Doctor is an academic title that originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre [dɔˈkeːrɛ] 'to teach'. It has been used as an honored academic title for over a millennium in Europe, where it dates back to the rise of the first universities, the earliest of which was the University of Bologna. This use spread to the Americas, through its former European colonies, and is now prevalent in most of the world. Contracted "Dr" or "Dr.", it is used as a designation for a person who has obtained a Research Doctorate (i.e. Ph.D.).
- 1 Origins
- 2 Doctor as a noun
- 3 Forms of address
- 4 Worldwide usage
- 4.1 Commonwealth countries
- 4.2 European Union
- 4.3 Sri Lanka
- 4.4 Hong Kong
- 4.5 India
- 4.6 Indonesia
- 4.7 Pakistan
- 4.8 The Philippines
- 4.9 Thailand
- 4.10 United States
- 5 Abbreviation
- 6 Honorary doctorates
- 7 Other uses of "doctor"
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The doctorate (Latin: doceō, I teach) appeared in medieval Europe as a license to teach (Latin: licentia docendi) at a medieval university. Its roots can be traced to the early church when the term "doctor" referred to the Apostles, church fathers and other Christian authorities who taught and interpreted the Bible. The right to grant a licentia docendi was originally reserved to the church which required the applicant to pass a test, take an Oath of allegiance and pay a fee. The Third Council of the Lateran of 1179 guaranteed the access – now largely free of charge – of all able applicants, who were, however, still tested for aptitude by the ecclesiastic scholastic. This right remained a bone of contention between the church authorities and the slowly emancipating universities, but was granted by the pope to the University of Paris in 1213 where it became a universal license to teach (licentia ubiquie docendi). However, while the licentia continued to hold a higher prestige than the bachelor's degree (Baccalaureus), it was ultimately reduced to an intermediate step to the Magister and doctorate, both of which now became the exclusive qualification for teaching.
The earliest doctoral degrees (theology, law, and medicine) reflected the historical separation of all university study into these three fields. Over time the D.D. has gradually become less common and studies outside theology, law, and medicine have become more common (such studies were then called "philosophy", but are now classified as sciences and humanities – however this usage survives in the degree of Doctor of Philosophy).
The Ph.D. was originally a degree granted by a university to learned individuals who had achieved the approval of their peers and who had demonstrated a long and productive career in the field of philosophy (in the broad sense of the term, meaning the pursuit of knowledge). The appellation of "Doctor" (from Latin: teacher) was usually awarded only when the individual was in middle age. It indicated a life dedicated to learning, knowledge, and the spread of knowledge.
The Ph.D. entered widespread use in the 19th century at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin as a degree to be granted to someone who had undertaken original research in the sciences or humanities. From there it spread to the United States, arriving at Yale University in 1861, and then to the United Kingdom in 1921. This displaced the existing Doctor of Philosophy degree in some universities; for instance, the D.Phil. (higher doctorate in the faculty of philosophy) at the University of St Andrews was discontinued and replaced with the Ph.D. (research doctorate). However, some UK universities such as Oxford and Sussex (and, until recently, York) retain the D.Phil. appellation for their research degrees, as, until recently, did the University of Waikato in New Zealand.
Historically, lawyers in most European countries were addressed with the title of doctor, and countries outside Europe have generally followed the practice of the European country which had policy influence through modernization or colonialization. The first university degrees, starting with the law school of the University of Bologna (or glossators) in the 11th century, were law degrees and doctorates. Degrees in other fields were not granted until the 13th century, but the doctorate continued to be the only degree offered at many of the old universities up until the 20th century. As a result, in many of the southern European countries, including Portugal, Spain and Italy, lawyers have traditionally been addressed as “doctor,”  (as well as Macau in China).
The title of doctor for attorneys has not customarily been used in English-speaking countries where lawyers were not required to have a university degree and were trained by other attorneys by apprenticeship or in the Inns of Court. The exception being those areas where, up to the 19th century, civil law rather than common law was the governing tradition, including admiralty law, probate and ecclesiastical law, such cases were heard in the Doctor's Commons, and argued by advocates who held degrees either of doctor of civil law at Oxford or doctor of law at Cambridge. As such, lawyers practicing common law in England were not doctoral candidates and had not earned a doctorate. When university degrees became more common for those wanting to qualify as a lawyer in England, the degree awarded was the legum baccalaureus, or bachelor of laws, which is abbreviated LL.B.
In some countries, holders of the first law degree traditionally use the title of doctor (for example, Peru, Brazil, Macau, Portugal, Argentina, and Italy).
