matter of law, and only German Ph.D.s got it automatically: others had to apply to get their degree legally recognized. I believe the law has changed recently, but can provide no reference. In anycase, I don't recall hearing of anyone being harrassed for being an unofficial "Doctor" at a conference or what not, but people employed by German universities and institutions were encouraged to get official approval so that their institution could officially recognize the title. Jun 7, 2012 at 14:11
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    @dmckee: There was a case a few years ago where an American chemist, with a Ph.D. from Cornell, was investigated by the German police for misuse of the "Doctor" title. After the ensuing uproar, the rules were changed. See spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,540459,00.html (article in English). Jun 7, 2012 at 14:19
  • Strangely the second part of 1.3.2 seems to keep Austrian medical Doctors from calling themselves Dr. (instead of Dr.med.). Only those with dissertation i.e., those having Dr. scient. med. titles can do so !?
    – subsub
    Aug 28, 2012 at 10:22
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    To add some more confusion with titles, I'll mention the fact that in Italy, another EU country, you can legally use the title "dottore" (doctor) after you get your bachelor. Aug 28, 2012 at 10:56

5 Answers 5


An American using "Dr." and "Ph. D." in the same title is double-counting, just as if a German were to use "Dr.rer.nat." and "Dr."

That said, if you're going to use multiple titles, you should probably be consistent and list the PhD as one of those degrees.


If I am not mistaken, you may decorate your name with "Dr. Dr." if you have two PhD degrees. Writing "Dr. Firstname Lastname, PhD" would probably also indicate two degrees, e.g. one from Germany and one from the UK.

PS: The information letter is no longer available, so I have not read that.


well, I read it as

you can either use Dr. without anything at the end (that is "translating" it to German)


you use the version which is legally correct in the country of origin (where you received the PhD). This seems to be the only viable option in terms of EU law.

Which then leave the issue how the PhD should be used in the country of origin eg the UK.

This is not really easy to answer. Because you find it in different ways: as "Dr. Xxxx" or as "Xxxx, PhD" or as "Dr Xxxx, PhD".

I couldn't find any legal document that provides any further guidance on this matter, the only thing I found is a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.

In this case the body ruled that the Dr Xxxx, PhD in the context of web-page with a medical content would suggest that Dr means that the person would be a medical Dr. However, as such the Advertising Standards Authority sees the usage of Dr Xxxx, PhD not as misleading. here the link: http://asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/11/Dr-Alyssa-Burns_Hill/SHP_ADJ_194636.aspx#.U5R6q9qKCAU....

And then there is the Committee of Advertising Practice which states that :"it is likely to be acceptable for advertisers who possess a relevant PhD or doctorate (of sufficient length and intensity) to call themselves “Dr” provided they use the suffix “PhD” to clarify the type of qualification they hold and that the general context does not imply they are medically qualified."


So I think the question is whether there is any legal convention in the UK about how one should or should not use the title.

But to be honest, I doubt that something like that exists.

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    The question is about Germany, not the UK. I'm not sure what your answer is really saying as a result of the confusion.
    – aeismail
    Jun 8, 2014 at 16:00
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    @aeismail: Well, as the poster says, Germany accepts the correct way of the country of origin, therefore it makes sense to look at that country. Jun 14, 2014 at 19:19
  • @MartinScharrer: But the question is about general usage; this question devolves it to the specific case of the UK (which isn't mentioned anywhere in the original question!).
    – aeismail
    Jun 14, 2014 at 19:57

My interpretation of "gleichzeitige Führung" is that they "decorate" the same mentioning of your name. So at least in Bavaria the Dr/PhD for German/English cards should be legal even if on the same side (assuming there is no other conditions that prohibit the use of Dr), but the option with different versions of the same title in different lines would be not.

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    Maybe this applies to German, but in English, you wouldn't use "Dr." and "Ph.D." in the same salutation or address.
    – aeismail
    Aug 29, 2012 at 19:47

My son is Ph.D. from Technical University of Munich (TUM). He writes "Dr. Firstname Middlename Lastname"

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