I'm moving to Germany in a couple of weeks and I'll be setting up as a freelancer. I'm just curious about my title though.

I got my PhD in the UK in 2015, it states "Doctor of Philosophy" on the certificate, as usual, but my research was in Computer Science, specifically experimental application of Computer Science techniques to Engineering problems (in fact, my work was actually funded by an automobile company based in Germany whom I visited quite regularly).

I'm no longer in academia, but last summer I was briefly at Hannover University, where somebody suggested that I would be eligible for the Dr.-Ing. title instead of the plain Dr. title.

Fact is, I would like the Dr.-Ing. given the technical nature of my freelance work, but I am not sure whether I am legally allowed to use it.

Can anybody advise me?

  • 3
    You probably have to fill out some paperwork with some official place, but it might be possible. The main obstacle is the difference in naming. You having an equivalent degree of education should be rather undisputed. Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 11:37
  • 1
    You may want to look at the Ingenieurgesetz of the state you move to, to see how to hold your title and freelance (which you likely have done allready, just in case)
    – mart
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:09
  • Yep - If I am not mistaken Dr. and Ing. are actually two protected titles with different regulations behind them... Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 11:47
  • 1
    Fascinating. I did some high level consulting (non technical) for a German company, even through an agency. They asked for photocopies of my diplomas. I found the request very strange (for a temp worker). But I sent the stuff.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


One important thing you need to know about the German Doktorgrad is (alongside other non-academic titles) that its use is restricted by federal law. Adding a Doktortitel to your name in public without being entitled to do so is a punishable offence. This means that you should not trust any answer that you get from the Internet on this topic. Make sure that you verify whatever answer you get with an official side. One way of doing so is pointed out in @Cachapa's useful answer from the point of view of someone who already went through this.

Having said that: First of all, a British Doctor of Philosophy is indeed considered equivalent to a German Doktorgrad. You can verify that using this database (unfortunately only available in German). This means that you're fully qualified for whatever position or task that requires a Dr.

However, while you're entitled to use your PhD in public as an academic title, it is not possible to convert your PhD into a German Doktorgrad, and doing so might be an offense according to German law. This is based on a statement issued by the Kultusministerkonferenz (the "Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany"). These are the crucial points:

  • Akademische Grade sind in Deutschland rechtlich geschützt.
  • Der ausländische Grad muss ordnungsgemäß verliehen sein.
  • Die Umwandlung eines ausländischen Grades in einen deutschen Grad ist nicht möglich (…).

My translation:

  • Academic titles are protected by the law in Germany.
  • A foreign title has to have been granted lawfully.
  • It is not possible to convert a foreign title into a German title.

This statement is very explicit in my opinion, and it means that you cannot just add Dr.-Ing. to your name if you haven't been granted the title by a German university. It also means that no German university can grant you a Dr.-Ing. simply because you have a foreign equivalent title.

Yet, you can use your PhD in public, because it's acknowledged as an academic title. Plus, the Kultusministerkonferenz has decided that EU members can also choose to use Dr. instead of the designation used in their country of origin, this is regulated in (2) in the "Vereinbarung über begünstigende Regelungen der 'Grundsätze für die Regelung der Führung ausländischer Hochschulgrade'" (thanks to @Pont for pointing that out), but this does not include the "-Ing." part. To quote:

  1. Hochschulgrade aus Mitgliedstaaten der Europäischen Union (EU) oder des Europäischen Wirtschaftsraumes (EWR) […] können in der Originalform ohne Herkunftsbezeichnung geführt werden.

This means that academic titles from the EU, the EEA may be used as part of the name in their original form without stating their origin.

  1. Inhaber von in einem wissenschaftlichen Promotionsverfahren erworbenen Doktorgraden, die in den in Ziff. 1 bezeichneten Staaten oder Institutionen erworben wurden, können anstelle der im Herkunftsland zugelassenen oder nachweislich allgemein üblichen Abkürzung […] wahlweise die Abkürzung „Dr.“ ohne fachlichen Zusatz und ohne Herkunftsbezeichnung führen. […] Führung beider Abkürzungen ist nicht zulässig.

