I have a Belgian colleague who is “Prof. Dr. ir.”. What does it mean?

  • 1
    I am assuming you are confused by the "ir" part. I think it is a reference to engineer/Ingénieur. I am not sure if it means the individual holds an EngD/ScD or simply a certification in engineering.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:18
  • 6
    I don't know the Belgian system, but in the German system it is not uncommon to list all honorifics, so something like Prof Dr. Dr. Dr. Smith would be someone with a single professorship and 3 doctorates. Sometimes you would see that as Prof DDDr. Smith. If Smith got a fourth doctorate, I believe the honorific would change to Prof. Dr. mult. Smith.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:39
  • 4
    @seteropere you can become a professor without a PhD. A doctorate (e.g., MD, EdD, ScD) is helpful, but not a requirement.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:41
  • 2
    @seteropere In France (only country for which I know very well the system), you need the "habilitation" to become a (full) prof. To have the habilitation, you need either a PhD plus a good research record with many publications, students, etc. or a very strong research record without the need of a PhD. For instance, there are researchers from industry who obtain professorship without having a PhD. Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 11:18
  • 8
    In The Netherlands the ir bit is the equivalent of an MSc from a technical university. Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 23:18

6 Answers 6


Ir. means a masters degree in Engineering.

source : Belgian Education :)

I added a "reference". This Prof. Dr. Ir. received a M.Sc. degree in electrical engineering and the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven), Belgium

Also, from wikipedia: Belgium

In Belgium, there are two types of engineering degrees:

  • "Burgerlijk Ingenieur" /"Ingénieur civil" or "Master of Science in Engineering" (abbrev. "ir.") - 5 years study (3 BSc. + 2 MSc.)
  • "Bio-ingenieur"/ "Bioingénieur" or "Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering" (abbrev. "ir") - 5 years study (3 BSc. + 2 MSc.)
  • "Industrieel Ingenieur" or "Master of Science in Industrial Sciences" (abbrev. "Ing.") - 4 years study (3 BSc. + 1 MSc.)(3 BSc. + 2 MSc. in 2013-future) (for the Flemish Region)
  • "Ingénieur industriel" or "Master of Science in Industrial Sciences" (abbrev. "Ing.") - 5 years study (3 BSc. + 2 MSc.) (for the Walloon Region)



In some countries you use all of the titles one holds (e.g. Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium etc.)

In plain English it means someone who holds the profession of engineering (can be just bachelors or masters) who has a PhD and who is a Professor (senior ranked, depending on the system can mean a full professor or even an associate prof).

Edit: The tricky bit is what constitutes holding the professing of engineering. In Netherlands/Belgium it is automatic once you have the degree from a technical uni (e.g. Delft or Eindhoven). In some places you need to be a certified engineer to hold it (e.g. Malaysia or Mexico as I understand).

  • Yeah, I imagined that… the question is: what are the exact requirements for this particular denomination (in the Belgian system)? “holds the profession of engineering” is vague…
    – F'x
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:48
  • @F'x, it means that they have completed an engineering degree. Just for contrast, my academic parent now holds the title "Prof. Dr. rer. nat.", as he is a professor and holds a doctorate in the natural sciences (in the archaic sense, he's a computer scientist). Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:53
  • 2
    Thats the tricky bit. In Netherlands it is automatic once you have the degree from a technical uni like Delft or Eindhoven. In some places you need to be a certified engineer to hold it (e.g. Malaysia or Mexico as I understand). Don't know the situation in Belgium.
    – blackace
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 10:56
  • "Dr. ir." is usually someone from Belgium or the Netherlands; I haven't seen that abbreviation used in other countries.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 9:55
  • 1
    A minor addition: you don't get the ir. title with a bachelor degree, only after a master's. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 12:25

Prof-DR-Ir refers to three professional titles: (1) Prof - Professor (2) DR - Doctorate Holder (3) Ir - Professional Engineer. Prof is normally awarded to one who lectures in a university. He might or might not have a PhD or equivalent. But current university's requirement requires all Professors to have a PhD. Doctorate is a doctoral level qualification ie above master. This could be PhD or EngD or now a new one IndDoc Ingeniur refers to engineers with a minimum BSc in engineering. This is a Board of Professional qualification after a graduate sat for the professional exams after a minimum of 3 yrs experience in field and management. So if a person holds the title DR Ir he is a doctoral holder in engineering. And if he holds Prof DR Ir he is a professor in a university who is holding a doctorate in engineering.


This is true for Germany, but I am not sure about other countries.
The doctoral title you hold, unlike other titles, can be a voluntary addition to the name. It is therefore the only title you can add to your passport.

Based on the situation, you can leave it out though. Most colleagues left it out on their doorbell, some add their field (like the engineering in this case); partially to avoid people with the flu ringing at their door.

Adding your field to your title can help in other situations as well, since it simply conveys what you are doing in three letters or less. People from your, or related, fields can then simply judge what subtopics best to look into, while talking to you at e.g. a conference.

The addition of the Prof. tells people that you are (also) holding a teaching position, or at least where at some point. This shows people even more of what you do. Being yet another bar to pass, some people don't like it being left out, when addressed.

So: trying to tell people more about him, your colleague added eight letters and three dots to his name. Pretty neat, for a CV, right?

EDIT: Changed, based on information given by pieter.

  • 1
    I don't think it is true that Dr. is part of the official name in Germany, see e.g. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doktor It is certainly not true in the Netherlands (and most likely Belgium as well). Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 12:21
  • 1
    This isn't quite accurate. A "Dr. rer. nat." is not considered the same thing as a "Dr." according to many German universities.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 13:11

Ir. is a title equivalent to a Master's (it takes five years to get as far as I know since all technical/natural sciences Masters are two years, on top of the three year Bachelor) but from a technical university, so therefore in a technical field. I have an MSc. (2 years) and a BSc. (3 years) and thus can use 'Drs' (Doctorandus) which is a title used in the Netherlands. Had I done this/a similar degree in another university, I would have gotten 'Ir.'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctorandus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer%27s_degree for explaination on the 'Ir.' title. I don't know how much is true of the statement that it often takes seven years, even though it's a five year program.

I know people who have 'Ir.' but are not an engineer (at least not in the classical sense) but have studied something like biotechnology or molecular biology.


I'm"Ir.Wisoot SRIRUENG".I'm a Thai Engineer which I've been Certified/Register by Malasia Engineering Council. I was graduated in Welding Engineer and Master of Science(MSc.Env)also including "International Welding Engineer(IWE)"Diploma register from IIW (International Institute of Welding). Ir is used for Certified/Register Engineer in Malasia that shown you're a professional registered engineer.

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