Who Should Be Called Dr.? Probably Not Jill Biden, Just as Lawyers Like Me Aren't

The Ed.D. that Jill Biden has, like my J.D., is a professional degree that requires serious study and work [UPDATE: about 2/3 of the credit hours required for a J.D.]; but it's not the equivalent of a Ph.D.


I didn't much care for the Wall Street Journal op-ed that said Jill Biden shouldn't be referred to using the title "Dr." Certainly calling a grown stranger (and especially the soon-to-be First Lady) "kiddo," even as a joke, seems disrespectful; nor is her using the "Dr." title "fraudulent" or "comic."

Nonetheless, the view that Jill Biden should be called "Dr." because she earned her Ed.D. strikes me as unsound, too.

As best I can tell, there have been two rival customs on such matters in American life. (I speak here solely of the U.S. customs.) Under the first, only people with M.D.s (or perhaps people with any doctorate in a medical field, such as dentists) are called "Dr.," in those contexts that call for a title.

Under the second, people with Ph.D.s are called "Dr." as well (at least if they so prefer). My sense is that this is the more common approach these days, though the matter seems unclear.

Now that leaves the question: What to call people who have other non-medical degrees that are labeled "doctorates"? The most common such degree is the one my wife and I have, as lawyers: A J.D., which means Juris Doctor. (Unlike in other fields, most law professors don't have a Ph.D. or the rare specialized legal Ph.D. analogs, like a J.S.D.) And lawyers in America definitely don't get called "Dr."

Then there is the "Ed.D." To my knowledge, there isn't a fixed custom among the general public as to whether to call people with Ed.D.s "Dr.," the way there is a fixed custom as to people with J.D.s (for whom, again, the answer is "no no no"). I assume there isn't such a custom in part because Ed.D.s aren't that common. There's also the complication that Ed.D.s may differ at different institutions.

But at the University of Delaware, where Jill Biden got her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, the Ed.D. appears much more like a J.D. (or perhaps a M.S. or M.A.) than like a Ph.D. The Ph.D. program is a full-time 4-5 year program; the Ed.D. program is a part-time 3-4 year program (though I should note that a master's degree is required for entry). Recall that a J.D. is generally 3 years full-time, though without at thesis; M.S.s and M.A.s tend to be 1½ to 2 years full-time, with a thesis.

[UPDATE: I've confirmed that, when Jill Biden was in the Ed.D. program, it required 54 credits of coursework (including 12 research credits), which means a workload corresponding to about 14 3-hour-per-week semester-long courses, plus the research time. By way of comparison, using roughly the same credit=hour-per-week during a semester calculation, the 3-year J.D.s require 83 credit hours, some of which also often correspond to research or to practicums. The Ed.D. is thus roughly comparable to a 2-year full-time professional program.]

And while the hallmark of a Ph.D. is generally a dissertation that constitutes a substantial original work of scholarship—something that adds materially to the body of the discipline's theoretical knowledge—the Delaware Ed.D. does not require that. A thesis is required, but the University of Delaware describes it as an "educational leadership portfolio" that "addresses problem of local, practical importance," as opposed to the Ph.D. requirement of a "dissertation" that "addresses problem of generalizable significance." More specifically, the thesis is an "Executive Position Paper":

The EPP identifies a problem of significance to you and your organization, analyzes the problem thoroughly, and develops a feasible plan to solve the problem. The aim of the EPP is a detailed and well-documented plan that will help your organization improve. When the paper is complete, it is presented and defended at a meeting of your thesis committee.

And indeed that's what Biden's thesis was; here's the abstract, which summarizes the rest of the paper well:

Student retention at the community college: meeting students' needs

This Executive Position Paper (EPP) studies student retention in the community college and Delaware Technical & Community College in particular. The paper focuses on four areas of students' needs: academic, psychological, social, and physical. An overview of the paper is given, and an introduction to Delaware Technical & Community College is presented. First, the nature of the pre-tech (developmental) population is discussed. Then, a literature review offers current research by experts in the field. In addition, the results from pre-tech students, faculty, and advisor surveys and interviews are analyzed. Statistical information underscores the problem of retaining students, and personal accounts from students provide insight as to why students drop out. Overall, problem areas are identified, and recommendations and solutions are offered and encouraged.

This may be a useful application of existing scholarship to a particular institution, coupled with surveys and interviews conducted at that institution. But it isn't like the substantial original work of scholarship required for a dissertation in a typical Ph.D. program, nor was it apparently intended to be the equivalent of such a dissertation.

Some people have suggested that refusing to call Jill Biden "Dr." is itself sexist (regardless of whether you also call her "kiddo"), because Ed.D.s are being devalued simply because they are apparently predominantly earned by women. As you might gather from the above, I don't think that's right.

If the Ed.D. were just a Ph.D. in education, there'd indeed be no basis for treating it differently from a Ph.D. in other fields (regardless of the gender mixes in those fields); education is an important subject for scholarly research, just as is literature or history or political science. But actually the Ed.D. seems quite far, at least at the University of Delaware, from a Ph.D., and more like a master's degree or like a J.D. And a J.D., despite its being a Juris Doctor, has never been seen as entitling the holder to a "Dr.," both in its early overwhelmingly-male years and more recently, when about equal numbers of women and men receive it.

Jill Biden doubtless worked hard for her Ed.D., as people generally work hard for their M.S.s and M.A.s (generally 1½-to-2-year full-time degrees) or for their J.D.s (again, 3-year full-time degrees). She doubtless worked hard on her thesis, as people generally work hard on their masters' theses or law review student articles (not required for a J.D., but something many students do write). But I don't see a basis for treating her Ed.D. as similar to a Ph.D. (which many people do treat as entitling the holder to the title "Dr.") rather than to a J.D.

Or if Ed.D.s from Delaware-like programs are going to be called "Dr.," it's hard to see why lawyers (at least ones who have written a substantial law review article while in law school) don't merit the label "Dr." as well.

[* * *]

An aside: In many contexts, even Ph.D.s aren't called "Dr.," as this article (Hontas Farmer, Science 2.0) notes—we say "Albert Einstein" rather than "Dr. Albert Einstein"—but if there was occasion to use a title, e.g., in a greeting from a stranger, people following this norm would have called Einstein "Dr. Einstein" in preference to "Mr. Einstein." The same is true for living scientists: My UCLA colleague Andrea Ghez, for instance, just received a Nobel Prize in Physics, and the news coverage routinely talked about "Andrea Ghez," not "Dr. Andrea Ghez." On the other hand, the New York Times, which has a custom of referring to people on second mention using their titles (rather than just last names), called her "Dr. Ghez" rather than "Ms. Ghez," reflecting the custom of calling people with Ph.D.s Dr. in that context.

Note also that professors are often called "Prof." within their disciplines rather than "Dr.," even if they have Ph.D.s. Perhaps that's because in most fields it's seen as a higher honor; or perhaps it's because (to quote Miss Manners), on those faculties, "A Ph.D. is like a nose — everyone has one. It's only conspicuous if you don't have one."

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  1. Anecdote time: I have a friend of a friend who works in a community college, where Ed.D’s are relatively common, especially among administrator types. The convention seems to be to call them “Dr.” The convention seems so adamant (for lack of better word) that I’m inclined to believe that being called “Dr.” is an important motivation for getting the Ed.D. As a motivation, it’s probably second to the salary incentives, but it seems to be an incentive.

    I’m personally not a fan of calling anyone outside the medical profession “Dr.” (In fact, I’m not a fan of calling MD’s or DDS’s “doctor,” either.) It strikes me as pretentious. That said, if in doubt, I’ve found it’s better to call people “Dr.”

    1. As a PhD in math once told me, “We were doctors when MDs were still pushing leeches.”

      1. Modern medicine has rediscovered leaches.

        Medical Leaches

        1. There’s also the doctrine of leaches that comes up in environmental law.

          It’s when a party waits too long to prevent water pollution from occurring.

      2. A PhD in Mathematics is a far cry from an EdD. As to Gabriel C’s post, I would guess that the incentive is ego, small minds like the esteem-bolstering appearance of useless paper, and confuse the salary for skill.

        1. In my experience in higher ed, the incentive is differentiation and promotion. Largely, the degree is used to “specialize” in educational administration. I’ve know a few people who’ve gotten one and looked into myself (only to discard the degree as having little to no positive future value.) Specializing in student retention is pretty much a solid choice for someone looking for an assistant/associate vice provost role at an institution. Without a proper PhD and stint in faculty, they’d be unlikely to reach Provost (but I imagine some small or less traditional institutions might consider it.) The degree is part time because the folks interested in it are all in established careers within education. The trend for “executive” MBAs aims for a similar demographic.

          Wanting to more fully understand why some students don’t retain and use that information to improve the institution’s product and services is a worthy goal. She spent 3-4 years of her life engrossed in that after getting a masters and bachelors and then presumably used it to benefit the students at her school and possibly increase her value to her employer.

    2. I’m a tenured, full professor in a community college. Yes, we call EdDs “doctor. And yes, they are terminal degrees for pay, rank and promotion. But so is a JD.

      1. A JD is not a terminal degree. You can get a PhD in law.

        1. You can get a Ph.D. in law (usually called something like a J.S.D.), but these are extremely rare — my sense is that they are rarer than Ph.D.s in education.

          1. It seems you are much more likely to find JDs who have PhDs (often in history or political science) than you are SJDs, although I personally know of two people who have an SJD.

          2. Respectfully, Prof Volokh, you are completely wrong — if your program offers an EdD, you can’t turn around and get a PhD as both are terminal degrees and are mutually exclusive. You can get a second one in a different field of education, much like one can get a doctorate in both math and physics, but terminal degree means nothing more.

            It’s sort of like the BA versus BS distinction and much as there is a great deal of overlap there, there is with PhD and EdD, with the exact same program offering different degrees at different universities. Furthermore, the EdD is now slowly being replaced with the PhD — my program switched a couple years after I graduated.

            The problem is the law schools which switched from a LLB to a JD in the 1960s. A law degree is really a master’s degree in that there’s no origional research done and no dissertation written (and defended). It’s a practitioner’s degree.

            By contrast, both the EdD and PhD are research degrees.

            Now as to lack of academic rigor, that exists everywhere and I’m sure you can name a few law schools where the most strenious thing a student does is write the tuition checks.

            1. Dr. Ed 2: You say “research degrees,” but the Delaware Ed. D. doesn’t require original research in the Ph.D. sense, and its Executive Position Paper seems like a master’s thesis more than a doctoral dissertation. Why would one treat that sort of Ed. D. as comparable to a Ph.D. rather than, say, to a Master’s in Public Administration, or a M.S./M.A., or a J.D.?

              As to an Ed.D. precluding someone from getting a Ph.D. in Education (which presumably would require a dissertation, and an aggregate period of study comparable to that needed for a Ph.D. in other fields), can you point me to some details on that? I’m skeptical that a Ph.D. program would deny one entry just because one has an Ed.D. (To be sure, few people with Ed.D.s might want to get a Ph.D. in Education as well, but likewise few people J.D.s seek to get a J.S.D. or a similar degree.)

