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Is there a correct or preferred format for indicating 'Dr' or 'PhD' (or both) on a professional business card.

Background: I am employed in the industry and I have just earned my PhD (in social science). My company wants to update my business card.

The following are two options:

  • Dr Name, PhD, University Name
  • Name, PhD, University Name

I am told that it may be a sign of arrogance but I am also told that if you have earned it, you deserve it.

  • 6
    What country are you located in and what type of company is this? – Irwin May 7 '13 at 2:44
  • Its Australia and an advocacy company. – Javeer Baker May 7 '13 at 3:21
  • 2
    I read it more of a sign of insecurity rather than arrogance when one seems to feel the need to shove your degree in people's faces. As you've pointed out, there are many feelings about this. I wouldn't do it but many do. – Benjamin Mako Hill May 2 '15 at 22:32
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    I think that getting a PhD is an accomplishment and people's insecurities are their own issue, not the PhDs'!!!! If in our society we rethought and recognized how much we could learn from someone that is more educated then ourselves; maybe just maybe we could elevate USA right back to the number one nation in the world..... When did we chose to disrespect educated people and why? We are in peril as a country and have uneducated people leading our country, people that can't even balance a budget!!?! So I say USE YOUR PhD!!!! – user35978 Jun 17 '15 at 9:37
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"Dr Name, PhD" is redundant, so this usage is often discouraged. If you are going to indicate the degree, I'd recommend "Name, PhD" rather than "Dr Name" since it's more informative (at the very least it will keep anyone from thinking you are a medical doctor). In the U.S. it's not common to indicate the university, but I think I've seen it more often in other countries.

I'd suggest thinking carefully before indicating your degree on a business card. Some people without PhDs may respond bitterly, like you are bragging about your accomplishments or implying that your expertise is more valuable than theirs. At the same time, some people with PhDs will look down on it as well, in a status hierarchy:

  1. Some insecure people without PhDs feel resentful and don't want to be distinguished from PhD holders.

  2. Some insecure people with PhDs try hard not to be confused with group 1, thereby irritating those people all the more.

  3. Some better-established PhD holders aren't worried about being confused with group 1, but now they don't want to be confused with group 2, so they pointedly denounce emphasizing your degree as being tacky and in poor taste.

As a rule of thumb, I would omit the degree from your business card unless it's important for your credibility (i.e., the skills from your PhD are professionally important and people would otherwise assume you don't have them).

The one situation in which you should absolutely not indicate a degree is if it's irrelevant. For example, if you're an accountant with a PhD in literature, then your business card should not read "Name, PhD."

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    This is very dependent on culture. For instance, in Germany the "Dr." is pretty much considered part of your name once you earned it, and higher-ups in industry are said to respond almost irresponsibly well to it. Furthermore, I wonder whether -- if you put your degree on the card -- you should give the field you obtained your degree in (no matter whether PhD or Masters); the distinction may be relevant in interdisciplinary contexts of if your degree is not the obvious fit for your field. – Raphael Jun 2 '14 at 23:43
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    Nice answer. There's even an econ paper modeling the three-point scenario you describe by Harbaugh and To. – Corvus May 2 '15 at 21:44
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    If you feel the need to wave around your degree, I might think that you are insecure but I'm not particularly worried about other people confusing me as like you. I'm not going to "pointedly denounce emphasizing your degree" but if you ask a question in an online forum about how to style your name, I'll give you my advice. :) – Benjamin Mako Hill May 2 '15 at 22:39
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My time in industry is longer than in academia. I would like to provide you with my opinion.

I would suggest

Name, PhD in Discipline name, University name

Job title

I think university name is optional. The discipline name is necessary because people want to know what you know. PhD in physics is very different from PhD in social science.

Please be aware of the possible negative effects of adding the PhD title.

There are quite a bit anti-academia attitude in industry. Some people dislike academics. They believe the academians know nothing but theory. They rather do business with non-academians. For me, I deeply respect academics. I believe a company can offer me good quality products if they have PhDs as some of their employees. So, I am more willing to do business with them. However, I think I am minority. Many industry people do not think that way.