Doctor as a noun
Throughout much of the academic world, the term "doctor" refers to an individual who has earned a degree of Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D. (an abbreviation for the Latin Philosophiæ Doctor; or alternatively Doctor philosophiæ, D.Phil., meaning Teacher of Philosophy), or other research doctorate such as the Doctor of Science, or Sc.D. (an abbreviation of the Latin Scientiae Doctor). Beyond academia, many professions, such as law and medicine, have developed professional degrees that rank lower on the UNESCO International Standard Classification of Education, such as the Juris Doctor J.D., Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) (an abbreviation of the Latin Medicinæ Doctor).
Forms of address
When addressing several people, each of whom holds a doctoral title, one may use the plural contraction "Drs" (or "Drs." in American English) – or in some languages (for example, German) "Dres." (Latin: doctores) may be used – for example, instead of Dr. Miller and Dr. Rubinstein: Drs. Miller and Rubinstein. When referring to relatives with the same surname the form "The Doctors Smith" can be used. The abbreviation Drs. can also refer to doctorandus, a Dutch academic title.
In the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other areas whose cultures were recently linked to the UK, the title Doctor generally applies in both the academic field, for those who hold doctoral-level research degrees, and the clinical field, for those who hold medical degrees and/or related professional doctorates. "Registered medical practitioners" hold the degree of Bachelor of Medicine (usually also with surgery). They are holders of master-level degrees, and history has dictated the use of the title doctor by physicians. Cultural conventions exist, clinicians who are Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons are an exception. As a homage to their predecessors, the barber surgeons, they prefer to be addressed as Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss, even if they do hold a medical degree. When a medical doctor passes the examinations which enable them to become a fellow of one or more of the Royal Surgical Colleges it is customary for them to drop the "Doctor" prefix and take up "Miss", "Mister", or "Mrs" and so on. This rule applies to any doctor of any grade who has passed the appropriate exams, and is not the exclusive province of consultant-level surgeons. In recent times, other surgically orientated specialists, such as gynaecologists, have also adopted these prefixes. A surgeon who is also a professor is usually known as "Professor" and, similarly, a surgeon who has been ennobled, knighted, created a baronet or appointed a dame uses the corresponding title (Lord, Sir, Dame). Physicians, on the other hand, when they pass their "MRCP" examinations, which enable them to become members of the Royal College of Physicians, do not drop the "Doctor" prefix and remain Doctor, even when they are consultants. In the United Kingdom the status and rank of consultant surgeons with the FRCS, addressed as "Mister", and consultant physicians with the MRCP, addressed as "Doctor", is equivalent. It should be noted that specialist examinations in surgery in the UK lead to Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons whilst the examination for specialist practice as a physician confers Membership of the Royal College of Physicians. Surgeons in the USA and elsewhere continue to use the title "Doctor", although Australia and New Zealand use the titles of Mr and Doctor, in the same way as the United Kingdom. As of 1995, dentists have also been given the right to use the courtesy title "Dr" in the United Kingdom, although current advice from the General Dental Council is that the term should be limited to dentists holding a PhD or additional medical degree. Where dentists do use the title and are not also registered medical practitioners, they must ensure that it is not used in a way which could mislead the public and complaints raised in this regard will be upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority.
With the introduction of National Health Practitioner registration legislation on July 1, 2010, the title "doctor" is not restricted in any Australian state. The title "medical practitioner" is restricted for use by registered medical practitioners, while the title "doctor" is not restricted by law.
Canada lies somewhere between British and American usage of the degree and terminology of "doctor". Research doctorates – PhDs and ScDs – are entitled to use the title "doctor". Healthcare professions for which members may be called by the title of doctor are: medicine, dentistry, clinical psychology, optometry, chiropractic, veterinary medicine, podiatry and, more recently, pharmacy. Depending on the province, Registered Nurses or Nurse Practitioners with an earned doctoral degree may use the title doctor in conjunction with professional practice. Members of these professions generally complete a minimum of 2 years of undergraduate studies, followed by a four- to six-year doctorate-level program to earn either the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), and, in some provinces, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M), and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). In Ontario, only chiropractors, dentists, medical doctors, optometrists and psychologists can use the title "doctor", when offering or purporting to offer health related services  A registered naturopathic doctor (N.D.) may only use the title “doctor” in written format if she or he also uses the phrase, "naturopathic doctor" immediately following his or her name.
