In Germany and Austria¹, it is possible to have your doctoral degree noted on your passport, official ID (Personalausweis) and similar documents of identification. Whether allowing this is a good thing in general is debatable but the subject of another question (that is arguably too opinion-based for this site).

Having acquired such a degree, I fail to see any strong arguments for or against making use of this as an individual (and the Internet does not provide much searchable information on this issue either). Obviously, it flatters the ego and can be used to impress some people, but then it involves some effort and may come off as arrogant to others. But I am wondering whether there are some situations where there is a more clear advantage or disadvantage or whether I am grossly misestimating the situation.

Note that I do not ask you to make this decision for me. I am fully aware that I have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages myself. I am just asking for arguments.

¹ which seem to be the only countries where this is possible if some websites are to be believed

Finally, for the search engines: Was sind die Vor- und Nachteile davon, seinen Doktorgrad im Personalausweis vermerken zu lasen?

  • I would start with thinking about who you will be showing your id and in what situations. – Maarten Buis Feb 9 '17 at 9:24
  • I don't have enough experience in these things to give an actual answer, but I'd assume that, at least in Austria, some people might find it strange to the point of suspicion not to find the fact that you're a doctor in your ID – sgf Feb 11 '17 at 21:28
  • I did this in Germany. And I got the impression (but cannot prove it) that the Dr in your passport is helpful when dealing with real estate agents or landlords, by letting you appear to be a bit more "serious" and making you a bit more financially credible in their eyes. – CrepusculeWithNellie Aug 29 '18 at 22:46

I have my “Dr.” degree in my German ID as well as in my passport. The process was very simple and I made these changes when I had to renew the documents anyway; therefore it did not mean any extra work for me.

(However, I do not have it on my doorbell or letterbox, since it might give potential burglars the wrong idea that I have many expensive things at home. I also wouldn’t like it if a sick person thinks that I would be a medical doctor and asks for help in the middle of the night.)

In my experience, it makes no significant difference whether you have it in your ID or not, neither in a positive nor in a negative way.

Typically, the degree can be noticed on international travels. Many employees working at a hotel reception, a car rental service, or an airline check-in (sometimes even on board a plane when you are flying in business or first class and the cabin crew has the time for such gimmicks) will happily address you with “Doctor”.

Passport checks by border officials have always been without any problems. In most cases, the officers don’t talk so much; thus, I don’t know if they even look at the degree in my passport. Only in one case upon leaving the Schengen Area in Frankfurt Airport, I was asked by a German Federal Police officer what kind of doctor I am (he seemed to be disappointed by my answer “chemistry”).

The only occasion when I had to explain that I am not a medical doctor was with locals in Tanzania. Nevertheless, they happily called my “Doctor” all the time.

In a professional setting where your degree would actually be relevant, you usually don’t have to show your ID. Therefore, the few people who might be genuinely interested in your qualifications don’t see it. You cannot use it to quietly remind contacts of your degree or to impress clients.

However, I sometimes have to visit nuclear facilities where I must hand over my ID at the entrance. The security guard is not really interested in my degree but uses a copy of my ID for a temporary visitor pass. This has to be signed by my contact in the facility, which gives that person the rare opportunity to actually see the degree in my ID.

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I did add the degree to the passport, and I can tell you that so far it only had disadvantages (though no severe ones).

  1. I added my master degree, and did not need a new passport since. So now that I have my PhD, its not even accurate anymore.
  2. In China, authorities looked at my passport and me very sceptically, when I did not add my degree to the train ticket, and thus the name differed between passport and ticket. They did not understand my explanation, but let me pass on the train anyway ;)
  3. Most time I book a flight ticket, I can only select Mr/Mrs as title. So I have to think everytime, whether I should add the degree in the name field. Usually I don't do it, hence again the ticket and the passport show different names. It caused a strange look in America, but no serious problems.
  4. My new colleagues (in a foreighn country) looked at me like i was crazy, when they saw it.
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  • 5
    What country are you talking about? I am pretty confident that it’s not possible to add a master’s degree to a passport in Germany (not sure about Austria, as they are even more obsessed with titles). – Wrzlprmft Feb 9 '17 at 10:02
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    I did it in Austria. Yes, it seems we are slightly more obsessed with titles than others ;) – Lot Feb 9 '17 at 10:03
  • My husband did it in Germany and in this experience it has the slight advantage that people will subconsciously tend to respect you more and treat you slightly better, but only in Germany and Austria. In the rest of the world it has no effect. Also in Germany it seems to be expected that you put your Dr. (PhD title) on your ID (but not the lower ones like MSc) so the confusion can be the other way around when you sign your emails with Dr. Whoever and then present ID without the Dr. people can get the impression that you're using a vanity title. – Sumyrda - remember Monica Feb 10 '17 at 9:33
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    In Denmark everyone seems to be on a first-name basis. I have the feeling that adding the degree to a mail I send would already be very weird up here. – Lot Feb 10 '17 at 11:09
  • @Sumyrda: Actually, according to the German ID law (gesetze-im-internet.de/pa_g_1986/__4.html), the Doktorgrad is the only academic title that may be added to your name on your ID. But saying that it seems "to be expected" that you do that is a gross overstatement. Actually, I know of no Dr. holder of my generation who has done so, but this decision may depend on your motivation to obtain a Dr. in the first place. – Schmuddi Feb 11 '17 at 12:05

I recently discovered this possibility to add doctor (or professor) in many documents in Germany as I moved to Berlin. So I asked about the why and impacts to my colleagues (I am working in a research laboratory; so it was several doctors from different countries at the table).

Every foreigner at first agreed on how pretentious someone has to be to ask for adding it anywhere. Germans agreed and told no impact except if you are doctor in medicine then it can be useful in plane (as the company should then know there is a doctor on board) and for your neighbors in case of a true emergency. And for same reason they recommend to do it for medicine doctors (hence, it would make sense to do it for nurses and firefighters as well, no?).

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