Psychology at universities in Germany is either in the natural sciences or in philosophy, depending on the university. This affects the kind of academic title you get. People doing their doctoral thesis either get the doctor in natural sciences (Dr. rer. nat.) or the doctor in philosophy (Dr. phil.).

If I am not mistaken, most doctors in psychology (internationally) are Ph.D.s. So my question is, how would you refer to your title internationally? As a doctor of natural sciences? As a Ph.D. (even if you have a Dr. rer. nat.)? Are there legal requirements? I am thinking about a website that is generally understood internationally and -- perhaps -- about business cards.

(And yup, personally, I think -- and act if -- psychology is closer to natural sciences than philosophy.)

(I'm sorry if I can't specify the question more closely. There's a similar question (Choosing a title to hold upon completion of a doctoral degree: “Dr.” vs. “Ph.D.” [duplicate]) but I don't think it really covers this issue.)

  • 1
    The UK version of this question here: academia.stackexchange.com/q/30785/10643
    – Cape Code
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 12:54
  • I'm voting to reopen this question because an answer that is valid for the UK (the scope of the alleged duplicate) is not necessarily valid in other countries than the UK. If the question was reopened, I would post an answer around the idea that different countries have different rules (with Germany being a prominent example where it can be unlawful to use a straightforward-seeming translation of a title). Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 13:44

3 Answers 3


In the US, most doctorates in science and engineering are also a PhD even though our degrees aren't in philosophy. While other degrees exist, they are less common. I would suggest translating your degree as a PhD since most international audiences will understand that you mean an academic doctorate.

That being said, I was able to get what Dr. rer. nat. meant, too, so you might decide to put that and not worry about it. Most people have the ability to search the internet when they are confused.


I would say that for business cards and websites you don't need to translate your degree title. Many people will already know what it means (German titles are unusual, but reasonably well known), and most will be able to basically figure it out, since it's got "Dr." as part of it. If you are feeling particularly concerned about misunderstanding, you can put a footnote to the effect of "German doctorate similar to a Ph.D," but it's probably better to let the other person look up a translation.


I translate my own Dr.rer.nat. as PhD when I feel like a translation is required, and state it as Dr.rer.nat. otherwise. Since it says Dr. right there in the title, it is seldom if ever misunderstood.

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