              1. “As to an Ed.D. precluding someone from getting a Ph.D. in Education (which presumably would require a dissertation, and an aggregate period of study comparable to that needed for a Ph.D. in other fields), can you point me to some details on that?”

                It would be considered “academic misconduct” because I would be taking courses which I have already taken, and then would be doing a dissertation in a field where I’ve already done one. A PhD program in my field (Teacher Education & School Improvement) could invite me to be a Post-Doc Researcher, but they couldn’t ethically accept me into their program. In this field.

                Now as to something else (e.g. Higher Education), that they could admit me to.

                Now as to academic rigor — that’s the issue of accreditation and Delaware is not known as a rigorous state.

                1. By “academic misconduct,” would that be misconduct on the part of the institution admitting you (the hypothetical “you”), or on the degree seeker, or both?

              2. My son (M.D.) and I (Ph.D.) have a running, friendly banter about who is the real “doctor.” My contention is that I am since I was a professor and the root meaning of the Greek word for “doctor” is “to teach.” See:
                As I point out to him, that’s what I do not what he does. That aside, I suspect the custom of applying the title Doctor primarily to M.D.s is probably, at least in part, a result of M.D.s being the most common holder of a doctorate that most people encounter on a regular basis. As for research, M.D.s are practitioner degrees that have no research requirement. My son who went to an established state supported medical school spent two years in classes and two years in clinical rotations. He actually spent almost as much time getting his masters in biological engineering and produced a half-dozen referred and published research studies during that degree. On the Ed.D. issue, I taught at an urban research university at which the College of Education offered an Ed.S. degree as a terminal degree for practitioners and a Ph.D. for those interested in a research career. I was a patient of a doctor initially trained in Greece for a number of years and he always referred to me as Doctor both personally as well as when talking to staff. I’ve never been hung up on titles and don’t really care whether they are applied to me or not. I belong to an organization where I am sometimes introduced by the title Doctor but I try to tell them that I would prefer they didn’t and that in any case it really is a title that should be reserved for professional contexts. I used to try to get my doctoral students to call me by my first name but none of them could bring themselves to do it.

        2. “Terminal degree” doesn’t mean “you are not allowed to get anymore degrees.” It just means “this is generally regarded as a sufficient credential to be considered a full practitioner and teacher.”

          The best example of this is the M.F.A. (master of fine arts). Every academic institution I know considers the M.F.A. a “terminal degree” in the sense that they will hire someone holding no higher credential as tenure-stream faculty. (Conversely, they would never hire an M.A. or M.S.) This is true even though there is a D.F.A. (doctor of fine arts). Likewise, I can’t think of an instance in which a non-academic employer would insist on hiring a D.F.A. rather than an M.F.A.

          Similarly, an M.B.A. (master of business administration) is professionally considered a terminal degree in the sense that no non-academic employer would realistically hold out to hire a D.B.A. (doctor of business administration) even though this degree exists. But M.B.A.s generally don’t teach at business schools.

          Under this definition, I feel comfortable calling the J.D. a “terminal degree” professionally and academically even though there are law doctorates and even masters degrees that in some senses “outrank” the J.D.

          1. I can’t speak to DBAs, but I do know that there is a great deal of pressure to only award faculty status to those holding a Doctorate in Accounting or Nursing (respectively).

            A MFA is different because you are an “artist” — you have produced art of some sort upon which you can be evaluated. I don’t know about the MBA, but remember this pressure all comes from the accreditors.

            1. And I don’t know much about accounting or nursing doctors. My wife’s university is hiring an accounting professor right now. The job listing requires a Ph.D. or D.B.A. Another university in town is also hiring for a similar position and requires a Ph.D.

              The one doctor of nursing I’ve ever talked to for any length of time was also a monk in a Catholic religious order, so that ended any confusion over address: he was “brother.”

              1. The job listing requires a Ph.D. or D.B.A. Another university in town is also hiring for a similar position and requires a Ph.D.

                The open secret is you don’t have to have a relevant doctorate — I knew someone hired to run the computer help desk because she had a doctorate — in Recreation….

        3. “A JD is not a terminal degree. You can get a PhD in law.”

          You can get an LlM after a JD, too.
          Everywhere except the US, a law degree is an undergraduate degree. However, in the US, a person who holds a JD degree is considered capable of practicing any kind of law (except for one) once they’ve earned bar admission.
          JD’s are professional degrees, along with medical doctorates and the various related ones (like dentistry and naturopathy, and chiropractic). Whereas, a research university that grants PhDs in the sciences has different rules (which used to include requirements like speaking and reading multiple languages). One of the key qualifications is the ability to guide graduate students in those fields. One of the requirements that academic faculty are expected to meet in addition to showing up to class with something interesting to say and getting grades turned in to the registrar on time is publishing in their academic field.

    3. I’ve no doubt that some self-important community college administrators holding these degrees have tried adamantly to force-meme this into a convention.

      1. M L, are there public schools where you live? If so, does the superintendent have an Ed.D.? If so, how is the superintendent normally addressed or referred to?

    4. I was a little let down when I learned that doctor biden was, you know, not a doctor, but a person with a doctoral degree.

      The West Wing was a great show depicting many admirable traits in a president, administration, and first family. Abbey Bartlet was a brain surgeon; much more impressive than being a community college admin.

    5. I have worked in community colleges for over 25 years, and I have always observed the norm to be that an Ed.D is referred to as “Dr.” That includes our current president and at least two of her recent predecessors.

    6. This article and these comments (particularly this one) are elitist and uninformed. I’m currently getting an EdD in Higher Education because I don’t want to do research for the rest of my life and/or be pigeonholed into only teaching college. My EdD adds up to well over 80 hours and I have to write a dissertation. Anyone who calls him/herself “Dr” or insists that others do is and writes a stupid article criticizing others’ educational endeavors can get bent.

      Googled this author and several commenters and (no surprise!) they’re all white. Gross.

      Do better.

  2. Playing to the cheap seats today, eh? Sweet.

    1. Really.

      I mean, what is this post about?

      1. It’s some strange rectification of names stuff for sure.

    2. Seriously – WHO FUCKING CARES!

      1. People who want to be called doctor.

        1. “People who want to be called doctor.”

          Except for the ones who have earned doctorates, who cares what they want? For the ones who HAVE earned doctorates, what’s the problem?

      2. I can name four commenters who proclaim their indifference loudly enough to disprove it.

    3. Yeah, Prof. Volokh never posts about things outside of law stuff. Like, the use of words and language. Nope, never.

      Y’all crying for what exactly? Lefties with the emotional maturity of a toddler, always crying over stupid shit.

      1. “Lefties with the emotional maturity of a toddler, always crying over stupid shit.”

        We’re only having this discussion today because of a whiny conservative’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

        1. Well, no. We’re having this discussion today because of a bunch of whiny libs who don’t feel fulfilled unless they have something to be offended about.

          1. Really? It seemed Epstein was offended enough to write the article.

            And need I bring up all the crying about anthem kneeling, happy holidays, sports team name changes, etc.? Oh, and losing the election of course. I mean conservatives elevated the most “I am the real victim” person ever to the presidency…

            1. Ah, it’s time for the whaddabout whaddaboutery. I guess that’s yet another thing that’s back in now after the election.

              And Epstein was simply pointing out that DACHtor Biden is being just a wee bit pretentious, particularly over what turns out to be a Faux.D. For targets not in the favored circle, that’s typically known as an expose, not whining.

              1. Lol. Half the thing was him talking about his own credentials. The man doth protest too much. He’s clearly aggrieved by the whole thing.

                And whataboutism is perfectly appropriate. You made a categorical statements about how (only) lefties and liberals are whiny. I point out that that’s kind of silly given all the prominent examples of whiny conservatives crying about trivialities. Log in the eye and all that.

                1. You made a whataboutism which provoked further whataboutisms. Shocking!

                  1. Right. That’s the danger of making categorical statements. If I say “conservatives are X” I am knowingly inviting whataboutism. And the whatabouter would be correct to engage in it to refute my categorical statement.

                2. You made a categorical statements about how (only) lefties and liberals are whiny.

                  I credit you for having the decency to flag “only” in some manner, but brackets are a bit more conventional when putting words in other peoples’ mouths. I bet even DACHtor B knows that.

                  1. Okay. So you were not implying that only liberals and left-wingers are whiny to the exclusion of others? You weren’t implicitly making a distinction between them and non-whiny emotionally mature conservatives and right-wingers? When I read your post I am supposed to abandon my ability to make obvious inferences from what you are saying?

                    1. Implying…. implicitly… inferences. What a wonderful set of building blocks to take anything you want and turn it into anything you need.

                      You could try just sticking with the words I purposefully selected, but what fun would THAT be?

                    2. Why did you select those words? Why did you single out liberals and left-wingers for this particular character trait?

                    3. Also: expressio unius est exclusio alterius

                    4. Twenty-dollar Latin phrases aside, I fear I missed the memo where rules of statutory construction are now to be strictly applied to conversational blog comments. You must be a joy at (those things we used to have called) parties.

                    5. “I fear I missed the memo where rules of statutory construction are now to be strictly applied to conversational blog comments.”

                      No. You just missed one where the entire purpose of rules of statutory construction is to discern meaning and authorial intent.

                      Also, I am fun at parties thank-you-very-much. For one thing, I compliment people instead of going around trashing other people’s accomplishments like you have been doing to Dr. Biden.

                    6. going around trashing other people’s accomplishments

                      I prefer “normalizing.” You and I both paid money, took classes, wrote some shit, and got a piece of paper with some schmancy-sounding language at the end of the process. I at least have not demanded that the rest of the world approach me on bended knee as a result. You can comment for you.

                    7. This isn’t that complicated. Academic titles are largely irrelevant outside of academia, in much the same way that military titles are useless outside of the military. ( who is a “doctor” either matters a great deal or it doesn’t matter at all, similarly to “captain”. a ship at sea has only one captain, whereas an AF fighter squadron probably has around a dozen.)

      2. Sure, but his discussion is usually more informed. He is usually pretty sensitive to customary usage and prescriptive v. descriptive models.

        Here, at best:

        –EV is completely out of the loop regarding the customary practice of Ed.D.s being accorded the title “doctor.”

        –He is trying to construct a rule that explains why he and his with with their J.D.s are never called “doctor” (except when someone fails to realize exactly what he teaches and why) whereas some holders of other “professional” or “easy” doctorates are sometimes called “doctor.”

        –And for that analysis he is using a pretty narrow set of doctorates.

        1. Ask him how important it is that he is “Professor” Volokh. I bet he’s more in tune with this one.

      3. Trump’s now a lefty? What?

  3. The Ed.Ds I know are called doctor as a matter of course.

    1. Never met a JD who wanted to be called doctor.

      1. In Germany, lawyers are called Doctor. It is just custom.

      2. “Never met a JD who wanted to be called doctor.”