Some confusion has recently arisen with respect to Canada's legal profession, after many Canadian law schools started offering to grant the J.D. ("Juridicae Doctor" or "Juris Doctor") degree to their existing students and to their alumni - as a replacement for the degree they traditionally awarded: the LL.B. ("Legum Baccalaureus" or "Bachelor of Laws"). The course requirements did not change, only the name. Canadian law schools started offering this option to their graduates to make it easier to practise in the United States (where law schools have traditionally granted a J.D. rather than a LL.B.). The convention governing use of the title "Dr" by lawyers has not changed in Canada. The only lawyers who typically use "Dr" are those who have continued with their studies, in order to obtain both an LL.M. ("Legum Magister" or "Master of Laws") and an S.J.D. ("Scientiae Juridicae Doctor" or "Doctor of the Science of the Law"). Sometimes also referred to as a "J.S.D.", the S.J.D. degree is legal discipline's equivalent to a Ph.D. degree. The McGill University Faculty of Law offers a doctoral level program in law, but it grants a D.C.L. ("Doctor of Civil Law") instead. To save money, some Canadian law schools (including U.B.C. and Calgary) have opted to work with their respective faculties of graduate studies to offer Ph.D. degrees in law instead of founding new S.J.D. programs.
In the European Union, the title of doctor refers primarily to holders of post-graduate research doctorates, such as the PhD. In many European languages the term doctor is distinct from a medical practitioner, which can be referred to as e.g. läkare in Swedish, Arzt in German, dokter or arts in Dutch, or lääkäri in Finnish.
European Union (EU) legislation recognises academic qualifications (including higher degrees and doctorates) of all member states. Standardisation is attempted through the Bologna process. However, not all EU member states have conformed to the 1999 Bologna declaration in favour of their own historic customs. With respect to the title "doctor", it should be noted that the Bologna process makes no prescriptions regarding the names of degrees nor the titles they may confer.
There are no restrictions on the use of the title "Doctor" in the United Kingdom, except where, in commercial advertising, it might imply that the user holds a general medical qualification. The UK government allows medical doctors and holders of doctorates to have the title recorded on the observations page of their UK passport. The lack of legal restrictions was confirmed in Parliament in 1996 by health minister Gerald Malone, who noted that the title doctor had never been restricted by law to either medical practitioners or those with doctoral degrees in the UK, although the titles "physician, doctor of medicine, licentiate in medicine and surgery, bachelor of medicine, surgeon, general practitioner and apothecary" were protected.
According to the etiquette guide, Debrett's, holders of doctoral degrees and medical doctors (but not surgeons) should be addressed as "Doctor". It should be noted that for medical doctors, "Doctor" is a professional title rather than an academic one: it is due to their being a doctor rather than their having gained a doctoral degree. The Quality Assurance Agency states that "The use of the title 'Dr' by medical doctors is a historical abbreviation for the profession; it does not indicate a qualification at doctoral level".
Medical students in the UK normally complete a course of study leading to the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS, BMBS or MBChB). The MD degree is not a qualifying degree in the UK, but can be either a professional doctorate (at the same academic level as a PhD), a doctorate by thesis, or a higher doctorate, depending on the university. To be eligible for a MD degree in the UK one must already hold an entry level medical degree (for example, MBBS, MBChB, BMed, or a North American MD degree) and usually must have had at least 5 years of postgraduate training and experience. Trainee doctors are permitted to use the title Doctor once they have started their post-graduation "Foundation Programme".
In a similar manner to the medical MBBS, dentists qualify with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and vets with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc), Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed) or Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVMS). All of these are, like the MBBS, master's level qualifications that bear bachelor's designations for historical reasons.
The custom of not referring to surgeons (members and fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons) as Dr has been commented on in the British Medical Journal and may stem from the historical origins of the profession such as that some barbers also used to function as surgeons. Dentists have traditionally (as dental surgeons) been referred to in the same way as surgeons, but since 1995 the General Dental Council have permitted dentists to use the title "Doctor", though many do not choose to do this, thereby stressing their surgeon status. However, Debrett's continues to advises that dentists are normally addressed as surgeons and that the title "Doctor" is usually only used for dentists who have a doctoral degree.
On 5 March 2015 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons voted overwhelmingly to permit its members to use the courtesy title of "Doctor", although it has to be used with the affix "veterinary surgeon" or "MRCVS" to ensure no confusion with human doctors.
The General Chiropractic Council permits registered chiropractors to use the title "Doctor", although it advises chiropractors to avoid using the title in advertising or, if they do, to spell out that they are "Doctors of Chiropractic".
