Using the title "Dr." based on an honorary doctorate

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by RAM PhD, Sep 13, 2012.

  1. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Not wanting to hijack another thread that mentioned the subject, let me address the issue here. Some, after being awarded an honorary doctorate, begin to use the title professionally. Examples would include having Dr. John Doe printed on stationary, using the title on websites and advertising, or printed on their shingle. Using the title "Dr." based on an honorary doctorate is unethical!
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    An honorary doctorate confers the title "doctor" on the recipient.

    That's a fact.

    What recipients (or observers) choose to do or think regarding this fact is another matter.

    The holder of an honorary doctorate is a doctor.
    Leon Rolls likes this.
  3. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    I disagree. If my family practitioner holds only an honorary doctorate, he/she is not a doctor.
  4. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    There is a distinction between a "title" and a "professional qualification".

    If you are awarded an honorary doctorate, then no, you can't use it as a professional qualification, for example to practice medicine or psychology. Your state licensing board will not accept it for that purpose.

    But if you are awarded an honorary doctorate, then yes, you do have the right to use the title of "Dr." Most recipients don't generally do this, because there is a sense that people may perceive such usage as tacky -- but if you've been awarded the title, then technically you do have the right to use it. One approach that honorary degree holders sometimes use is to qualify the title, using a form like "Dr. John Smith (Hon.)".

    Billy Graham is routinely known as "Dr. Billy Graham", but he has no earned degree higher than a BA. The title reflects his numerous honorary doctorates.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2012
  5. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    And there it is. Do we not have a search feature this week? :thinkerg:
  6. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Another well-known example is Benjamin Franklin, who routinely went by "Dr. Franklin" after receiving honorary degrees.

    It's not something I would do personally, but if you have an honorary doctorate from a legitimate university, you can do it if you like.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2012
    Leon Rolls likes this.
  7. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    Is one who is made honorary mayor of a city entitled to call him/herself "Mayor Doe?"
  8. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Of course. For example, take a look at the web page for the Nantucket "Honorary Mayor" competition:

    And basically that is what you get with an honorary doctorate: BRAGGING RIGHTS!!

    It's up to you whether or not you want to use them.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2012
    Leon Rolls likes this.
  9. RAM PhD

    RAM PhD Member

    IMHO, it is unethical to present oneself professionally as "Dr. John Doe" based on an honorary doctorate. It is misleading and deceptive.
  10. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Sure he is, he's just not a physician. You're using a word with two very different meanings here.
  11. TEKMAN

    TEKMAN Semper Fi!

    The most confusion a nurse who has a Ph.D degree. Do you call him or her as Doctor or Nurse Doctor?
  12. Michael

    Michael Member

    Really? And what if your life's work and study is equivalent to or exceeds that reflected in an earned doctorate? What then? I was recently awarded an honorary doctor of divinity based on my life's work in ministry, and broad, extensive, and in-depth study of church history and theology for 37 years.
  13. Steve King

    Steve King Member

  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I'd say "doctor" and let them correct me if that's not their preference. Either way, I'd be just as confident getting care from a nurse practioner with that much background as I would most MD- or DO-bearing physicians.
  15. vinodgopal

    vinodgopal New Member

    a certified registered nurse anesthetic can do the same thing an Anesthesiologist can but she has to be shown as having supervision from an Anesthesiologist who was around.
  16. vinodgopal

    vinodgopal New Member

    a phd would sometimes not want to be called a doctor. It is just the admirers of him who refer him as doctor and he might even tell them not not address him that way. So someone with an honorary Phd might even be more conscious of not being addressed as doctor.
  17. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    It is not unethical, misleading or deceptive for an honorary doctor to present himself as a doctor. Conversely, for those who have earned a legitimate doctorate through academia, instead of through honorary work, it may cause a little bit of envy or it may be a rub. Personally, I don't like it when someone persistently uses the term doctor, if they only have an honorary doctorate, but conversely, it's not unethical either; that's the rub. It is what it is.

    Can you please provide a link to where you got your PhD from?
  18. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    I don't think it's unethical, unless you are attempting to portray yourself as having completed an earned doctorate.

    I do think it can be a bit gauche.

    I am much less alarmed when people refer to others with honorary doctorates as "Doctor," but claiming it for yourself is just off-putting, IMO.

    Also, there are professional issues and ethics at stake. Of course a counselor should not claim to be "Dr. Counselor" unless the doctorate is earned, but that's a matter of professional ethics and truth in the counselor-counselee relationship.

    Ministry doctorates drive me batty, though. It's one thing to have an honorary degree from an accredited seminary or university, but the epidemic in fundamentalist circles of church-based, unaccredited "colleges" granting doctorates to pastors, including those who run other church-based "colleges" and who grant doctorates in return.

    Just check out a conference billing in these circles...more "doctors" than you find in a hospital.
  19. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    IMHO, the centuries-old tradition of honorary doctorates is a bit silly, but harmless.

    But I could change my mind on this, if you can demonstrate that people are being misled and harmed by the deceptive use of honorary doctorates from legitimate schools. Can you provide any real-world examples to justify your concerns ?
  20. graymatter

    graymatter Member

    Thanks for not hi-jacking. I know the keynote at the conference and don't mind calling him "Dr." I do believe that the "conferring" of his degree had more to do with the graduate school who "gave" him the honorary title hoping that he'd funnel students their way (which was indeed exactly what happened).

    That said, he's a preacher - not a "professional" in the means described here (sorry to any preachers who read this). So it isn't as though he's practicing medicine (or psychology or even American history education). Its just intended a means of respect - a la the Billy Graham designation I suppose.

Share This Page