        I did, even while he was still in law school. He was a surgeon at the time, picking up his second professional degree for funsies.

    2. I’ve been at institutions where the custom is to call all faculty with one form of doctorate or another a “doctor.” Explicitly leaving Ed.Ds out of the honorific would be awkward.

  4. I work in a research hospital. We call both M.D.s and Ph.D.s doctor.

  5. I know more than a few JDs who like to be called “Dr.” Though, it’s more of an academic thing (being called Dr. in academic work). This usually happens outside of a law school.

    I don’t call myself “Dr.”; but sometimes other people do and I don’t correct them.

    1. The only time I, a JD holder, call myself “Doctor” is when it’s time for a “Spies Like Us” round of introductions.

    2. Jon Rowe: Interesting — I believe I have never run across a J.D. who is called “Dr.,” or who has asked to be called “Dr.” I have sometimes been called “Dr.,” but I think it’s because I’m a professor at a research university and people assume that nearly all full-time professors there have doctorates (an accurate assumption in many fields, just not in law). Jon, I wonder whether what you’re seeing might be regional, or perhaps connected to some practice area?

      1. I think it might be less regional and more occupational, in my experience JDs who work in academe outside of law schools are called ‘Dr’ regularly (I don’t know if they asked to be or not).

        1. Queen: Bingo.

          Like Jill Biden, I’m a community college professor.

        2. Queen Amalthea: I suspect that lawyers who teach in a university outside a law school (say, in a political science department) might be called “Dr.” by people who assume those teachers have Ph.D.s, just because Ph.D.s are the norm in such a department (again, just as I’m sometimes erroneously called that). But I don’t know of any custom saying that those teachers should generally be called “Dr.” (though that’s often finessed by their being called “Professor,” a job-related title rather than an education-related title).

          1. “just as I’m sometimes erroneously called that”

            That’s begging the question to dismiss a quite common custom in which JDs *are* called Dr, isn’t it? I think in different contexts calling anyone who has a Doctorate a Dr is indeed a custom, and it’s literally a supported one…

          2. When I was in high school, I asked an attorney if he was ever called doctor. He said once when he was introduced at the local university where he was speaking. He asked after why they did that. They said it was because he had a doctorate, and people with doctorates are addressed as doctor.

            He said the only other time he heard of a lawyer being called doctor was a local attorney who had since been disbarred.

      2. Technically, one has to be in a tenure-track slot to be called a “professor” — adjunct professors and lecturers technically aren’t professors even though they may be Doctors.

        1. I’ve also heard it argued that only full professors (like myself) are entitled to be called “Professor.”

          1. Are you thinking of the German title of “Herr Doctor Professor” which is our version of full professor?

          2. That would certainly be the case in the UK (where many of the US naming customs originate), but the non-professor titles are “Reader”, “Senior Lecturer” and “Lecturer” (or “Senior Fellow” and “Fellow” for research academics who do not teach; readers and professors do not distinguish between fellows and lecturers), ie do not have the word “Professor” in. They are generally addressed as “Doctor” (assuming they hold a doctorate), while professors are “Professor”.

            Professorships in the UK are much rarer than in the US, of course (about as many Professors and Readers combined as full professors in the US, in proportion to other academics).

            The UK academic system is notably stingy with doctoral titles – there are just the PhD (or DPhil at certain universities) and the higher doctorates (for which you must already hold a research doctorate – usually pursued by mid-career academics who are seeking a professorship). Medical degrees here are nominally a bachelor’s (MBBS, though they are regarded as being a master’s equivalent; medical doctors receive the title “doctor” from their professional qualifying boards, not academically), law schools award a professional certificate rather than any academic qualification, teachers generally hold a professional certificate or a B.Ed; the main post-graduate teaching qualification would be an M.Ed.

        2. At my institution, “professor” of some form or another is tenture-track while “lecturer” is not, regardless of degree.

          1. If so, it would be appropriate to call Biden a professor; according to Wikipedia she’s an associate professor with tenure, not a lecturer or an adjunct prof.

    3. “This usually happens outside of a law school. ”

      Depends on whether the law school is associated with a university, and if it is, how much the different faculties interact. If as is apparently the case at UCLA, the law school faculty don’t much ever talk to the faculty of the rest of the university, then the law school faculty wouldn’t know what the practice is for the rest of the institution.

  6. Maybe it’s an east coast thing? All of the Ed.D. in our local school district are called Dr. And though I think Ph.D.s can be pretentious a bit with it (my mom lost a friend of 20 years who suddenly wanted my mom to call her Dr. when she got her Ph.D.), I thought it was pretty normal on college campuses to call professors Dr. I routinely get emails from other professors and administrators that address me as Dr. and I correct them that I don’t go by that title with my J.D.

    1. It’s universal to call holders of the Ed.D. “doctor.”

      I grew up in Virginia Beach and went to high school in the early 1990s. My high school principal, my favorite teacher, and a school board member all had the D.Ed. not the Ph.D. They were universally referred to by the these titles.

      My college roommate became a newspaper reporter in rural North Carolina after graduating. About a year into his job, he got a bunch of angry letters because he wrote a story about a school administrator who held a D.Ed., let’s say his name was Smith, and referred to that administrator as “Smith” rather than “Dr. Smith” throughout. Here the issue was that his newspaper followed WaPo style and did not use courtesy titles on subsequent references at all, but the point is that everyone expected this guy to be called “Dr. Smith.”

      I now live in Pittsburgh and see the same pattern: anybody working in education who holds an Ed.D. is called “doctor.”

      I think avoiding “doctor” in academic institutions was an East Coast thing but it’s now moribund.

  7. I have a Ph.D. My experience is that generally Ph.D.s don’t use Dr in social settings where often one uses no title at all. When a title is used, will likely use Dr. rather than using “Mr”, “Mrs”, “Miss”, “Ms”. Basically, they don’t erase or disguise their title.

    If a Ph.D. work in R&D or education, they will certainly have the degree on their card, and their companies or universities will want the to put “Dr” in front of their name. Individuals vary in how much attention they give to the “Dr”. Fresh Ph.D.s are more likely to make sure they use the title especially when they are looking for a job or trying to establish a reputation.

    For that matter, MD’s don’t always use “Dr”. In social settings, I often meet MD’s who introduce themselves by first name only.

    The big problem with Epstein’s opinion column is he himself up as the one who decides and he combines that with an amazing level of denigration. If Dr. Jill Biden wants to use Dr, she certainly has a right to do so. It’s not ridiculous. That shouldn’t be greeted with denigration. Dr. Jill Biden isn’t doing anything wrong by using her title.

    In my opinion Epstein, who let us know he has honorary doctorates and that is sometimes wrongly called Dr, would be wrong to use Dr. In my opinion, the title goes for earned degrees. If called Dr., should generally correct people. But that has nothing to do with Biden.

    1. Agreed. The condescension and misogyny, and the WSJ giving those a platform, are far bigger issues than any potential Emily Post rationales about proper titles.

      The main info I get from that editorial is that his posterior is raw about President-Elect Biden also having Emily Post justification to use “President-Elect” Biden.

      Sort of like some folks here, come to think of it.

      1. I don’t even think we need to get into potential misogyny/sexism to heavily role eyes at this piece. It’s just poor form in general to trash people’s educational achievements particularly when you have zero idea on what it takes or took.

        It reminded me of how Randy Barnett and David Bernstein (and a bunch of commenters here, notably Brett Bellmore) like to trash American historians despite never completing a PhD or having any any training in historical research.

        1. As a historian with a PhD, my first-hand experience is that law profs will, more often than not, assert expertise above that of anyone trained in a social science or humanities speciality. They’ll get their hackles up when a non-lawyer intrudes in their area, but they treat their law degree as granting superior understanding of history, political science, economics, statistics, language, and literature. They don’t realize that inside we’re laughing our asses off and sharing knowing glances at their arrogance and often rudimentary understanding of whatever they’ve decided to lecture us on.

          1. Lawyer, can confirm.

          2. Lawyers also tend to badly overestimate their knowledge and understanding of IT subjects in general. (To much annoyance of IT professionals, most significantly IT security professionals, but other administrators, too.)
            You can see the problem most clearly in patent law, although the fact that IT degrees are mostly NOT considered qualifications to take the patent examiner’s exam certainly exacerbates the problem, as does the fact that 100% of the IT administration of federal court IT systems is done by federal civil service people.

        2. I’ll support you on the fact that this wasn’t, as some are claiming, a matter of misogyny or sexism. However, you are taking the opposite tack, and making too much of, in this case, Jill Biden’s educational ‘achievements.’ Unless she has a learning disability, or is somehow disadvantaged, the degree path she chose is not difficult. The WSJ piece is a bit asinine, but it does point out a character flaw in academe, administrative jobs, bureaucracies, and the reaction to it only reinforces the point. Those assuming to know the mindset and motivation of Epstein certainly prove that point with their mind-reading -they make assertions they cannot prove simply because of sociopolitical bias.

          1. “I’ll support you on the fact that this wasn’t, as some are claiming, a matter of misogyny or sexism.”

            Well, almost certainly not primarily misogyny or sexism, but rather butt-hurt that she’s married to the guy who’ll be President next January 22. But it isn’t free of misogyny or sexism.

    2. I think uncertainty over whether to use Mrs., Miss, Ms., and occasionally Mr. is the biggest reason to call all lawyers doctor.

  8. Bill Cosby has an Ed.D.

    1. It was only honorary.

      Epstein spends much of his piece talking about honorary degrees in an attempt to lump them in with Jill Biden’s.

      1. Doctor Franklin had an honorary degree.

      2. That’s not technically correct. Cosby supposedly earned his D.Ed. by writing a dissertation about Fat Albert. It was not considered an honorary degree by UMass.

        1. “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” was considered educational TV by the network that aired it. This is largely because at the time, there was much hue and cry over the fact that there was so little educational TV programming for children. A regulation went into effect mandating that television broadcast licensees were required to air a certain amount of educational programming for children, and subsequently a good deal of programming was suddenly educational (“GI Joe” had a bunch of “now you know” stings added to them and broadcasters duly listed GI Joe as educational programming for children to comply with the reg. Saturday morning programming, a vast wasteland of wasted airtime, largely fell away as it became more profitable to air programs targeting the relatively few adults who wanted to watch television on Saturday mornings, and a lot of the cartoons were replaced by nature shows, to try to still sell airtime to breakfast cereal advertisers while still complying with the educational TV requirements.

      3. Cosby’s EdD (from University of Massachusetts of Amherst) was not honorary. Although there has been some question as to whether or not Cosby was held to traditional standards as to classroom attendance, he nevertheless completed the requirements for the degree, including a dissertation (or, if you prefer, thesis).

        1. “Traditional standards” in the Dwight Allen days?!?

      4. No it wasn’t. Cosby did a thesis on the educational benefits of his Fat Albert TV show.

          1. Yep. He was proud of it, too. He used to credit himself on The Cosby Show as “Dr. William Cosby, Ed.D.”.

            1. I was always taught that Dr. In the beginning and the title at the end (including medical degrees) was improper and redundant.