In Austria, the degree "Doktor" is granted to holders of research degrees (Dr. techn., Dr. phil., Dr. rer. nat., etc.).
In addition, the title of "Doktor" is granted to physicians (Dr. med. univ.) and dentists (Dr. med. dent.), which do not technically possess doctorate degrees, but Diplom-level degrees. A post-graduate research doctorate (Dr. med. univ. et sci. med.) can be obtained, for example, after three years post-graduate studies at a Faculty of Medicine.
All doctors may be addressed as "Doktor ______", and the title is usually contracted to "Dr. ______". Contrary to popular belief, "Dr." is not part of the name but a degree like "Mag." or "Dipl.-Ing.". It is not mandatory to use the title, although it can be added to official documents (driver's license, passport, etc.), if desired.
In Finland, the title of tohtori or doktor denotes holder of a research doctorate comparable to a PhD. Until recent years it was customary to first become licentiate (after the master's degree), which meant persons becoming doctors already had had quite a long academic career. Nowadays doctorate programs are available after the master's degree in many fields and becoming doctor at young age is much more common.
Physicians are in Finnish referred to as lääkäri (physician) unless they have a research doctorate.
In France, the title of Docteur is only used in the current language for physicians, dentists, veterinarians and pharmacists. Confusingly, the professionals from these medical domains do not hold a doctorate, which is in France only a research doctorate, but a "State Diploma of Medicine Doctor" (Diplôme d'État de docteur en médecine). The holders of a doctorate are only rarely referred to as "Doctors", especially by the people who are themselves from an academic environment.
The French language is similar, with "médecin" and "docteur". A French medical degree is called "Un diplôme d'État de docteur en médecine" which is distinct from a (research) doctorate, "Un doctorat (de recherche)". However "Docteur" may be used as a courtesy title when speaking to a physician, a pharmacist or a dentist e.g., "Bonjour Docteur".
In German language-speaking countries, the word Doktor refers to a research doctorate awardee in formal language (similar to a PhD), and is distinct from Arzt, a medical practitioner, though colloquial use of the word Doktor for physician is common.
In Germany, the most common doctoral degrees are Dr. med. (medicine), Dr. med. dent. (dentistry), Dr. med. vet. (veterinary medicine), Dr. rer. nat. (natural sciences), Dr. phil. (humanities), Dr. iur. (law), Dr. rer. pol. (economic and political sciences, also as Dr. rer. oec. in Switzerland), Dr.-Ing. (engineering), and Dr. theol. (theology). All holders of doctoral degrees are appropriately addressed as "Herr/Frau Dr. _____" in all social situations.
In Germany, double doctorates are indicated in the title by "Dr. Dr." or "DDr." and triple doctorates as "Dr. Dr. Dr." or "DDDr.". More doctorates are indicated by the addition of "mult.", such as "Dr. mult.". Honorary titles are shown with the addition of "h.c.", which stands for "honoris causa". Example: "Dr. h.c. mult." All people holding a doctorate from an EU member state are now "legally entitled" to use and be titled (addressed) as "Doctor" or "Dr." in all formal, legal and published communications. For academics with doctorates from non-EU member states, the qualification must be recognised formally ("validated") by the Federal Educational Ministry in Bonn. The recognition process can be done by the employer or employee and may be part of the official bureaucracy for confirming professional status and is dependent on individual bilateral agreements between Germany and other countries.
In professional situations, PhDs are recognized under the condition that the degree was granted by a university authorized to grant the degree according to the laws of the country of origin. Holders of PhDs granted in the E.U. can be addressed as "Dr." in Germany without any further addenda. An example of mutual recognition of Doctor titles among EU countries is the "Bonn Agreement of November 14, 1994", signed between Germany and Spain.
According to a decision by The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany of September 21, 2001, in the version from May 15, 2008, this also applies to PhDs that were awarded in Australia, Israel, Japan, or Canada. PhDs that were awarded in the United States are recognized if the awarding institution is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a "Research University (high research activity)" or as a "Research University (very high research activity)." Different conditions apply for professional degrees such as the M.D. or J.D.
In Greece, the title "Διδάκτωρ" (didaktōr) is used to reference holders of a doctorate degree, while the term "Ιατρός" (iatros) is used for physicians of any specialty.
In Hungary, graduates of six-year medical schools (dr. med.), five-year dentistry schools (dr. med. dent.), five-year law schools (dr. jur.) and five-year veterinary medical schools (dr. vet.) receive the title of a doctor at the end of their studies, after completing and successfully defending their thesis; their undergraduate studies must have lasted for a minimum of three years. Completing a PhD research programme (or DLA in arts and music) also leads to the doctor title. Since 2008, also those who graduated of five-year pharmacy schools have the right to use the title "dr" (dr. pharm.).