This means that a holder of a doctorate from one of the countries described in (1) may decide to use the abbreviation Dr. instead of the abbreviation that is usually used in their country of origin, but without the addition of an abbreviation indicating the title-granting discipline – that's the part referring to the -Ing. suffix. Also, it's not possible to combine both abbreviations, i.e. "Dr. Schmuddi, PhD" is not allowed.

Edit (March 2021)

The answer above reflects the state of affairs from 2017, a time at which the UK had already voted in favor of Brexit but was still a EU member. Now that the UK is not a member state anymore, paragraphs (1) and (2) don't apply to UK PhD holders. Consequently, the "Vereinbarung" was revised in 2019 by adding the UK to the list of exceptions in paragraph (4) (alongside Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the US):

  1. Inhaber von folgenden Doktorgraden [...] Vereinigtes Königreich: „Doctor of ...“ mit jeweils unterschiedlicher Abkürzung [...] können anstelle der im Herkunftsland zugelassenen oder nachweislich allgemein üblichen Abkürzungen die Abkürzung „Dr.“ jeweils ohne fachlichen Zusatz und Herkunftsbezeichnung führen.

According to this revision, any scholar from the UK who holds a PhD (which is an instance of a „Doctor of ...“ degree) may still use Dr. in their name, but as before, you may not add the degree-granting discipline. So, at least as far as the regulations concerning using an UK PhD in Germany is concerned, Brexit didn't cause any substantial change after all.

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    Certainly it is possible, in some cases, to be "Dr." in Germany on the basis of a foreign doctorate -- see here: ‘Inhaber von ... Doktorgraden, die in den in Ziff. 1 bezeichneten Staaten oder Institutionen erworben wurden, können ... wahlweise die Abkürzung „Dr.“ ... führen.’ I don't think this conflicts with the "Umwandlung" rule: your doctorate is not transformed into a German one, it is simply recognized as granting you the right to use the "Dr." title.
    – Pont
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 8:43
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    However: (1) I don't know of any provision of this sort which would allow a "Dr.-Ing." title rather than "Dr." (2) Each Bundesland has its own rules in addition to the KMK ones and (3) UK PhDs are currently recognized because any doctorate from the EU or EEA is automatically recognized; this may of course change after Brexit.
    – Pont
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 8:48
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    @TomTom I didn't claim that Brexit currently has an effect: I wrote that "this may change after Brexit". As to grandfathering old titles: the regulation as currently written could be interpreted either way IMO. This is not a case of converting your UK "Dr." to a German "Dr.", as one might exchange a driver licence: it's an agreement to recognize the UK qualification, which can be withdrawn. In practice, even if the UK leaves the EEA, I suspect a new bilateral agreement for recognition will be drawn up -- but as with most aspects of Brexit, we simply can't know at present.
    – Pont
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 12:32
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    I'm getting a rough feeling of "you can probably use Dr. but be careful" with a very clear sense of "you cannot use Dr.-Ing.". Thanks for your help Schmuddi, Pont, TomTom.
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 12:33
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    @DetlevCM: You are wrong that there is no problem. Currently Germany recognises UK PhDs as equivalent because that is the requirement of EU law. It also recognises various other country's PhDs under different laws but note two things: the UK does not currently appear under those laws, and the absolute requirement of equivalence imposed by EU law is not necessarily reproduced. These are legal issues which will likely be resolved quickly but they still exist and their resolution will depend on the Brexit negotiations. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 10:32

Schmuddi already gave a very complete answer above, but I can add my personal experience since I am in the exact same situation: I completed my PhD in Engineering at a British university and am currently residing in Germany.

When you arrive in Germany you will have to do your Anmeldung - register yourself with your city's local authority. You can officially declare your PhD/Dr. title in that process and it will appear in the document you will get from them. I feel that's the safest way to use the title since it's been accepted by the state. As stated above, Germans take their titles very seriously and you do not want to use it incorrectly.

In order to register the title officially you'll need to bring proof of enrolment and completion of the PhD program. In my case I had to ask for a letter from my university with my full name and birthdate confirming my enrolment. For proof of completion I simply brought my diploma. Both documents were in English and were accepted without issue.