If your employer is a consulting company, your title can be helpful. The PhD title can convince your clients you can offer them high value services. If your employeer is a constructing company, you might want to think twice before you update your business card.

  • @scaaahu Thanks a lot. I was based in the School of Arts and my dissertation is in the Social Sciences, so is PhD (Social Science) appropriate? Or do I need to mention the specific research area as we do specialise at this level? – Javeer Baker May 7 '13 at 5:13
  • @JaveerBaker I think PhD in Social Science is enough. If anybody wants to know more, they can ask. Then it's up to you and the timing to talk about it in more details. Some may not be interested in your title, they will just ignore what area in social science. – scaaahu May 7 '13 at 5:24
  • What about Bachelor resp. Master degrees if either is your highest one? – Raphael Jun 2 '14 at 23:44
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    @Raphael I never saw anyone put master/bachelor title on their business card in the US or my current location(Asia). I don't know about Europe. But, that's just me. – scaaahu Jun 3 '14 at 2:12
  • There are quite a bit anti-academia attitude in industry. Supporting evidence? – Leon Meier Dec 25 '17 at 13:31
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In your case, I would suggest "Yes, put Javeer Baker, Ph.D" on your card. You could optionally put "in social science" on it if you'd like.

I cannot speak about the culture in Australia, but in the United States and Canada, it is appropriate to put your title (Ph.D) on your business card if the industry generally is supportive of or respects academics, or in which high degrees are not common. I might guess Australia's culture is similar.

Industries that would want to be proud to have a Ph.D on staff especially would be non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, research think-tanks, and consulting. As you said that your employer was an advocacy group, I believe that putting your degree on your business card is beneficial.

Industries in which you would NOT put your degree on your business card would probably be software high-tech (because no one cares) or in academia (not because no one cares, but basically any assistant professor and up basically has a Ph.D and therefore it's not impressive), or, as mentioned above, a construction management company or similar.

(As an aside, a whole bunch of people at a conference I was at rolled their eyes when they saw one of the authors wrote "name, Ph.D" on a paper.)

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    Just a remark: I believe I've heard Sergey Brin once mentioning that Google was so successful because it hired many PhD's. – texnic Jan 28 '16 at 15:01
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The style chosen is at the discretion of the one conferred with the doctorate. These are styles are common in the UK - they can include all qualifications, including professional certifications:

  • Dr. Name, PhD, MSc, BSc
  • Dr. Name, MD, MBChB, BSc DRCOG, MRCGP

The doctorate position and its responsibilities are accompanied with certain rights and privileges including the title and style. You can even have your passport include the Dr. It is a legal right. If you have just earned a doctorate, wear it proudly and congratulations, Dr.

  • I didn't know one could include "Dr." in the passport in the UK, thought it was only the German exactness :) – texnic Jan 28 '16 at 14:54
  • In the UK, post-nominals for academic degree are usually in order of level, lowest first, I.e BSc, MSc, PhD. – rturnbull Oct 27 '16 at 9:13
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In your particular case, working for a advocacy company and being asked to update your business card, you can overlook the snarky comments. I believe that only medical doctors use the Dr honorific on their business card. So John Smith, Ph.D. seems sufficient. There is no reason to to add university nor discipline. It is a nice ice breaker in a conversation when people ask "what is your PhD in?" and you can position your expertise into the context of the meeting.

As for the Dr John Smith, yes by all means that is how you should be addressed on letters and in other contexts, or even simply as Dr Smith.

You have worked hard for your PhD, so you have earned the recognition that goes with it. As for the people with insecurities, it is how you conduct yourself that makes the difference between coming across as a knowledgeable consultant or a pretentious person.

  • In the U.S., even medical doctors put the degree on professional cards to let everyone know they're "real doctors." – Bob Brown Oct 27 '16 at 11:55
  • @BobBrown, thanks for the extra detail. On another forum I was razed for putting the word engineer in scare quotes. The trolls wouldn't accept that unqualified persons using the engineering designation would not want to be treated for medical conditions by persons without suitable medical training and qualifications. So then why should critical infrastructure then be built by unqualified persons without suitable oversight. – CyberFonic Nov 15 '16 at 20:45

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