27

I have the following degrees:

  • PhD in Information Technology (Computer Science concentration)
  • MS in Systems Engineering (MSE)
  • MS in Engineering Management (MEM)
  • BS in Computer Science

What would a proper e-mail signature look like?

Examples:

Dr. Bob Roberts
PhD IT, MSE, MEM

or

Dr. Bob Roberts
PhD Information Technology
MS Systems Engineering
MS Engineering Management
BS Computer Science
  • 55
    I don't think I have read anyone's email signature even once in my life. IMO, you're overthinking this very much. – user9646 May 31 '17 at 13:02
  • 202
    It's also worth mentioning that listing all of your degrees (especially when the list is that long) could come off as obnoxiously pompous to some people. – tilper May 31 '17 at 13:46
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    And it is generally regarded as incorrect to prefix your title and to repeat it after the name. Even with a single degree, you should either say "Dr. Bob Roberts" or "Bob Roberts, PhD". Saying "Dr. Bob Roberts, PhD" isn't good. So, if you really want to list all of your degrees, you should probably omit the title before your name. Aren't you going to include High School, Junior High, Elementary, and Kindergarden as well? It all seems a bit excessive. I think I would just stick with "Dr. Bob Roberts". Including the rest seems rather unhumble. – MPW May 31 '17 at 16:14
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Jun 4 '17 at 5:11

12 Answers 12

76

There is no formal academic convention for email signatures, although your university or institution may have formatting guidelines. You can simply include as much or as little information as you want the recipient to know.

Personally, I think your name and position are sufficient and listing every degree you have is a bit redundant (and, as others have pointed out, pretentious). People will probably infer that you have a BS and MS if you also have a PhD.

  • 3
    @A.T.Ad: You don't seem to be the person asking the original question, but I would expect your official position to cover your 'area of expertise'. If you feel the need to specify, do so by specifying your position. Don't just rattle off all your degrees. – Falc May 31 '17 at 15:24
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    @A.T.Ad It's not necessarily problematic, it just has the potential to come off as trivially boasting. If it conveys useful information, I wouldn't be too concerned. For example, for a Professor of Ethics with an MS in Biology, listing both might help to inform people of diverse (relevant) experience. However, it's rather pointless for a Professor of Biology to list a PhD, MS and BS all in biology - also mentioning the additional degrees doesn't add anything, except perhaps ego padding. -- Rule of thumb: only list them if they indicate expertise not implied by the most advanced title. – R.M. May 31 '17 at 15:29
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    @A.T.Ad: Do you really think people would go on to read your signature to find out your area of expertise? Just put that on your website. – tomasz May 31 '17 at 17:51
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    @R.M. Just out of curiosity, have you ever actually acted on such information that was included in a signature? Generally when I'm emailing someone I already know who they are and have a reason to email them. If I want to find someone who has expertise in area X I wouldn't send a mail to everyone and then check their signatures to find whom I'm looking for. – Voo May 31 '17 at 18:55
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    @alephzero I don't know where people get their information about German culture. A typical German e-mail signature looks like "Prof. Dr. Christian Schmidt, Institute of Quantum Mechanics, address, phone number, website". Nobody lists qualifications, but some list positions. – Roland Jun 2 '17 at 6:48
54

It's supposed to be an email signature, not a CV. "Dr Bob Roberts" already says that you have a PhD. The rest is redundant, because having a PhD implies that you probably have a master's degree (which nobody cares about, because you have a PhD), and almost certainly have a bachelor's degree (which nobody cares about, because you have a master's). And, hey, you probably got some qualifications in high school, too (which nobody cares about, because you have a bachelor's).

So the only reason for including all that stuff in your signature is tooting your horn. And, in an academic context, it looks crass because you're drawing attention to the obvious. "Oh, look at me, I have a PhD and a master's and a bachelor's!" Well, er, so does everybody else on the academic and research staff. That level of qualifications is implied by the fact that you work here.

29

If you'll allow me, i'd like to play devil's advocate. Don't list your degrees in your email signature. The signature is there to format email more like a letter. It's not the place to communicate your experience. I'd recommend setting up a personal resume website or a linkedin page to showcase your experience.

Allow your message content to communicate your command of a subject, don't rest on your letters.

  • 7
    +1 I usually sign my e-mails "Patricia", unless I am being really formal, when I use "Patricia Shanahan", but just for this occasion: Patricia Shanahan, PhD, MSc, BSc, ARCS. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 1 '17 at 0:21
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    @PatriciaShanahan It's good to know that you treat Academia.SE as a really formal environment. :-D – David Richerby Jun 1 '17 at 14:08
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    @PatriciaShanahan Today I learned: the level of formality we attribute to commenting on SE is directly related to the naming conventions of our usernames. :) Apparently you, David, and myself are all quite formal; chuck, not so much. – Bryan Krause Jun 1 '17 at 22:12
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    I am advocating this - the default should be to keep emails as informal as possible and appropriate. – Sascha Jun 3 '17 at 12:32
12

I want to give a different perspective.

Do what is common practise in your institution/region (i. e. what your collegues or other comparable people do).

Here in Austria, it seems to be common practise to list all your titles (maybe except for BSc/BA if you have a MSc/MA because people are not so used to these two titles). I often see multiple doctor titles and honoris causa titles in signatures.

In my view, many people here see a signature (if there is any) as a place where you state your "official" name - and, at least here, this includes your titles. "Bob" in a signature would certainly be viewed as unprofessional and strange. (But then again, I am not sure if the commenters suggesting writing "Bob" are serious or joking.)

While many people on this site view many titles as "bragging", not including them can certainly interpreted as an insult to the others - like you are saying "you guys including so many titles are pretentious".

So in short, do what your environment does.