A large part of Hungarians with doctor titles received their titles for research in the old academic system before PhD was introduced in Hungary. Since the introduction of PhD title (1993), the dr. univ title (given before 1993) is not recognised as a scientific title. The CSc Candidate of Science title was a scientific title in the old academic system and is now treated as an equivalent of PhD. CSc titles were awarded by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
The highest level doctoral degree in Hungary is DSc Doctor of Sciences, awarded by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It is also called Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
The title of doctor used to become a part of the name and was added as such to personal identity documents. This practice is still common and graduates after receiving their diploma would usually change their personal documents in order to officially indicate the achievement.
The first university of Western civilization, the University of Bologna, is located in Italy, where until modern times the only degree granted was that of the doctorate, and all other Italian universities followed that model. During the 20th century Italian universities introduced more advanced research degrees, such as the Ph.D., and now that it is part of the E.U. Bologna Process, a new three-year first degree, or “laurea” (equivalent to a B.A. of other countries), has been introduced. The old-style "laurea" is now known as "laurea magistrale/specialistica" (ISCED Level 6). For historical reasons, even to this day, the title of "dottore/dottoressa" (abbrev. both as dott/dott.ssa or as dr./dr.ssa ) is awarded even to those who have attended a "laurea". Upper levels of degree are anyway shown in the title, as those who obtain a master's degree can be referred to as "dottore/dottoressa magistrale" (masterly doctor) while those who achieve the relatively new program of "dottorato di ricerca" (research doctorate, equivalent of a Ph.D.), carry the title of "dottore/dottoressa di ricerca" (research doctor), which can be abbreviated as "Dott. Ric." or "Ph.D."
In Malta, the European Union's smallest member state, apart from Academic Doctors (Ph.D. Degree Holders) and Medical Practitioners, the title is also bestowed upon academics who complete the LL.D course. The LL.D. is a doctorate-level academic degree in law requiring at least three years of post-graduate full-time study at the University of Malta, Malta's national university. At least three years of previous law study are required for entry. Students are required to complete coursework in a number of core areas of law, as well as to submit a thesis which is to be "an original work on the approved subject or other contribution to the knowledge showing that he/she has carried out sufficient research therein". It confers the title of Doctor, which in Malta is rigorously used to address a holder of the degree. The LL.D. is one of the requirements for admission to the profession of advocate in Malta (an advocate, as opposed to a legal procurator, has rights of representation in superior courts).
Notable holders of the LL.D. degree include Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici (former President of Malta), the late Prof. Guido de Marco (former President of the United Nations General Assembly and former President of Malta), the late Dr. George Borg Olivier (first post-independence Prime Minister of Malta), and Dr. Lawrence Gonzi (former Prime Minister of Malta).
In the Dutch language the word "dokter" refers to a physician, whereas "doctor" refers to the academic title. The doctor title is abbreviated as dr. placed before the holders name (note the lowercase).
To enter a Dutch doctoral defense, the candidate must hold a validated master's degree (a master's degree of an acknowledged university, or a master equivalent degree validated on a case by case basis by the Dutch government). In some cases the candidate can be granted special dispensation if no master's degree is held. There is no specific notation of the discipline in which the doctorate is obtained. Exceptions only exist for the disciplines with specific master titles of engineering "ir." ("ingenieur", i.e. Engineer) and law "mr." ("meester", i.e. Master of Law) where the title dr. is added to the original master title. For these disciplines, the original master's degree abbreviation is combined with the dr. abbreviation thus resulting in for example "dr. ir. Familyman". The dr. title is always placed in front of the ir. title. In the case of a PhD in law, the original mr. title is placed before the dr. title (mr. dr., see e.g. Jan Peter Balkenende), for a person having a law master's degree, but holding a PhD in another field than law the mr. title is placed after the dr. title (dr. mr.). No specific notation or title for the medical disciplines exists in the Netherlands. Although a physician is usually referred to as "dokter" (note the spelling difference) this does not necessarily imply the physician holds a doctoral degree; nor does it give the physician a title equivalent to that of PhD.
Confusion can be caused by the original Dutch Master level title "drs." (for all non-engineering and non-law master's degrees). This abbreviation stands for the Dutch title doctorandus Latin for "he who should become a doctor" (female form is "doctoranda"). Dutch drs. should not be confused with the plural 'doctorates': having a PhD in multiple disciplines. Once a doctorate is achieved the doctorandus is promoted to doctor, and no longer uses the drs. abbreviation.