    2. Bill Cosby has a ZooMass EdD — it was at a time they had so many fictitious people on the payroll that everyone in the School of Education had to be fingerprinted so they could tell who was a real person. They had so many midnight wine & cheese dissertation defenses that dissertation defenses now have to be held during business hours and advertised three weeks in advance.

      Cosby’s dissertation is an embarrassment, a convoluted diatribe about racism and Fat Albert. But then MLK2 plagiarized his PhD dissertation at BU — the resolution on that was that since both King and every member of his committee was dead, there was no one to defend the dissertation and hence there was nothing they could do.

      1. “Normal as this kind of borrowing was among preachers, it is inexcusable in academic terms, and I believe Dr. King’s doctorate should be rescinded by Boston University. But we do not admire him for his scholarship. He earned greater prizes. The ideas in his college papers were not his. But the blood that splattered the walls of the Lorraine Motel was his.” Garry Wills

        1. To rescind an earned doctorate, there has to be a living person you can challenge to its award. If everyone is dead, there is no one to defend it.

          1. It’s like trying to disbar a dead lawyer — you can’t do it.

            1. Or overturn the conviction of one already executed.

              1. Or change the winner of an election after the votes have been counted.

                1. Nope, not the same. Try again, Pollock.

  9. I’m fine with people who have doctorates calling themselves “Doctor”, unless they’re merely honorary doctorates. It’s not like it’s a lie.

    1. From Temple University, where he attended college – honorary and since withdrawn after some sort of sexual thingy.
      Just as a doctorate in journalism is nothing special, the doctorate in education counts for little other than status among college professionals. Who cares outside the university setting? A PhD in physics, chemistry, or engineering can get a job anywhere, but a PhD in education needs to stay around where they got it.

      1. Well… no. My Ph.D. in engineering probably wouldn’t get me a job as an educational consultant or position running the local community college. An EdD would.

        The issue of job qualification is an important consideration to using a title. A doctorate of any sort can be be a job qualification. When it is, it’s going to be used at least in a professional setting. It may be used more broadly if networking in important.

        I’m sure that someone with an EdD employed at a community college would be wise to use “Dr”. It communicates that she is someone who is formally qualified to be promoted to administration, It also communicates degree level to students in an institution that is trying to encourage students to obtain degrees. This is a good thing to do at a community college. So Biden likely should use it at least in that context.

        I suspect the title “doctor” is unimportant for most practicing attorneys. It may even confuse potential clients who might respond with, “Wait. I thought you were a lawyer?”. If the latter, lawyers should and will avoid “Dr” .

        1. The difference with lawyers is the bar exam — to be a “lawyer” means having a bar card.

          1. Like passing the bar exam is that hard. Most people learn how to do it in a couple of weeks.

        2. Or, “Oh, since you’re a doctor, what is your opinion of my medical malpractice claim?”

        3. ” My Ph.D. in engineering probably wouldn’t get me a job as an educational consultant or position running the local community college. An EdD would.”

          I don’t imagine it’s much value in pursuing engineering work, either. Education is one of the three pillars but it’s the weakest of the three. (Having spent a decade in vocational education, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss “what makes someone a good candidate for a technical job?” rather frequently.

          In order, recent experience, professional certification, and education will be assessed, in that order.

          A Bachelor’s in engineering indicates that someone is qualified to do engineering work, and a Master’s indicates that someone is qualified to lead engineering teams, and a doctoral degree in engineering indicates that someone is qualified to teach people to become engineers.

          The school I went to for my undergraduate degree has a strong engineering program. (the fact that an engineering degree from this university took five years instead of four is the primary reason why I don’t have a degree in engineering. My daughter went to the same university and graduated a couple of years ago. She didn’t major in engineering, either because she was planning to apply to medical schools right up until it was time to start applying to graduate programs, when she knew enough to know that she didn’t want to practice medicine, after all. So she has a science degree in a field she thought would look good on a medical-school application but for which she has approximately zero actual interest in, and is now married to an electrical engineer. She was considering pursuing a doctoral program in public health, possibly at UCLA, but is burning out at the MS level. Oddly enough, the pandemic is interfering with earning a degree in public health because the opportunities for clinical internships have become limited.

    2. The only time a holder of an honorary “doctorate” should be called “doctor” is the day it is received, and then, only in jest.

  10. They earned the doctorate degree, regardless of field. That accomplishment actually means something.

    In a formal setting, if they wish to be addressed as doctor, then we should address them by the title they earned. In an informal setting, the ‘doctor’ will let you know if they want the title used or not. I just cannot get too worked up about it.

    1. Commenter_XY: Well, my wife and I earned our Juris Doctorate. Does that mean that we are entitled to be called “doctor”?

      1. I don’t know about ‘entitled,’ but if you have a doctorate degree and you indicate you prefer that be indicated by the title what is gained by not doing so?

      2. My opinion is you are entitled to use it. But my guess is it’s not professionally useful to either practicing attorneys nor law professors. So there’s little benefit. In addition, the general attitude among attorney’s is to not use it — possibly because they want to be sure no one mistakes them for something other than an attorney. So using it may actually make ‘marketing’ more difficult in the specific case of law.

        That’s not the same for other professions. Like it or not, “Dr” isn’t merely an honorific, it is also a job qualification. Often, Ed.Ds are earned precisely to be able to better obtain jobs like “school superintendent”, “community college president” and so on. So of course those people advertise their degrees the same way medical doctors do.

        Use of Dr. by Ph.D’s in other fields is somewhat more variable.

        1. ” my guess is it’s not professionally useful to either practicing attorneys nor law professors.”

          Try becoming a practicing attorney or tenure-track law professor without a doctorate in law. (Much like trying to become a tenure-track professor without any doctorate).

      3. ” Well, my wife and I earned our Juris Doctorate. Does that mean that we are entitled to be called “doctor”?”

        Well, I wrote (and defended) a 203 page dissertation that analyzed the history curriculums of the 46 states, 4 commonwealths and one district. What was your dissertation topic?

      4. Professor, I will answer you this way. If you (or your wife) prefer I address you as Doctor Volokh, I will. You tell me – what is your preference?

      5. Does that mean that we are entitled to be called “doctor”?

        Yes. Sure, it’s not customary, but you are entitled to be entitled if you like the title.

      6. Yes, you are entitled to be called “doctor.” The convention of not calling lawyers doctor is as arbitrary as the convention of calling PhD’s “doctor.” While there is a logical distinction between medical and non-medical doctors, there really isn’t one between PhD’s and other non-medical doctorates. Sure the requirements are different, but why did similarity to PhD degree requirements become the touchstone of who is and isn’t a doctor. My colleagues and I will often refer to ourselves as “doctor” in jest as a quasi rebellion against the convention of not calling lawyers doctors, despite their having earned a doctorate. The history of not calling lawyers seems to be a more recent phenomenon. There are examples in the bible of referring to “doctors of the law.” “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” Luke 5:17. “Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;” Acts 5:34. While this phrase is not universal in the various translations ( compare “учитель Закона” (teacher of the law (Russian)), “օրենքի վարդապետ” (Master or expert of the law (Armenian)) with “docteur de la loi” (doctor of the law (French)). That being said, the KJV’s use of the phrase “doctor of the law” seems highly relevant to this debate.

        1. The “doctors of the law” here were experts on religious law who had a teaching function. They are the direct antecedents of rabbis and were already addressed by that term. Gamaliel is a significant figure in Jewish history.

          The phrase is somewhat analogous to the term “doctors of the Church” (doctores ecclesiae) which refers to extremely influential theologians.

          1. That doesn’t change their function. The fact that they interpreted and enforced Mosaic law doesn’t change the fact that they were essentially lawyers and judges in 1st century A.D. Jewish society.

        2. There’s also a certain amount of international standards here – the US is unusual in having a doctorate as the normal professional degree for lawyers, so it would be more than a little confusing for American lawyers to be “doctor” while non-American lawyers are not.

          While some countries do still do the dual-bachelorate for medical doctors (MB/BM and BS/SB/Ch.B/B.Ch), the MD is common far beyond the US, and even dual-bachelor doctors are still universally addressed as “doctor” (indeed, in the UK, the official view of the medical profession is that the title “doctor” is granted by the board when giving the license to practice, and is not an academic qualification at all).

        3. “The convention of not calling lawyers doctor is as arbitrary as the convention of calling PhD’s ‘doctor.'” That’s not true.

          The convention is actually to not call lawyers who practice the common law doctor. This is because, in the common law tradition, lawyers weren’t required to go school to become lawyers. This changed over time, and now every person, with a few minor exceptions, must have a J.D. just to take the bar exam. At least in Texas.

          There is also the antiquated English language convention of calling all physicians doctors even when they didn’t have an M.D. Hopefully, you’re not going to run across a physician without an M.D. these days.

          A doctorate in the law is the original doctorate offered by the original university, the University of Bologna founded in 1088 (or maybe a hundred years later).

          I was actually taught in 10th grade history that the original doctorates offered by universities were the doctorates of medicine, law, and philosophy. These doctorates were for physicians, lawyers, and priests. Physicians were entrusted with the care of one’s physical person, lawyers their legal person, and priests their spiritual person. Each one of these were “professions” because each one had to profess an oath publicly. I don’t know how true most of that is. I do know that doctorates in medicine, philosophy, and law have been around since the Middle Ages, and pretty much every other one is at most a hundred years old.

          The only time I insist on being addressed with doctor, is when someone else does it first. Even then, I’m only doing it because the other person is being pompous. This has never happened, and I’m a little disappointed by that.

          Like most lawyers, the only time I’m called doctor is when someone knows I, as a lawyer, have a doctorate and just thinks it’s funny to call me doctor.

          1. “There is also the antiquated English language convention of calling all physicians doctors even when they didn’t have an M.D. Hopefully, you’re not going to run across a physician without an M.D. these days.”

            In the U.S. (and maybe other places) Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO or D.O.) have, as far as I can tell, all the characteristics of MD physicians, including education. They call themselves physicians and everybody else does, too. Dr. Sean Conley, D.O., was recently in the news as one of Trump’s physicians. It’s not impossible that some naturopaths may properly be called doctors or physicians but that’s likely a bit controversial in some quarters.

    2. No, they did not earn the “doctorate” degree. They earned a Masters degree with a fluffed up title. And while that accomplishment does mean something, it doesn’t mean all that much.

      1. Ed. D. is mainly a degree teacher’s get to receive a bump in pay per your union contract. If you can read and write, you are set.

        1. Ummm, Bob, that’s what the CAGS is for…

      2. No, they did not earn the “doctorate” degree. They earned a Masters degree with a fluffed up title. And while that accomplishment does mean something, it doesn’t mean all that much.

        100% this. That’s the really amusing thing about the pretentious overuse of “DAHCtor” and the feigned offense over people who won’t line up and bow to the queen. She paid the college some money and wrote about 80 pages on a play-pretty subject. Whoopee.

