By what title should I greet assistant and associate professors in emails and letters? I study in the UK and for post-doctorands up to senior lectures one uses "Dear Dr. X", but for professors one uses "Dear Professor. X".

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    Do you know the professors well? Many of them would prefer to be called by their first names. – adipro May 28 '14 at 22:06
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    Professor X will probably not mind if you call him "Charles". Just ask -- come to think of it, even that is probably not necessary. – Pete L. Clark May 28 '14 at 22:30
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    @PeteL.Clark Professor X already knows what you're thinking of calling him :) – Suresh May 28 '14 at 23:14
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    @Suresh: Right, that's what I was getting at. I should have worked a little harder on that part of my comment. – Pete L. Clark May 28 '14 at 23:22
  • @adipro I am from the old school and like to express my respect not only with deeds but with the words also. Calling somebody be name makes me feel that in a certain way (by experiences, by wisdom, by achievement, etc.) I am peer to that person which is clearly not true yet. – Dávid Natingga May 30 '14 at 6:40

Assistant and Associate Professors in the US can be formally addressed by "Professor" or "Doctor/Dr.". There should be no offense given with either salutation, and either is appropriate.

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    I've known a few people to take some offense to being called Doctor/Dr. when they are also eligible for the title of Professor. It's rare though. (The vast majority of professors I know don't care what you call them, whether a title or just a first name.) In any case, the question was asked for the UK, where I've heard the conventions are different and they place a lot more emphasis on proper titling. – David Z May 28 '14 at 22:06
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    I actually do prefer being called "Professor" than "Dr."...but I recognize that the local convention is "Dr." and I certainly am not offended by it. – Pete L. Clark May 28 '14 at 22:28
  • @PeteL.Clark, exactly. And, for me, I'm not a professor of anything, so I always find it safer to just use "Dr." just in case. – Bill Barth May 29 '14 at 12:00
  • @DavidZ It's very dependent on the local custom. I'm at a school that has only recently started to take itself serious as a "university" and not all of the faculty have terminal degrees. The result is that "Professor" is usually reserved for the Masters and "Doctor" for the Ph.Ds. Seems strange to me, because I know a lot of Doctors who are striving to become Professors, but there it is. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jul 16 '14 at 3:47
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    @Tom: The term "professor" separates me from non-tenure track faculty with a PhD. As these titles are only being used in an academic context, in my experience it does not cause confusion with physicians. – Pete L. Clark Oct 4 '15 at 15:05

It's interesting actually,

As an Australian undergrad I've never referred to any of my lecturers or tutors as anything but their first names, and would find an insistence on titles in such a situation to be... well, frankly an exercise in serious anal retention.

However while applying for postgraduate studies, all of my 'reach out' emails trying to attract supervisory interest use the appropriate titles. While almost all of the replies come back establishing a first-name basis for future correspondence, I wouldn't dream of initiating said correspondence informally.

Highlights cultural differences across countries too - I'm fairly certain that if a senior academic at my uni in my field started insisting that his or her students use their full titles, the rest of the department would give them a far less flattering unofficial one.


It's quite important to consider what your position is in this relationship, and you don't specify. In almost any situation, it is probably best to address your first email using the "Dr." or "Prof." title, to be polite, and to continue to do so until it seems that the tone of the responses are less formal. Of course, that is a subjective thing to judge. But I can't give you much advice about that!

You will have to read from the tone of the responses at what point (possibly after only one email) the Prof. is OK with a less formal form of address. If you are an undergrad student in their class, it might not hurt to stay with the more formal title, even if you are of a similar age to them.

I was trained in the UK and now work in the US system, and I feel like there is a lot of similarity. Basically, it's fairly informal, within limits. As an assistant professor myself, I do prefer undergrads to address me as "Dr." or "Prof." (as a US class instructor, not the same as the UK Professor) in more formal correspondence, and I think that's usual in the US and UK. Graduate students and above can normally expect to be safe to be on first name terms provided their emails remain fairly professional and carefully written, i.e. they don't rapidly degenerate into txtspeak or very casual, potentially rude, references or phrasing.

So, if you are a graduate student or post-doc, and you are at the same department, or even institution, I encourage you to consider using their first name once that initial correspondence has been exchanged and if they sign with their first name. It's never "wrong" to continue to use a more formal term of address, but it can sometimes become awkwardly too formal for relaxed academics.

Now, take into account the personality of your correspondent. If he or she is very senior in age or accomplishment, or maybe has given an impression of great self-importance (i.e., ego!) then you may be better off staying slightly more formal in case you are perceived to be disrespecting them before you know them more personally. Honestly, though, I think that is an increasingly rare (but not unheard of) phenomenon.


This is an old question but I feel that the answers were incomplete in that the question has so far been interpreted mostly along the lines of "how formally should I address someone". However, you can also read it as a question of "is an associate professor properly addressed as 'dr' or 'prof'"?

In some countries, for example, here in the Netherlands, somebody who is called an "assistent professor" or "associate professor" is not considered a professor. For example, these researchers are not addressed like a professor in thesis defense ceremonies, they do not wear the same formal attire during official ceremonies etc. We also do not use the term "professor" for everybody who teaches in class. Adressing an assistent/associate professor as "professor" would thus not be appropriate here.

From one previous response I got the impression that it is different in the US. Are you considered a professor, when your title is "associate professor"?


Professor or Dr.

I would definitely not go with first name, many (including myself) would find that too familiar from someone they don't know - and some may take offense. You can't make any assumptions about this, so it's better to err on the side of more formal until/unless you find out otherwise (or are invited to address the person by their first name).


Assoc. Professor X is how. After the first email may it be ok to use first names if they sign off as such or if the tone of the email suggests it is fine

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    Have you ever called an associate professor "Assoc. Professor"? – scaaahu Oct 5 '16 at 6:47
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    Yeah, no. "Associate professor" and "Assistant professor" are never used as titles of address. – Buzz Oct 5 '16 at 12:35

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