In South Asia, university professors hold much lower occupational prestige than physicians. There are two reasons for that:

  1. People think that their lives are in the hands of doctors, so it is better to revere them.
  2. Doctors earn a lot (20 times as much, sometimes more)

Is this the same case in the USA and the UK?

  • 7
    Social status works differently in these countries Feb 15 at 9:14
  • 2
    American here, and I don't believe this question is answerable. Rather I would say that, in the USA, social status is in the eye of the beholder and there is no real cultural consensus. I would answer your question "no", but I wouldn't be surprised if many Americans said "yes".
    – academic
    Feb 15 at 10:31
  • I see a lot of close votes on this question, but I believe it could be answered definitively with survey data.
    – Ian
    Feb 15 at 12:25
  • @Ian Agreed, usual Ac.SE "social science methods don't exist" Feb 15 at 15:54
  • 3
    It may be answerable, but is it really “about academia”? Maybe, I guess, if I squint really hard…
    – cag51
    Feb 15 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


According to the 2012 General Social Survey, professional prestige for physicians is a mean of 7.6. This is higher than any university professor categories including physics (7.2) and biology (6.9).

I can’t comment definitively on statistical significance of those differences, but this also matches my professional experience in the US.

  • 2
    2012 is quite long ago. A lot has changed in the medical field since then. All of my doctors (many many) are now employees of corporations. Their support staff, though not the doctors , often wear corporate logos. I view this a step backwards, actually.
    – Buffy
    Feb 15 at 16:35
  • @Buffy The professional prestige used to create those numbers is actually a scale developed in the 1960's, so it is even worse. Feb 15 at 21:13
  • 4
    The survey even mentions computer tape librarian! Feb 17 at 0:51
  • It depends on the university, as well. A community college English professor does not hold the same "prestige" as a Princeton professor of, say, economics.
    – Dilworth
    Feb 18 at 16:44

A particular US-born Australian Vice Chancellor (who, in the US would be called a "president") once told me that would never put "Professor" as the title on an airline ticket in the US because it was not considered to be important. He would, instead, write "Dr". But in non-US English-speaking countries, he would invariably write Professor.

The difference, in part, is simply that there are academic staff in the US whose title is "Professor" but who would be several promotional-rungs off being thought of as a professor in the other countries. For example, the appointments to permanent academic staff in Australia would be Level A (Senior Tutor; this position is not a TA), Level B (Lecturer), Level C (Senior Lecturer), Level D (Associate Professor or Reader), Level E (Professor).

Not only does social status have different appearances in different countries, but the effects of terminology are confounded with actual job position and societal role.

  • 1
    Interesting observation and I would agree. Also, here's a US State Department guideline that generally follow what you're suggesting fam.state.gov/fam/05fah01/05fah010420.html Feb 15 at 15:18
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    @RichardErickson The link is fascinating. To paraphrase ... Associate Professor with doctoral degree should be addressed as "Dr" (don't demean them by calling them "professor"); without doctoral degree, address as "Professor". Not so in the UK. ... nor in the Soviet Union where women dominate in the medical profession and where (therefore???) being a "doctor" is not such high status, or certainly wasn't during the Soviet era. Feb 16 at 2:46

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