    3. Anyone who insists on being called “doctor”, regardless of degree, is probably compensating for something.

      When PhDs were rare, it was a distinction, now when just about anyone can get one, it has been devalued.

      BTW, I have an earned doctorate in Engineering from 34 years ago.

  11. This reminds me of an Upper West Side joke, in which a woman at a cocktail party, upon being introduced to a “Dr. Smith,” responds, “So tell me, Dr. Smith, are you a real doctor, or an M.D.?”

    1. in medicine ‘doctor’ is the profession. The degree might be MD (American allopathic schools), DO (American osteopathic schools), yet around the world many doctors do not have doctorates, MBBS, BMBS, MBChB, MBBCh (mostly european medical bachelors/bachelors of surgery).
      All these folks are referred to as doctor in a US hospital because they have equivalent training, and importantly, credentials to practice as a doctor.

  12. My sense is that “Dr.” to refer to non-Doctors is only common in the Academic and Education fields.

    I have a co-worker who says that if somebody calls him doctor he assumes he fucked something up.

    1. Well, where else would they be common? That’s where the non-M.D. doctorates are.

      1. Hello? All the lawyers at my firm have doctorates.

      2. “Well, where else would they be common?”

        Given the over-production of phD’s recently? They’re everywhere.

      3. I’ve encountered many people with CS PhDs in IT. None used the title.

        1. In applied fields in general, use of Ph.D. is spotty because it communicates an “on the one hand/on the other hand” issue. Mine is in Mechanical Engineering. Sometimes people think a Ph.D will be unable to be practical; sometimes, they think the Ph.D. will mean extra ability in special applications.

          As CS is applied, the same likely holds true. So, likely you’ll see areas where the CS Ph.D. would use the Dr. and others areas less so. I bet the ones going to conferences looking for academic jobs tend to use Dr. The ones going to IT conferences selling “how to” or “applications” use Dr. less often.

          But they are all entitled to use it. The thing is: there are business aspects to titles of all sorts. Outsiders decreeing who “may” or “may not” based on value judgements of merit are pretty irrelevant. If the title is earned and true, a person has a right to use it.

        2. Not many CS practitioners with Ph.D.’s do what those in the industry would generally call “IT”, which is a particularly practical application of computers. (See https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/computer-science-vs-it/ )

          Use of the term “doctor” by Ph.D.s in the tech industry is uncommon, but not unheard of. It’s an industry where even CEOs generally interact with employees on a first-name basis, though, so precious little opportunity for the use of titles. In the rare formal context where a title might be used, I’ve certainly seen CS/EE Ph.D.’s use the title “doctor”.

        3. 99% of the CS PhDs I ran into were teaching, and us students called every single one of them “Dr.”

          But I think that gets to the gist of it… in teacher/pupil settings (in America, at least) you often refer to the teacher/professor/whatever by their title and last name. You do not assume the familiarity of calling them by their first name. So Mr./Mrs./Dr. is the go-to.

          In most industry settings, you do assume the familiarity of calling someone by their first name, and skip titles all-together.

          Which is to say, I expect my professors addressed each-other by first-name, but they all expected us students to call them by their titles.

    2. Not sure what you mean.

      I don’t think the term “doctor” is used customarily to refer to anyone who lacks a degree with “doctor” in the name, except for Dr. Science (the public radio personality) who had a master’s degree . . . in science! When I was a teaching assistant or lecturer with a master’s degree, I corrected “doctor” the handful of times it was applied to me, even though I was literally teaching at the time.

      If you mean that “doctor” is only applied to non-medical doctorates in academia and education, that seems trivially true, but I would point out that ministers of religion who hold a doctorate often use the title “doctor” even in preference to “reverend.”

  13. Almost every school system superintendent I’ve ever met has an Ed.D and they all wanted to be called Dr.

    At my university, JD is not considered a terminal degree for processors but EdD is.

    For my profession in organizational development, EdD is one of the paths. Personally, only the PhyDs in my profession call themselves Dr. The rest of us, including the PhDs and EdDs, don’t make as big of a deal about it.

    Another professional doctoral degree is the DrPH. That’s doctorate of public health. My experience is that holder of that degree are referred to as Dr in the US Public Health Service.

    1. Remember that — depending on the program, a PhyD may be a PhD or even EdD.

    2. “they all wanted to be called Dr. ”

      Of course, its a pathetic cry for help after choosing to be a superintendent.

  14. I tend to call only MD’s doctor.

    I assume it’s a matter of the personal preference of the speaker.

    1. I went to some kind of fancy-pants skool (MIT) where a decent fraction of my social circle ended up with advanced terminal degrees. Lots stayed at BS level, but some are PhDs, and there are a couple MDs (and a few JDs I’ll discount for this conversation).

      We call each other by first names (or still-funny-after-30-years nicknames). Context matters!

      But someone with an honorary doctorate penning a WSJ editorial cutting down one person’s real degree and calling her “kiddo”?

      FFS, that’s like someone questioning if my same social circle are actually “real” scientists, engineers, and/or physicians, and using a 2 year community college degree as justification.

      Because context matters.

      1. Whatever you say, kiddo.

        1. Well played, sir, well played.

          Drat, should I use “Doctor” for this?

          1. I typed very hard to earn it.

      2. What if, just maybe, ‘kiddo’ was meant to be as ridiculous as her insistence on being called ‘Dr?’ I have no idea if that was the case, but it has certainly worked, trolling the perpetually offended.

    2. What about DOs? If you’re at hospital and there is a DO who is a resident, what would you do?

      1. If you have a D.O. or D.Pod., you are almost certainly going to be referred to as “doctor” and most laypeople will assume you have an M.D.

  15. And just in case some cave troll hasn’t seen the most relevant evidence about this kerfluffle:


  16. The only people I call Doc pitch no-hitters on LSD or kill Johnny Ringo.

    1. Perhaps a guest editorial at TheOnion pointedly questioning Mr. Ellis’s *real* credentials is in order.

  17. Let’s make a deal. Jill won’t push her husband to enact all of the left-wing lunacies that her husband’s party wants enacted. And I will agree to call her Dr. Heck, I will call her Triple-Dr. (Dr. Dr. Dr.) if that will make her happy.

    1. If she will make that deal, I will agree to call her: “Her Excellency, the Reverend Madame Doctor Jill, FLOTUS and First of Her Name.”

  18. Someone with at PhD, MD, EdD (and maybe a few other rare ones) have earned the title “Dr.” and its quite correct to call them that. To call someone Mr. or Mrs. when they have a doctorate is wrong and disrespectful. One can drop the Dr. if you are in a context where titles are not used for anyone. If someone has professional or elected title such as Senator, Professor, a military rank, that can properly be used instead of Dr., but in some contexts using the Dr would also be proper.

    I am stickler for proper title usage.

    And by the way, in my opinion, when you have professional title, you lose it if you are no longer in that role. So if you stop working for University, you can’t be called Professor.

    1. I left out the topic of the post. JDs do not be called Dr. because it is not a terminal degree and there is an available terminal PhD in law.

    2. MollyGodiva: Again, as I asked Commenter_XY, my wife and I have JDs. I can see why we wouldn’t be called Dr. — we’re not in medicine, and our degree path is both much shorter than a Ph.D.’s and doesn’t require the effort, originality, and contribution to the state of professional knowledge that a Ph.D. requires.

      But why shouldn’t an Ed.D. (again, as opposed to a Ph.D. in education) be treated like a J.D. for title purposes?

      1. Ed.Ds are terminal degrees that culminate in defended original research, and thus they earn the title Dr. I am aware that some Ed.D programs are lighter on the original research component then PhD programs, and view Ed.Ds are more of a professional doctorate, but in my opinion it still falls (barely) into the Dr category. I do know of some PhD programs that do not require a formal dissertation, so that is not an issue that is confined to the Ed.D world.

        I wish there were a better distinction between the Ed.Ds who do research, and those who do not (who would be closer to MBAs in my opinion), but it is what it is.

        1. So I would say the honorable solution would be for the individual Ed.D holder to use the term Dr. if they did original defended research, and refrain from using the title if they did not.

        2. No, EdDs are not “terminal degrees”. PhDs are available in the educational degree track. EdDs (like medical doctors) are fluffed up Masters programs.

          1. That is murky. The requirements for a Ed.d are sliding scale depending on what University, it can be rigorous like a PhD and they are considered terminal degrees, and at some Universities it is more like a master’s program, with everything in between. This is in sharp contrast to a JD, which is almost always a 3 year program with no research.

            1. An EdD may be the highest degree you can earn at a particular university but it is not the highest available degree in the field.

              And, yes, masters programs in all fields come in remarkable variety of rigor. Some are quite good. Others are available to anyone with a pulse (and even that’s optional as long as the checks clear).

              Incidentally, I got my undergraduate educational degree at Univ of DE. While that was a long time ago, my own observations of the professors and TAs would not put the rigor of UD’s program at the high end of the spectrum.

              1. Delaware is not known for academic rigor.

            2. Is “no research” a common thing at law schools I didn’t go to. Because we did a lot of research. We had a “substantial writing requirement” too.

            3. Education is not a strenuous degree at any university or college, research or no. Would you be a stickler for proper use of titles if this discussion were about the Trump family? As for your ‘no research’ assertion, I suspect you have made this up to fit your defending ‘Dr.’ Jill narrative.

          2. And doctorates in Gender Studies aren’t — and those are PhDs.

      2. You keep answering your own question! To be a Dr. Requires the completion of a research project and it’s product a dissertation. You keep harping on a contribution to field of study, much as the doctoral candidates themselves angst over. All the while their advisors are counseling the contribution is a demonstration that you’ve internalized the research process. In all likelihood that piece of work when published is a minor contribution to the field. The discussion of Dr. Biden’s final project I’ve read sounds like it would fall into this category.

        1. DStraws: My sense of the Delaware Ed.D. program is that it requires a thesis comparable to the sort generally required by many master’s programs, not a dissertation of the sort generally required by most Ph.D. programs. That is also largely consistent with the length of the program, for whatever that’s worth.

      3. Why do you keep asking this question? It is a custom that attorneys in the United States are not called “doctor.” It is a custom that holders of medical and educational doctorates are. Page of history v. volume of logic.

        If you want to analyze that custom, consider these facts:

        1. The important thing about being a lawyer is bar admission, not education.

        2. The J.D. is transparently not a research degree. It was historically a second bachelor’s degree.

        3. The fact holders of a mere J.D. can teach at law schools that are part of universities is pretty strange, but consider that actual law professors tend to have additional credentials such as an LL.M., an academic M.A. or Ph.D., a clerkship (which is somewhat similar to a graduate fellowship), and pre-hiring publications. In addition, law school hiring has these weird fellowships and visiting assistant professorships that don’t have analogues in “real” academia. (For that matter, consider that law journals are edited by law students–in “real academia,” grad students can’t even publish book reviews in journals . . . .)