Stacking of multiples titles of the same level, as seen in countries like for example Germany (Dr. Dr. Dr. Musterfrau) is highly uncommon in the Netherlands (although stacking of titles with different levels is common: prof. dr. ir. Appelmans). Those who have multiple doctor titles may use dr.mult. before their name, although this is rarely used.
After obtaining a doctorate successfully, Dutch doctors may bear either the title dr. (lower case) before, or the letter D (rarely in practice) behind their name, but not both simultaneously. In the Netherlands, Academic titles are used exclusively within academia. Holding a PhD title has become a standard requirement for a university career. The doctor title has little to no meaning or implications for public life outside academia. It cannot be added to documentation (e.g. passport, drivers licence), and is used infrequently in daily practice.
Historically, The Netherlands used their own academic degree nomenclature, but for many years now have recognised and implemented the Bologna declaration. In everyday practice, the Anglo Saxon titles (e.g. PhD) are frequently used. Dutch academic titles are legally protected. PhD degrees can only be granted by recognised (research) universities. Illegal use is considered a misdemeanor and subject to legal prosecution.
In Portugal, up to recent times after the completion of an undergraduate degree – except in architecture and engineering – a person was referred to as doutor (Dr.) – male or doutora (Dra.) – female. The architects and engineers were referred by their professional titles: arquitecto (Arq.) and engenheiro (Eng.). Nurses ares also referred to as "nurse", enfermeiro (male) or enfermeira (female), the title being Enf. for both.
Nowadays Portugal is a signatory to the Bologna process and according to the current legislation the title of Doctor (doutor, doutora) is reserved for graduate holders of an academic doctorate. Professions such as physicians, attorneys, pharmacists, veterinarians, and few others are usually referred to by the title Dr. (doutor) even if they have not been awarded a doctoral degree.
However, custom gives the legislation little strength and most graduates use the Dr. (doutor) title. Those who are both holders of an academic doctorate and Professors at a college level are generally referred to as Professor Doutor.
Ph.D. Degrees are regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 1393/2007), Real Decreto (in Spanish). They are granted by the University on behalf of the King, and its Diploma has the force of a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National Registry of Ph.D.s called TESEO. Any person who uses the Spanish title of "Doctor" (or "Dr.") without being included in this Government database can be prosecuted for fraud.
Unlike other countries, Spain registers a comparatively small number of Doctor degree holders. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), less than 5% of M.Sc. degree holders are admitted to Ph.D. programs. This reinforces the prestige that Doctors enjoy in Spain's society.
In Sri Lanka the title doctor "Dr." is used for both physicians (including dentists and veterinarians) and Ph.D. holders. However, when addressing in native Sinhalese a physician is addressed as "Vaidya" (වෛද්ය) or "Dosthara" (දොස්තර) while a Ph.D. holder is addressed as "Archarya" (ආචාර්ය).
Hong Kong follows British practice in calling physicians "Doctor" even though many of them hold only a degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS or MBChB). An attempt by their professional body to prevent chiropractors from calling themselves "Doctor" failed in the courts, in part because it was pointed out that practicing chiropractors may hold an academic doctorate in their discipline, and it would be anomalous to prevent them using the title when holders of doctorates in non-medical disciplines faced no such restriction.
In India, a person who has completed the Doctoral academic research requirements (usually consisting of rigorous prescribed course work followed by the publication of a thesis which makes a substantial contribution to existing knowledge, or a Doctoral dissertation embodying the results of guided research and public defence of their thesis in an Open Viva Voce) when awarded with a PhD (or any other Doctoral level degree) by a University recognised by The University Grants Commission of India or an Institution of National Importance, is Individually entitled by Right to be addressed as "Doctor" and prefix the abbreviation Dr. to his name.
However, General Practitioners in the field of medicine (even though holding Bachelor level degrees such as MBBS , BDS ) are usually addressed as Doctor, by courtesy to the Noble Profession, (though the appellation "Doctor" in this case is used as a noun to refer generically to any practitioner of medicine rather than as an adjective indicating the level of the degree attained by the individual physician). This is exemplified by the fact that even practitioners of AYUSH systems of Medicine and Pharmacists and Physiotherapists are routinely referred to as "Doctors" (though the appropriate term for practitioners of AYUSH alternative medicine (BAMS ,BHMS, BUMS, BSMS, BNYS,DNYS) would be Vaid, Yogi, Hakim, Siddhar and Homoeopath, Naturopath respectively, considerly the appropriate appellation in cases of Pharmacists the correct term would be Assistant Physician or Up-Vaid (Ayurveda) . However, lawyer or medical professional earning a Doctoral Degree in the respective fields (Ph.D. in Law or MD in Medicine etc.) becomes entitled to be addressed as "Doctor" individually by right and not mere convention or courtesy to his profession.