Finally, I prefer to sign as "Dr." rather than "PhD" since most Germans aren't familiar with the latter and even many of those who heard of it think they're not equivalent. I've also had a lot of people ask me if I studied Philosophy - consider this if you decide to hang your diploma where others can see it.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. I assume therefore, that you don't feel comfortable extending your title to Dr.-Ing. ?
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 12:23
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    @Matt: Allow me to chime in: Using "Dr.-Ing." instead of "Dr." is not an option. The Kultusministerkonferenz is explicit on that.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 12:25
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    Apart from the legal issue mentioned by Schmuddi, "Dr.-Ing." is only recognised in the German-speaking countries, whereas "Dr." is international, this is particularly important in modern fields such as software development. Most of my German colleagues forgo the "-Ing." part in their own signatures. In any case you typically write your occupation near your title and name, so the fact that your doctorate is in engineering is implied for anyone who cares.
    – Cachapa
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 12:38
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    "Germans take their titles very seriously" that has a bad aftertaste. It is not about taking our titles seriously, but about avoiding abuse of the system. I.e., we want to make sure that if someone reaps the benefits of wielding a title (like Dipl.-..., Dr., "Doctor" (as in medical doctor) etc.), then it has been earned. Compare de.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . Interestingly, it is even illegal to use very similar titles, unless you earned them. Interestingly², the "Professor" (which is more like a job description) is not protected.
    – AnoE
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 17:14
  • 3
    @AnoE It shouldn't have a bad aftertaste. Claiming an unearned title is a form of fraud, and undermines the web of trust upon which society is built. When people claim qualifications they do not have, it can erode trust in those who worked for years to earn the privilege to use a particular title, and continue to uphold high standards every day to maintain that privilege, Some people take that seriously. Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 17:29

I would have commented to @Cachapa's answer, but I don't have the reputation...

I'd like to relate my story: I attempted to claim the Dr. title from Finland in the local Einwohnermeldeamt. I was asked for a German translation of the diploma that was already written in English. This probably depends on the state you are in, if not even on the language skills of the officials. In any case, having the diploma translated by a certified translator would have been ridiculously expensive, so I gave up. Therefore I do not dare to include the title at the moment. Perhaps I'll try the Amt again later.

Here are some relevant pieces of information I found:

"Foreign Academic Degrees Questions regarding the use of foreign academic degrees and titles should be addressed to the ministry of science of the respective Land. As a rule, it is possible to use the academic degree or title in the original language – this is also stipulated in the Länder higher education laws. It is not possible to convert a foreign academic degree or title into a German academic degree or title. The only exception is in the case of ethnic German resettlers. The anabin database provides further information on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications. " [1]

There is actually a whole database, called "ANABIN", of degrees that are already recognised. [2]

[1] https://www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de/html/en/academic_recognition.php

[2] http://anabin.kmk.org/no_cache/filter/institutionen.html

  • 4
    My wife went through the same ordeal with a PhD degree from Australia. Getting your diploma translated should not cost you more than 30 Euros, which was about what she had to pay (certified translator accepted by German courts).
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 10:13
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    Since my degree certificates were in English I had to pay a certified translator to put them into German. Strangely enough, my Irish colleague did not have to get them translated because they were in Latin.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 11:45
  • Did you translate the whole thing with supplements and all?
    – Simppa
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 11:56
  • I'm also quite surprised at the "ridiculously expensive" bit - I had to translate my diploma as well (I think it was from French to English), and I think it was about 50 euros tops (maybe even cheaper). Even allowing for wild price differences for the service between the countries, I can't imagine it costing more than double of what I paid (and even that would be surprisingly high - but not sometime I'd consider too ridiculous to get done).
    – penelope
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 14:14

If you belong to a recognised Engineering Institution you may be entitled to apply to FEANI for the prenominals EUR ING in addidion to Dr.

  • 1
    You can apply but not to FEANI (they govern professional engineering registration, but a PhD in engineering is not a PE//CEng//EUR ING), and according to the rule Schmuddi quoted, the body that does have jurisdiction over this will refuse.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 20:58

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