      4. My inclination to answer that would be that the EdD is a supplementary degree – there are lots of teachers in public schools or community colleges who don’t hold one, while the JD is the universal qualification for American lawyers. I think it’s probably a mistake for the EdD to be a doctorate – there are some very good research programs that should earn a PhD in education (some have already replaced their EdD with a PhD), and there are others that should earn something like an MEA (Master’s in Educational Administration – a “higher master’s” like the MBA or MFA, since many candidates will already hold an MEd/Ed.M). But until such time as they do, it does not seem ridiculous to claim the title of “doctor”.

        The second reason would be that the US is very unusual in giving a doctoral degree as the primary qualification for lawyers. In most other countries you get an LLB or LLM and then get a professional certificate (which does not grant postnominal letters). Having American lawyers as “doctor”, while non-American lawyers are plain “Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms” would be confusing.

    3. “So if you stop working for University, you can’t be called Professor.”

      Unless they award you emeritus status — then you can.

      1. Emeritius profs are still listing in the department directory, have .edu email addresses, and commonly still have an office. They may not be getting paid, but they are still with the university.

      2. Or if you’re stranded on an island.

  19. There’s a difference in professional and social settings.

    I have a PhD and teach at a college. My students call me “doctor” or “professor”. I’m not real picky about which but I introduce myself as “doctor” on the first day of class. There are several EdDs teaching on my campus and they’re generally referred to as “doctor”. It’s a clearly professional setting.

    Off campus – the rest of my life – I don’t refer to myself as “doctor” and I can’t remember the last time anyone else did.

    In the midwest, K-12 administrators (principles, superintendents, etc.) increasingly have EdD degrees and everyone in the school calls them “doctor”. Many in the community also call them “doctor”. The professional/social boundary is fuzzy when one runs the local public school.

    As for the future First Lady? If I were her, I wouldn’t use “doctor” outside of work but it’s her decision, not mine.

    1. “If I were her, I wouldn’t use “doctor” outside of work but it’s her decision, not mine.”

      I’ve never understood this. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the person doing the speaking’s decision.

      1. True, the person speaking to me has a choice, but I’m talking about how I refer to myself in social settings. When I meet a new person I can say “Hi, I’m Bill. Bill Bikerider.” or I can say “Hi, I’m Dr. Bikerider. Dr. Bill Bikerider.” I can sign my Christmas cards “Bill” or “Dr. Bikerider”. When I make reservations at a hotel or restaurant, I can reserve under “Mr” or “Dr”.

      2. I’m not surprised you don’t understand the concept of “respect”.

        1. “I’m not surprised you don’t understand the concept of “respect”.”

          I believe that I do. But I’m not sure that you do.

    2. Anecdotal, but my understanding – and my experience – has been that people with PhD’s and other non-medical doctorate degrees generally do not use that title outside of the confines of their discipline or academia. With the general public, family and friends, etc, they find the title a bit irrelevant.

      I have a couple of medical doctors on my beer-league softball team (a DO and an MD), and even they would shun the use of that title in that setting, unless there is an injury. Then it becomes relevant. (P.S. very handy to have around when most of your team is in their 40’s)

      The only time I’ve had a JD insist on an honorific was the week after an acquaintance of mine was confirmed as a judge. I think we had to call her ‘The Honorable’ or ‘Your Honor’ for about a day and a half until it got old. I don’t think it was her idea, though.

  20. This whole thing is stupid. Just another blatant display of the double standard to which the left and right are treated under. When it comes to conservative women you can trash them all day long without being called any names or getting called for it.

    1. Which conservative women with Eds have been trashed for being called Dr?

      1. The ones wearing pink blouses with purple polka-dots on Tuesdays.

      2. Lynne Cheney comes to mind, although she has a PhD.

        1. She was trashed for being called Dr?

          1. She was never called Dr. Nor insisted on it like the pathetic Mrs. Biden.

            1. What’s more pathetic than complaining about something so trivial, including by trashing her thesis/dissertation, in the pages of the WSJ to make yourself feel better?

            2. So there’s no evidence that she would have been trashed for it. Thanks.

              1. No evidence? Oh, c’mon. She’s a Republican, and Dems seize on any excuse, however trivial, to trash Republicans (see, e.g., Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women”), so she’d have been trashed for it.

                1. I still hear ‘binders of women’ today. They just cannot let shit go. We will be hearing about orangmanbad, erm Drumpf putting kids in cages for decades.

              2. Got to love the denial on the left when it comes to their bigotry.

              3. Normally I find the “can you imagine if a Republican did this” carping to be a pretty tiresome trope, but come on. Are you really saying you don’t think late night hosts would be skatting and bebopping all over her if she’d held herself out as “Dr. Cheney”?

            3. Is Jill Biden insisting? Even Epstein did not make that accusation. She is being called “DrBiden” and the Dr is in her twitter log on. Big. Deal.

  21. My very first first-chair jury trial in Harris County Civil District Court, in 1982, was before the late Hon. Jerry McAfee. Although a gentle man of engaging disposition, Judge McAfee was idiosyncratic. He wore red robes, rather than the traditional black, as a tribute to the judges of the Roman Republic, he’d explain to each jury venire in his courtroom.

    But he went too far, ruled the state commission on judicial ethics, in promulgating a local rule requiring all lawyers to address one another in his courtroom as “Doctor.” (His rule embraced an implied blanket upgrade for all who were, as was still common in those days, mere LL.Bs.) Texas Monthly bestowed upon him one of its “Bum Steer Awards for 1982.

    1. I am also reminded of a later jury trial, in which one of my opponents was a just-retired state district judge, and my own co-counsel was another former state district and supreme court judge. Both were accustomed to still being called “Judge,” as was, of course, yet another lawyer in that courtroom — the one on the bench in the black robes. There were at least two or three occasions during the trial when someone — a clerk, a paralegal, or one of us lawyers who hadn’t also been a judge — would say, intending to attract the attention of one: “Excuse me, Judge, but” — at which point, typically all three of them would look up and say, “Yes?” This became a running gag throughout an otherwise desperately grim and boring trial.

  22. I have a Master’s degree in Engineering.

    Should I demand that people in a social context refer to me as Master?

    1. Be careful, some people charge extra for that.

      1. And be careful if someone in a blue box who claims to be a “Doctor” shows up.

    2. They probably already do (given that “mister” is just a variant of “master”).

    3. Since FSU has a MS/JD program in Urban and Regional Planning should I demand peeps call me Master Doctor (or Doctor Master).

  23. My experience (as a holder of a PhD) is that other holders of PhD’s who work at universities usually refuse to identify themselves as ‘doctor’ even though people address them that way. Generally they don’t use Dr. in their email signatures, and do not add ‘PhD’ either. It’s perceived as a sign of insecurity, and, unfortunately, seems (anecdotally) to be more prevalent among those with Doctorates (whatever the official title) in Education. Probably snobbery, but perhaps justifiedly so.

    1. Alternatively, can’t we explain this by saying that “professor” is the preferred title?

      What are Ph.D.-holders at your institution who aren’t professors called in contexts where a courtesy title is required? E.g., a Ph.D. who is an academic counselor or administrator?

  24. In looking at the comments, I wonder how much of the use of “Dr.” for Ed.D. is related to wanting that title in the university setting (even if just a community college). It’s a way of setting faculty at a different level than students.

    In high school, it’s reasonable to expect students to call you by “Mr.” because they are children and should be respectful. When you reach college, you have interactions between adults (including non-traditional students). So it’s harder to expect them to call other adults “Mr.” and “Ms.” all the time. So you call for people to use “Dr.” so that students have a reason to use titles.

    While Epstein’s tone was condescending and in poor taste, the point about not calling Ed.D.’s by “Dr.” outside of the university setting seems accurate. It’s long struck me that referring to Jill Biden as “Dr.” was the media’s way to sort of boost up her credentials. This wasn’t just some stay-at-home wife ala Laura Bush, Cindy McCain, or Ann Romney. I also suspect a lot of people assume she is/was a medical doctor, since other politicians holding doctorates (or even previously practicing as medical doctors) don’t get the title.

    1. It seems inaccurate inasmuch as most Ed.D.s work in primary/secondary education or administration (not as university faculty) and are called “doctor” professionally in those fields.

  25. This post by Prof. Volokh is an attempt to substantiate a smear attack on the future First Lady by the editors of the WSJ. His past posts, almost all of which are excellent, are a testament to the fact that he is better than this, that this post was beneath him and only worked to soil his reputation. This is very sad.

    1. Not really. There is a legitimate debate over the rigor of a Ed.D. It varies from University to University. The editorial that started all was was a smear attack.

    2. You won’t be interested in reading this, but the WSJ OpEd editor has a rebuttal to the critics:

      The Biden Team Strikes Back

      Its strategists promote an identity politics campaign against an op-ed on Jill Biden’s use of ‘Dr.’



      Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” tweets.

      The difference is that when Mr. Trump rants against the press, the press mobilizes in opposition. In this case the Biden team was able to mobilize almost all of the press to join in denouncing Mr. Epstein and the Journal. Nearly every publication wrote about the Biden response, reinforcing the Biden-New York Times line: “An Opinion Writer Argued Jill Biden Should Drop the ‘Dr.’ (Few Were Swayed.)”

      This strategy worked to protect Joe and Hunter Biden during the campaign, so it’s no surprise that they’re keeping it up as they head to the White House. Northwestern University, where Mr. Epstein taught for many years, did its part by denouncing him in a statement and appearing to purge his emeritus listing from its website. This is how cancel culture works.

      The outrage is overwrought because, whether you agree or disagree, Mr. Epstein’s piece was fair comment. The issue of Jill Biden’s educational honorific isn’t new. As long ago as 2009, the Los Angeles Times devoted a story to the subject. From the piece by Robin Abcarian: “Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail. ‘She said, “I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.”

      Many readers said Mr. Epstein’s use of “kiddo” is demeaning, but then Joe Biden is also fond of that locution. In his 2012 Democratic convention speech he even used it to refer to his wife in the context of his many proposals of marriage: “I don’t know what I would have done, kiddo, had you on that fifth time said no.” You can buy a T-shirt on the internet with Mr. Biden’s image pointing a finger saying “That’s where you’re wrong, kiddo!”

      1. ‘She said, “I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.”

        So, so pathetic.

        1. How dare a woman think her accomplishments might be recognized before her husbands, amirite!

          Next, they’ll want to vote like their husbands! Ugh!

          1. Getting a degree so you can be called doctor on mail is pathetic.

            1. People do things for honor and prestige all the time.

              1. Pathetic people, yes.

                1. Oh okay. So you’ve never done anything for prestige? Not even as a mixed motive? I assume you declined all academic honors, didn’t attend any of your graduations, threw away any trophy or medal or certificate you’ve ever gotten and made sure to take the jobs that people least respected lest you be accused of only doing it for the prestige. I assume that when people say you are good at something you loudly proclaim that anyone who wants to be acknowledged as good at something are pathetic and storm out of the room.

                  1. Well, I don’t go around demanding that people call me “Dr.” just because I earned a doctoral degree from a university, or that they address me as “Esquire” just because I managed to get admitted to the bar.