The Indonesian titles "dr." is used in front of the name of medical doctor who holds a specification as general practitioner, also when the doctor already holds his specialization to ___, such as "Sp.THT" or "Spesialis Telinga, Hidung, Tenggorokan" (ENT or Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist).
Dr. is used in front of the name as the title "Doktor" for doctorate title, the same level as Ph.D. title.
In Pakistan, the title of Doctor (Dr.) can be used both by Ph.D. degree holders and medical doctors. In 2011 the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan approved the awarding of a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, a five-year programme at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Peshawar. DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree holders use the title Dr. or Vet. Dr. A physical therapist holding a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) qualification can also use the prefix Dr. before their name.
In the Philippines, titles and names of occupations usually follow Spanish naming conventions which utilize gender-specific terms. "Doktór" is the masculine form, which retains the abbreviation Dr.; the feminine form is "Doktóra", and is abbreviated usually as "Dra."; others, however, some being Anglophones who wish to sound modern and Westernised (or were raised in an almost exclusively English-speaking family environment), or some who advocate gender equality, would dispense with the distinction altogether. There does exist in Filipino an equivalent, gender-neutral term for the professional that carries the more general notion of "healer", traditional (for example, an albuláryo) or otherwise: manggagámot.
The usage of Doctor (ดอกเตอร์) or Dr (ดร.) has been borrowed from English. It can be seen as a title in academic circles and in the mass media. In contrast to other academic titles (Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor), the use of Doctor as a title has not been recognized by the Royal Institute of Thailand. Therefore, this title, in theory, cannot be used officially. For example, in court of justice where strictly formal Thai language is used, Dr cannot be mentioned as a person's title.
In the United States, the use of the title "Doctor" is dependent upon the professional setting. Holders of a doctoral level degree are generally required to disclose this in medical fields to avoid confusion between health care professionals and other Doctors of Philosophy (PhDs) or equivalent doctorate holders. The title is also commonly used socially by those holding a doctoral-level degree; however, there is a division between Letitia Baldrige and Miss Manners on its social usage by those who are not physicians. Baldrige sees this usage as acceptable. In contrast, Miss Manners writes that "only people of the medical profession correctly use the title of doctor socially," but supports those who wish to use it in social contexts in the spirit of addressing people according to their wishes. However, recent publications from the office of the President of the United States of America refer to Ph.D. level scientists as Dr. Soandso  Though lawyers in the United States do not customarily use such a title, the law degree in that country is the Juris Doctor, a professional doctorate, and some J.D. holders in the United States use the title of doctor in professional and academic situations.
For those training to become physicians, a four-year graduate-level program in medicine to earn the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine D.O. degree is required, after which they complete three to ten years of further post-graduate residency training. Depending on the program, psychologists complete a four-year undergraduate course of study, followed by a five to six-year period of training that includes a year of internship. Once the internship is completed, and the dissertation complete, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is awarded. The Doctor of Psychology degree is generally more focused on professional practice and clinical work, where the Ph.D in psychology program is generally more research oriented. In order to practice independently, two years of supervised experience is required to sit for Boards in most states. Those training to become audiologists, professors at a college or university, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, or veterinarians also complete a four-year undergraduate course of study, followed by a few years of doctorate-level training to earn the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.), Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). Some programs offer two pre-professional years followed by four professional years, while others require a four-year undergraduate/bachelor's degree.
The American College of Clinicians  recommends that health care professionals, including physicians, in the clinical setting use identification with an appropriate badge or name tag, as patients encounter a number of different practitioners. However, the American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association positions state that only MDs and DOs may identify themselves as doctors without an explanation.
In the US, the Doctor of Science, Sc.D., is an academic research degree that was first conferred in North America by Harvard University in 1872. It has long been awarded by such leading institutions as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and Washington University. At many of these universities, the academic requirements for the Ph.D. and Sc.D. are identical, and with identical doctoral academic regalia (though the Sc.D. hood is gold to represent Science rather than Ph.D. blue). In an effort to standardize doctoral degree conferral at these large research institutions, the Ph.D. has replaced and grandfathered the Sc.D. in certain programs, while the Sc.D. is preserved in parallel to the Ph.D. as the highest conferred research doctorate.
