Is it correct to express PhD in brackets "(PhD)" as suffix to express the ongoing degree?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of academia.stackexchange.com/questions/8984/…
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:37
  • 25
    Do you mean as part of your name like: "John Smith, (PhD)"? If so, the answer is no. You can't list a degree that you have not yet earned.
    – mako
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:39
  • 13
    "John Smith (PhD student)" would be accurate, but you really don't want to do that.
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 11:54
  • 7
    Everyone (including me) is assuming that by "ongoing degree" you mean "a degree I have not obtained yet, though I plan to obtain it." If you mean something different you should clarify.
    – Josh
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 12:48
  • 1
    Where do you want to use such abbreviation? In your visit card? In the signature of your mails and email?
    – enthu
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:34

6 Answers 6


No, you cannot use a title or degree that you haven't earned yet.

  • 5
    well, he can do whatever he wants. call himself the Queen of England, if he wants to. i don't think anyone will be arrested for that. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 14:21
  • 34
    In some countries (my experience is in The Netherlands) a number of such titles such as dr. (PhD) in this case and their international variants are protected by law, and using them without proper rights will land you in jail.
    – Jakob Buis
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:06
  • 3
    Yes, the same is true in Germany, and people did get into trouble for not applying the law properly. Even in cases where people did have a PhD of a reputable university (see e.g. htor.inf.ethz.ch/blog/index.php/2008/11/06/…). The law has been changed now, but you still cannot call yourself dr. without the appropriate degree from an accredited university. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:22
  • 5
    Even if it's not illegal per se (like in the US), do not expect others to react kindly to using a degree title you haven't earned.
    – cpast
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 18:03
  • 7
    @cpast And, even in the U.S., stating or implying that you have a degree that you don't have could probably constitute fraud in some contexts, which is indeed a crime. While it's unlikely that you'd be prosecuted in most cases, it would certainly be considered dishonest.
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 19:30

Perhaps you may have seen someone express their student status in such a way, which may work informally depending on the context (perhaps a listing of students, which may have included undergrads and masters level students, and could thus differentiate). E.g.:

SGA Special Committee of Students named Student
Student Smith (PhD)
Student Garcia (MS)
Student Nahasapeemapetilon (MA)

And note that these examples are only appropriate in contexts where you need to communicate your state of educational attainment. Perhaps a resume, name tag at networking event, or something of that nature. It's not really appropriate socially (note the disdain in the comments), or outside of such a context.

Even in a context where you are clearly understood to be a student, it's best not just trail off with (PhD). Fully disclose your current state of education:


Student Smith (Ph.D. expected 2020)

If you passed your comps, but did not dissertate, some may frown on this, but sometimes used to indicate one has completed all work necessary for graduation except the dissertation (and even when all hope is abandoned of ever completing):

Student Smith (ABD)

or if completion is shortly expected,

Student Smith (Ph.D. candidate)
  • 8
    I think the third option's classy. I'd go for that.
    – Hal
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:48
  • 2
    On a resume/CV, for instance, it's relatively common (at least here in the U.S.) for an active student to list in their education Degree Name, Expected Graduation: Month Year. This communicates that you're working on it and how far along you are while also removing any ambiguity that could make someone think you're being dishonest and claiming to already have the degree.
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 19:29
  • 6
    In my own institution and others a "Ph.D. student" is not necessarily a candidate. There are requirements to be met, such as coursework or comprehensive exams, before one is accepted into candidacy.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 20:56
  • 1
    ABD is a bit tongue in cheek.
    – user18072
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 23:27
  • 4
    @JamalS: I don't think that any of the options described in this answer are either advisable or appropriate in almost any context of general professional communication.
    – mako
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 10:03

You may say you are a PhD candidate as a suffix after you finish your field exams (usually after the third year in the US.)

  • I record medical/scientific conferences and I see this a lot. I think I've seen (PhD) before, but certainly not as common as this. Related: PhD candidate vs PhD student There seems to be a nuanced difference between a student and a candidate.
    – user23776
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 18:21
  • @fredsbend: I think the more suitable summary of that question you linked to is that in some institutions, there is a clear-cut and significant difference between PhD candidates and PhD students, whereas in other institutions, the two terms are totally synonymous and interchangeable. (And people from non-English speaking places with different education systems sometimes choose one over the other because they feel it represents their status better.) Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 19:28

In Brazil, it is common to see people writing "doutorando" (for PhD) and "mestrando" (for Masters) to indicate that they are in the middle of the course of their degrees. The translation for these terms would be something almost like "PhDeing" and "Meing" (none of those sound well). But this practice is not considered right, because the person has not finished anything.

Also, I agree that as a PhD student you don't really want to do that, as you have not already earned your degree. Keep up with your studies, and soon you will be able to add "PhD" with no other doubts!


At my university in the USA, we award the M.Phil degree to doctoral students who have completed their coursework and exams. When they submit their prospectus, their title changes to "doctoral candidate."

So they could write either:

  1. Jane Doe, BA, M.Phil
  2. Jane Doe, doctoral candidate

Some also use the colloquial ABD (all but dissertation) but as their advisor, I discourage this for formal settings such as their CV or on their business cards:

  1. Jane Doe, BA, ABD

A Phd Student is a research Scholar . I propose he can write .

Phd(Sch).. Where SCh is a suffix , same is recommended in a smaller font.

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