                    1. Lawyers calling themselves Esquires is presumptuous and arrogant and a plot by the ABA.

                  2. Not once. Why would anyone, once an adult, do anything for praise, prestige, or adulation?

                    1. I can’t tell if you’re serious or not. You’re probably lying to yourself if you think you’re actually that noble, and you’ve NEVER done something because it would bring you some level of prestige. It doesn’t have to be the only reason someone does something, but it’s certainly a factor people consider.

                      I mean like I asked Bob, did you decline to attend your graduations and turn down any and all academic honors? Do you decline any honor given to you? Do you loudly reject the praise of others? Do you get rid of any title you have at work and simply say you’re a “Workman?” You’ve never done anything in your entire adult life because it would make you look good to someone else? Never wanted to impress a date?

                      Politics is built around this. It’s why many state legislators want to get into Congress, Representatives want to become Senators or Governors, and Senators and Governors want to be President. (The current President loves his rallies, although maybe he’s a bad example of an adult). Power and chances to be of service are part of it too, but also prestige.

                      Law too. It’s why there is so much competition for federal clerkships. Many judges want to become justices and associates want to become partners at white shoe firms. Again power and money, but also prestige.

                      Don’t you think that some people become doctors instead of nurses because they want a little
                      bit of the prestige that brings?

                      Don’t you think people sometimes take promotions because of the respect and prestige? Or choose to work for some companies and organizations rather than others?

      2. Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue?

        Why publish an op-ed on a trivial issue? Is this really a matter of public concern, or was it just a cheap shot?

        My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” tweets.

        His guess sucks. Does Gigot even understand why the column was offensive?

        In this case the Biden team was able to mobilize almost all of the press to join in denouncing Mr. Epstein and the Journal.

        It’s all a conspiracy against the WSJ. Maybe it was denounced for good reason.

        The outrage is overwrought because, whether you agree or disagree, Mr. Epstein’s piece was fair comment.

        And fair game for criticism.

        Many readers said Mr. Epstein’s use of “kiddo” is demeaning, but then Joe Biden is also fond of that locution.

        Idiotic. We don’t normally assume that we are entitled to call people by the same pet names their spouses use.

      3. Seems like an odd strategy. Most of the people who will see the issue her way are the costal elite types who already vote for Biden.

        Swing voters will be put off.

  26. Thank you for a measured analysis of this topic. The “Dr.” in her case is appropriate in an academic setting, but as you described below it does not follow the convention of how we use Dr. in our everyday interactions. To be honest, I thought she was a medical doctor when someone said she should be the next Surgeon General. So with that, all the more reason for it not to be used outside of academia.

  27. Now for an interesting historical tidbit. In England at least into the 18th century there were some lawyers who were referred to as “doctor” Why? Well, they were lawyers trained in civil law (either canon law prior to the Reformation or Roman law thereafter) and were members of the Doctor’s Commons. In England’s common law system, one area that was still dominated by civil lawyers calling themselves “doctor” were the admiralty courts.

    For example, here is the record of the trial of Captain Kidd which was under conducted under England’s admiralty jurisdiction. As you can see, several of the attorneys involved are referred to as doctor, like Oxenden and Oldish but at least one, Moxon, is referred to as “Mr.”


    1. My understanding is the the German convention is to refer to people with additional education as Dr. as well, but I’m not real clear on how that works.

      Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was awarded an honorary doctorate and often referred to a Dr. In fact the name of his first company was “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratung für Motoren und Fahrzeuge,”

      1. I had two professors in college who were historians of Germany who talked about how the Germans are very into the title of “Doctor.” German academic obsession with title is a descendant of the Prussian nobility/military obsession with titles and rank. As the academy developed and became formalized, the academics became title obsessed to put themselves on par in terms of prestige with nobles and military officers.

        One said that when the apartment he was staying in found out he had a PhD, they immediately changed his name on the mailbox (or directory or whatever it was) from Herr So and So, to Herr Doktor So and So. The other had a PhD and a JD, he said the custom was to refer to him formally as Herr Doktor Doktor So and So.

        1. I know someone over there who couldn’t get a credit card until he told them he had a PhD — and yes, his credit card is “Dr. —–.”

        2. If anything, you are underestimating the German devotion to titles.

          I studied abroad in (then-West) Berlin when I was in college, and the father in the family I stayed with was, IIRC, Herr Professor Doktor Ingenieur So-und-So, at least professionally — we were all on a first-name basis within the family.

      2. I have a couple of Doctors above me in the org chart, and they’re in Germany, so I can confirm that. I don’t know that they’d get upset if you forgot to call them that, they’re pretty cool guys, but that’s how we refer to them even when they’re here in the US.

        Personally, I refer to everybody as “doc”, if I’ve just asked them what’s up.

  28. Dr. Volokh’s (;) ) seems to stress two points in regards to why Biden’s Ed doesn’t warrant the title.

    1. Time. He says the Phd is 4-5 years full time and the Ed is 3 years part time. But there are lots of Phd programs that are 2-3 years full time

    2. Finishing project. He says the paper Biden did isn’t the equivalent of a doctoral dissertation because a dissertation is something that involves a “substantial original work of scholarship—something that adds materially to the body of the discipline’s theoretical knowledge.” But case study dissertations are not uncommon (especially in fields like Business, management, public administration, even anthropology). And Delaware says this about the position paper: “The EPP must conform to standards of writing, reasoning, and argumentation consistent with doctoral level scholarship.”

    1. Queen Amalthea: The EPP must conform to those writing, reasoning, and argumentation standards — but as the University of Delaware site makes clear, it doesn’t have to conform the substantive requirements of a Ph.D. dissertation: The EPP is supposed to be an “educational leadership portfolio” that “addresses problem of local, practical importance,” as opposed to the Ph.D. requirement of a “dissertation” that “addresses problem of generalizable significance.”

      1. It’s like a case study (or in anthropology an ethnography) then, right? That’s a common type of dissertation in many Phd fields.

        Would you concede that Masters Theses are not usually required to “conform to standards of writing, reasoning, and argumentation consistent with doctoral level scholarship?” Because if so this seems to undercut your argument that the position paper seems more like a Masters Thesis….

        1. Congratulations on and thank you for saying ‘seems.’

      2. Prof. Volokh, you are confusing two things here — the distinction between “research” as defined by the PhD/EdD, and academic rigor.

        Addressing the latter, Dr. Patrick Chavis was a real MD, he got the seat that ought to have gone to Allen Baake. And I say “was” — see: http://www.jeffjacoby.com/10931/affirmative-action-can-be-fatal

        And I think you’d admit that not all law schools share the same level of academic rigor.

        But don’t confuse that with a distinction between theoretical and practical. It’s like engineering which is applied science & math — not pure and for a long time wasn’t considered a legitimate academic field.

  29. Years back, a fellow appeared regularly on TV talk shows and news programs to passionately announce his discovery of some dreadful, often cancer-related, threat to health from one foodstuff or other. Some of his claims seemed extreme or implausible. He was introduced with the honorific “Dr.”.
    Because he was so confidently addressing heath related matters, listeners assumed he was an MD. In fact, though he had a PhD, he had no formal medical training whatever. He used the honorific to lend artificial authority to his terrifying food scares and to quell skeptics [“Hey, he’s a doctor, he must know”].
    One evening, he was a guest on talk show. The first question out of the host’s mouth was (more or less), “You’re not a medical doctor, are you”? Well, you could have heard the air rush out of the ‘doctor’s balloon when he had to admit that he wasn’t. Although he remained in the field of food safety for many years thereafter, as far as I know, he never again publicly represented himself as “Dr”.

    1. “some dreadful, often cancer-related, threat to health from one foodstuff or other”

      Wait! You mean broccoli does NOT cause cancer?


  30. The WSJ piece is not a smear, but it is a bunch of silliness. Let her call herself what she likes. Others will judge whether her chosen title is earned respect or pretension.

    The only non-silly part of the article is this sentence:

    “The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences.”

    This is the result after the federal government has poured billions into higher education. Perhaps our paradigm needs to be rethought.

    1. “The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences.”

      It’s also probably false. Ask any historian for instance, they’ll probably all say its harder now than it was fifty years ago. More language requirements, more and more works to master, more theory/philosophy more emphasis on inter-disciplinary approaches, etc.

      Political scientists also likely have to deal with far more complex mathematics and statistics today than in the past. Probably can say the same for sociologists and economists too.

      1. “Ask any historian for instance, they’ll probably all say its harder now than it was fifty years ago”

        LOL Of course they would say that.

        Its like lawyers complaining about law school, its to show how tough you had it.

        1. They say that because their older advisors have told them it was easier. No less of a historian than Bernard Bailyn talked about.

          1. It’s more rigorous and there are no jobs. My advisor was no slouch and this is how he contrasted his 1960s-70s experience to my 1990s-2000s. (I left A.B.D.) Now it’s ever worse, particularly on the “no jobs” side.

            1. One reason I went to law school rather than applying for graduate school in history was because (even with the then and current legal market) it was less rigorous and had more jobs.

      2. There is no question that becoming a real doctor, as in a medical doctor, is much easier now than it was in the past. Interns in the 1950s were required to do things like 36 hour shifts for starters. While long hours like this may not have made them better doctors it was not something easy to do. I suspect as many others have posted how hard, or easy, current degrees are to get depends more on which school is granting the degree than anything else. I can still remember being a freshman in 1965 and being warned that freshman English and freshman math classes were ‘flunk out classes’. FSU and UF are the flagship state universities in Florida and fully 1/3 of the incoming freshman class were required to take remedial English; something more wide spread than I expected.

        On the other hand I was an undergrad math major and was a little shocked when my sister-in-law asked me to check her daughter’s math homework. The word problems were not what I would expect in terms of syntax and grammar; but more shocking was how long it took me to understand just what was expected as an answer. There was also the disclaimer that the student’s process in reaching the answer was more important than getting the correct answer. I did read the section in my niece’s text book and figured out what they were looking for and corrected the homework.

        But I was reminded of Bill Buckley’s tongue in cheek warning that he was against sex education in public school because public schools had taken intrinsic interesting subjects like math and poetry and made students hate them; something that would be a disaster if they made students hate sex.

    2. I’m all for evolving standards; it’s not year 1301 any more. As you point out, “seriousness” evolves.

      My freshman year roommate has spent his entire career on the gravity wave project (along with 100s of others). His direct mentor got a frackin Nobel Prize (Rai Weiss. look him up). So now that Einstein has been right (about 100 years after the theory), should we declare all physics PhDs worthless because there is nothing “original” to do? Meh, no.

      There’s cutting edge “coming up with relativity and e=mc^2” and there’s experimental affirmation of stuff we (think we) know … versus “yep gravity works in county xyz of Nebraska”.

      But localized gravity maps are still valuable. Do you like your gps? Thank a bunch of physicists, geologist, and mathematicians. Someone does that work,

  31. “But why shouldn’t an Ed.D. (again, as opposed to a Ph.D. in education) be treated like a J.D. for title purposes?”