The Doctor of Education, Ed.D. or D.Ed. is a terminal doctoral degree that has a research and/or professional focus. It prepares the student for academic, administrative, clinical, or research positions in educational, civil, and private organizations.
In British English it is not necessary to indicate an abbreviation with a full stop (period) after the abbreviation, when the last letter of the abbreviation is the same as the unabbreviated word, while such a full stop is required in American English. This means that while the abbreviation of Doctor is usually written as "Dr" in most of the Commonwealth, it is usually written as "Dr." in North America.
Similarly, conventions regarding the punctuation of degree abbreviations vary. In the United Kingdom, it is increasingly common to omit punctuations from abbreviations that are not truncations: while the usual abbreviation of "Esquire" is "Esq.", the usual abbreviation for "Doctor of Philosophy" is "PhD". It is not incorrect to use the fully punctuated "Ph.D.", though if this pattern is used, it should be used consistently; practice in particular situations may vary, and it is always more elegant to be consistent with local patterns of usage than to deviate from them.
An honorary doctorate is a doctoral degree awarded for service to the institution or the wider community. It may also be awarded for outstanding achievement in a particular field. This service or achievement does not need to be academic in nature. Often, the same set of degrees is used for higher doctorates, but they are distinguished as being honoris causa: in comprehensive lists, the lettering used to indicate the possession of a higher doctorate is often adjusted to indicate this, for example, "Hon. Sc.D.", as opposed to the earned research doctorate "Sc.D.". The degrees of Doctor of the University (D.Univ.) and Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.), however, are only awarded as an honorary degree.
By convention, recipients of honorary doctorates do not use the title "Dr" in general correspondence, although in formal correspondence from the university issuing the honorary degree it is normal to address the recipient by the title. However, this social convention is not always scrupulously observed; notable people who defied social convention and used the honorary prefix include:
- Benjamin Franklin, who received an honorary master's degree from The College of William and Mary in 1756, and doctorates from the University of St. Andrews in 1759 and the University of Oxford in 1762 for his scientific accomplishments. He thereafter referred to himself as "Doctor Franklin".
- Maya Angelou, who held many honorary doctorates, called herself and was referred to by many as "Dr. Angelou" despite holding no undergraduate or advanced (non-honorary) degree.
- Booker T. Washington was often referred to as "Dr. Washington" after receiving an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth College.
- Sukarno, President of Indonesia, was awarded twenty-six honorary doctorates from various international universities including Columbia University, the University of Michigan, the University of Berlin, the Al-Azhar University, the University of Belgrade, the Lomonosov University and many more. And also from domestic universities including the Universitas Gadjah Mada, the Universitas Indonesia, the Bandung Institute of Technology, and the Universitas Padjadjaran. He had often been referred to by Indonesian Government at the time as 'Dr. Ir. Sukarno', combined with his degree in architecture (Ir.) from Bandung Institute of Technology. Sukarno is the president with the highest number of honorary doctorates in the world.
- Author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson, who had some years earlier been unable (due to financial considerations) to complete his undergraduate studies at Pembroke College, Oxford, was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by diploma in 1755, in recognition of his scholarly achievements. In 1765, Trinity College, Dublin awarded him the degree of Doctor of Laws and in 1775 Oxford bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law by diploma. Thereafter he referred to himself as "Dr. Johnson".
Other uses of "doctor"
- In some regions, such as the Southern United States, "Doctor" is traditionally added to the first name of people holding doctorates, where it is used in either direct or indirect familiar address.
- "Doc" is a common nickname for someone with a doctoral degree, in real life and in fiction — for example, the gunfighter Doc Holliday, the character "Doc" in Gunsmoke, and pulp hero Doc Savage.
- In Roman Catholicism and several other Christian denominations, a Doctor of the Church is an eminent theologian (for example, Saint Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelic Doctor) from whose teachings the whole Church is held to have derived great advantage.
- African leaders often refer to themselves as "Doctor" as part of their title upon assuming office.
- Medics in the US military are often informally called "Doc" by the troops they serve.
- William Whitaker. "William Whitaker's Words – Doctor". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
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Individuals in F1 posts receive a salary and are allowed to use the courtesy title ‘Dr’.
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[H]onorary degree recipients should not refer to themselves as “Doctor”, nor should they use the title on business cards or in correspondence. However, the recipient is entitled to use the appropriate honorary abbreviation behind his or her name
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