However, I have never ever seen someone stating the field they received their titles in. (Although there are titles like "BA (FH)" (FH meanging Fachhochschule, "university of applied sciences"), which appear sometimes. Probably they have to be stated in exact this way.)

  • 9
    The advice to do what other people in the same situation does is excellent. But I think somebody would have to be almost paranoid to interpret somebody not including something in their signature as a judgement on those who do. What next? "OMG, he's wearing a different coloured shirt to me! It must be an insult!" – David Richerby May 31 '17 at 23:01
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    Yeah it's culture dependent. Using just your first name in professional circumstances is quite common in the US, but seems incredibly weird to Germans and Austrians (so no, not a joke to just sign with "Bob"). That said I wouldn't use my titles in emails or conversations, it's more something to put on formal documentation or requests where it really does make a difference (certainly use every title you have when trying to rent an apartment..). There is a bit of a generational divide too it seems to me. – Voo Jun 1 '17 at 7:16
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    Slightly different German perspective. Listing titles is rather uncommon here, but it is common to give rather more details on your institute. For business, full company name, address, phone and tax number and possibly trade registry number etc. are often mandatory. So "blacksaibot, head of IT, company X" would need to give more details on X. – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 1 '17 at 13:11
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    Exactly! A year ago I registered at a GP in Czech Republic and now after a year a nurse came to me, "don't you have another title?". Medicine here is all about the titles. It is strange to be called a doctor when you are a patient, but that is how they do that here. They expect all the titles. – Vladimir F Jun 1 '17 at 16:09
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    Are we speaking about e-mail signatures in academia or in industry / rest of the world? There is probably a difference between them. (And, by the way, my "use Bob" was serious.) – Federico Poloni Jun 1 '17 at 22:32
6

Either:

Dr. Bob Roberts

or

Bob Roberts, Ph.D.

unless one of two things obtain. First, your organization has a set of internal customs or formal rules regarding the signature. Second, if your degrees are in different areas. For example,

Bob Roberts

Ph.D. Management Science

MS Nursing

For interrelated fields, the Ph.D. supersedes the master's degree and ceases being relevant. It is also relevant to show certifications that are not superseded by the doctorate.

4

Another way to do this would be to just include your linkedin profile link. That way anyone interested in learning about your credentials can just click on there. Something else I see common in Academic settings is to link to their personal webpage for the department. That page usually lists their resume, educational credentials, what paper they may have presented in the past, etc. Ofcourse ensure to setup the webpage and add all the relevant information there.

4

Your signature indicates how you want the person you're writing to address you. If you want be called by your first name, sign "Bob" or "Bob Roberts". If you want to be called "Dr. Roberts", sign "Dr. Bob Roberts".

No one is going to call you "Dr. Bob Roberts PhD IT, MSE, MEM", and what do you really hope to accomplish with that signature?

3

I never had an email signature. Can't think of something to put there that the person I'm communicating with doesn't know already or can easily find out if interested in having that information.

When something is relevant to the other party I'll mention it in the email, not on the signature. If exchanging more than a few emails, having long signatures becomes annoying (IMO).

As for the question, I'd keep the signature as simple as possible, e.g. John Doe, PhD. This way you're not adding additional lines to your name/signature combo, while still informing everyone that you have a PhD and everything else that comes beforehand.

1

While in grad school I was told by my dissertation advisor that in formal correspondence you should not refer to yourself by Dr. The proper form would be:

Bob Roberts, Ph.D. in and not,

Dr. Bob Roberts.

Medical doctors seem to violate this convention quite frequently though.

  • 2
    That's because medical doctors are MDs, not PhDs. Also this is very culture specific; in the UK, writing Dr Bob Roberts is far more common than Bob Roberts, PhD. Or, as others have pointed out, just plain old Bob. – astronat Jun 2 '17 at 20:48
  • May I guess that you (or rather, your dissertation adviser) are American? Certainly in Commonwealth English, it's normal (and correct) to write "Dr." before someone's name, regardless of what type of doctorate they hold. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Jun 3 '17 at 4:38
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    Yes, American. The advice applied to self-references only. Referring to someone else as Dr. would of course be perfectly normal. I guess his point was that you would not introduce yourself as, "Hello, I'm Mr. Bob Roberts", so the same logic should apply to Dr. as a prefix. These are by definition English honorifics intended to address a person with respect. Therefore use in the case of a self-reference would seem inappropriate. I can see why at a medical center people would refer to themselves as Dr. in order to distinguish themselves from the nurses and janitors. – crayguy Jun 4 '17 at 0:52
1

You can list your other degrees if they are relevant to your work. For example, if I were an art therapist, a BA in fine art is relevant to my work, so I'd list it. But don't list the BS in Psychology that led to the MS. And you would list any licensure first, if you have it, such as MFT.

1

You shouldn't put any of that in your email. There is a general correlation of Ph.D.s who call themselves Dr. or use the ,Ph.D. being the weaker ones. Even if not true in your case, it will still come across that way. And not just to the general public, but other Ph.D. holders. (Same thing applies to retired military ranks unless you are writing a letter to the editor.)

First Last (optional) position and/or org cell phone number email

You include the cell so people can call you. Lots of people use email sigs for finding phone numebrs and get annoyed by others who don't list it. (Of course if it is an email you don't want the cell included, edit it out.) Include the actual email since many email programs or physical printouts list your name in the header but not the email adress

0

I've seen Fred Davidson, M.D. Ph.D

which i personally like because it's all in one line and the fact that the md and the phd are together makes it look more powerful rather than separated.

  • 1
    This is something of a different case. the MD and PhD degrees both lead to the title "Dr" and, in the context of medical practice or research, it's good to distinguish "I'm an physician" from "I'm an academic" from "I'm both a physician and an academic." – David Richerby Aug 27 '18 at 15:15

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