    Because it’s not the same, EV. This is an “old man, yelling at clouds” argument. You even lost Brett Bellmore on this one. Given that you used to have posts discussing the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism, I am surprised.

    Breaking it down:

    Why do attorneys not call themselves doctors? Because of convention. It’s the exact same reason some attorneys append esquire to their names. Because of convention (and pretension).

    Why, in the United States, do we normally reserve “doctor” for M.D. (medical doctors). Again, convention. In some places, like the UK, other conventions rule (surgeons, for example, are not called doctors for long and stupid reasons, while other doctors are).

    PhDs are usually called doctors … because they always have been. In fact, that’s where the “medical doctor” got its name, as you know. In professional situations, formal situations, and academia, it is usually proper to still go by doctor, but many often refrain from doing so in informal situations because of the confusion with medical doctors. If you say, “Hi, I’m Doctor Smith” at a party (as opposed to on a campus) many people would think you were an M.D. because of convention, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that.

    EdDs are doctors because they have a doctorate, and because of convention. They call themselves doctors in academic and formal situations, and are referred to as such.

    TLDR; there is no objective, EV-approved “You must study this long in an EV-approved class in order to get this honorific.” There is no knighthood that is conferred upon you, nor is there an independent doctor register. Which doctorates we choose to choose “doctor” in different setting is done by convention.

    I am baffled at this post, EV. This is weird given your posting history.

    1. I agree that this is decidedly not a big deal. But I also genuinely assumed that Jill Biden was a medical doctor until I saw this op-ed (or rather, the fallout from it). For someone to insist on a title like this strikes me as remarkably pretentious, and the lack of a solid record of achievement to support it exacerbates the problem. So I can’t really complain if Dr. Volokh wants to debellare superbos a bit.

  32. To be clear on the history, even medical doctors aren’t “doctors” in the original sense. The title Doctor was traditionally given only when you had earned the highest degree available in your field. That is, to a PhD.

    Most medical doctors never get a PhD. Their training is the equivalent of a Masters program. Somewhere in the late middle ages, the medical profession decided that they wanted more prestige so they bumped up their title to “doctor” even though they were not earning the top degree available.

    Other professions (including JDs and EdDs) eventually followed but you all are posers. By historical usage, none of you deserve the title “doctor” and anyone who insists on it is a pompous jerk. On the other hand, anyone who fights about it is a jealous jerk. The degree itself is basically meaningless. Sure, it indicates attendance (and payment) at a school somewhere. And hopefully, it hints at some minimum level of competence. but no one is going to hire you just because you have a title after your name and you haven’t made the world a better place just for having those initials. What matters is what you do with that education. Titles don’t give you a clue about that.

  33. The point is the opinion writer did not take issue with
    Dr Kissinger
    Dr King
    or any other Doctor or non doctor

    HE took issue with one person, who happens to be female when all the other non offending Dr’s are male

    that is the point of the argument

    1. Lynne Cheney has a PhD. Did anyone call her Dr. Cheney when she was married to the VP?

      Biden uses DrBiden as her twitter handle. She needed some ridicule.

                1. None of those are from when her husband was VP.

                  Other than that, great post!

                  1. No, they have no relevance to someone else.

                    They refer to her – Dr. Cheney’s – qualifications.

                    That’s kind of, uh, the point.

                  2. “I see many distinguished guests here tonight — members of my Cabinet, members of Congress, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and so many respected writers and policy experts. I’m always happy to see your Senior Fellow, Dr. Lynne Cheney”

                    George W Bush
                    Address on the Future of Iraq
                    26 February 2003

    2. Kissinger – PhD from Harvard, 1954
      King – PhD from Boston Univ, 1955
      “Doctor” for PhD holders has been the rule since the title’s origin. Gender has nothing to do with the fact that an EdD is not a PhD.

      If you’re going to be a troll, at least try to be a good one.

      1. Its only two examples, one a guy who has been dead for 50 years and one who is 97.

        George Will has a Ph. D. from Princeton, ever hear him called “Dr. Will”.

        1. https://www.aei.org/events/the-conservative-sensibility-george-will-in-conversation-with-robert-doar/

          “AEI’s Robert Doar hosted syndicated columnist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author George Will on Tuesday night to discuss Dr. Will’s latest book, “The Conservative Sensibility” (Hachette Books, 2019). That sensibility, Dr. Will explained, is a fundamental recognition that the principles of our country’s founding are worth defending. . . .”

          1. The more apt point is whether George Will ever presents himself as “Dr. Will”. My impression is that he generally does not, but I’m happy to be corrected.

            1. Okay, but that’s not how BfO formed his question. It looks like some people call him “Dr. Will.”

              I agree that George Will doesn’t usually mention his Ph.D. and he is not normally referred to as “Dr. Will.”

    3. Kissinger and MLK had real-world accomplishments beyond a degree, lending support for use of the honorific, but you go ahead and make the argument about sex.

  34. Some things just aren’t a big deal. This is one of them.

    If people with these degrees need their egos gratified by calling them ‘Dr.’ then you call them ‘Dr.’

    The purpose of etiquette is to help people feel more comfortable and also to demonstrate you are someone who knows social conventions and are therefore trustworthy and can be relied on. It’s not to show off how you know the rules and they don’t. Nor is it to put people in what you perceive to be their social place. Etiquette is a shield, not a sword.

    This isn’t any different. The correct use of “Dr.” is no different from the correct way to hold a knife and fork or any other social convention.

    1. If people with these degrees need their egos gratified by calling them ‘Dr.’ then you call them ‘Dr.’

      And in fact, according to the WSJ rebuttal, this is the reason.

      The issue of Jill Biden’s educational honorific isn’t new. As long ago as 2009, the Los Angeles Times devoted a story to the subject. From the piece by Robin Abcarian: “Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, explained that his wife’s desire for the highest degree was in response to what she perceived as her second-class status on their mail. ‘She said, “I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden. I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.” That’s the real reason she got her doctorate,’ he said.”

    2. ‘If people with these degrees need their egos gratified by calling them ‘Dr.’ then you call them ‘Dr.’’ That’s a sad way of living. I prefer ignoring egocentric insecure jackasses whenever possible. Courtesy counts, but insufferable assholes don’t need to be massaged. This is as true of politicians as it is administrators, bureaucrats, and any other petty mind. If the case is that one needs something from them, then by all means, feign politeness.

    3. You need your ego gratified by having me call you “Doctor.” I need my ego gratified by not referring to you as “Doctor.”

      Whose ego wins, and why?

  35. I think the real question is – are social sciences, in their current political ideological form, even a legit academic discipline? I would venture to say the answer is a solid no.

    1. You would venture to say that because you are a smarmy person who thinks their ignorance is as good as other people’s knowledge.

      Lets take my favorite example, history. You probably think that they’re a bunch of lefties who make things up. But you’ve also never:

      Mastered over a century of historiography in several fields,
      Mastered at least two languages,
      Done extensive archival research,
      Produced a peer-reviewed piece of historical scholarship.

      Since you’ve never put in the work, then how can I take your claims about the field seriously? If I’m wrong you can point me to your scholarship.

      1. “Mastered at least two languages,”

        Only if you intend to focus on a non US area.

        From Yale: “2. American. One language relevant to the student’s interests. Additional languages as needed.”

        1. For others, more than two.

          My bachelor’s degree is in religion and medieval & renaissance studies. I had to study two languages for the second major and chose French and German (in addition to my high school Latin). I also took course in Old English and Old French, and the “middle” forms of these languages were assumed. (They are not that hard, frankly, and Old/Middle French is a good basis for understanding Romance venaculars generally.)

          I then applied to grad school in history concentrating on medieval Europe. Formally I had to have two languages at the “mastery” level as discerned by the language departments so again did French and German. My advisor naturally required Latin and checked that proficiency himself by conducting an “off the books” Latin readings course and assigning untranslated Latin in his other courses. It was also no excuse that a significant secondary work was in a language one did not read, so I faked my way in Italian and Spanish. (Here Latin and all that French were very useful.)

          My department was better known for American history. They theoretically had to get by in one language.

      2. Why did you even bring up history as a discipline. I did not even mention. Do you have to make your own strawmen to win an argument?

        1. You brought up social sciences.

          While some classify history as a field in the humanities, others consider it a social science. For instance, the University of Chicago.


          Not my fault you stepped on this particular rake because you didn’t know something.

          1. Problem is there is no rake. It is a figment of your imagination. Just like the social science are not riddled with axe-grinding-ideologues dragging it down as a discipline.

            1. You being wrong about two things was not a figment of my imagination.

              1. The modern left is just plain blind to how it is acting these days. Fascinating.

                1. How does me pointing out that you are wrong about 1) the legitimacy of an academic discipline and 2) history being a social science have anything to do with the left or blindness?

    2. You would be wrong. Very wrong.

      1. Your lack of coherent argument would suggest otherwise.

  36. ‘And lawyers in America definitely don’t get called “Dr.”‘ — I love the understatement … yes, usually lawyers get much more descriptive appellations.

  37. “Perhaps that’s because in most fields it’s seen as a higher honor;”

    I think it’s because most students don’t know offhand whether their professor has a doctorate or not. Many don’t, so “professor” is safer.

  38. EV, I don’t say this lightly but you are wrong. First let me collect examples of professional usage, then criticize your proposed rule.

    As we all seem to agree, use of the title “doctor” in professional/occupational contexts is universal for holders of healthcare-related doctorates. This includes the M.D. most notably but also includes the D.O., D.P.M., and D.D.S. as well as the O.D. (e.g., the person who signs your eyeglasses prescription) and Psy.D. This usage is not because we think these are research degrees!

    As some have pointed out, it is absolutely customary in fields where holders of the Ed.D. work to use the title “doctor.” It is quite common for high-school principals, school district administrators, school board members to hold the Ed.D. and in my experience they always use the title “Dr.” This was true in the suburban, majority-white district where I grew up and attended school in the 1980s-90s and it is true in the urban, majority-black district where my kids attend school today. This is a fixed custom and I am quite surprised by your contention it is not.

    By contrast, there is no context in the United States where use of “doctor” is customary for J.D.s. Use of the title by attorneys (if using the sole basis that a J.D. is a doctorate) is actually banned in some jurisdictions, apparently because of the danger of confusion with medical doctors. Some lawyers do apparently use the title “attorney.”

    What about “doctor” for the Ph.D., which we all agree is an advanced research degree? In my experience this title is very rarely used by engineers and scientists working outside academia. My father is a Ph.D. who mostly worked outside academia and very rarely used this title professionally or socially. (I did not learn until much later than many of his colleagues whom I’d known when I was a child also held doctorates, since they were all just “Mr. Jones,” “Mr. Bracco,” etc.) My legal work brings me into contact with many technical experts. Some of them hold the Ph.D. but almost none of them use the title “doctor.”

    Conversely, in academia use of title “doctor” for holders of the Ph.D. is becoming more common, particularly for non-professors. E.g., my wife holds the Ph.D. and is an administrator serving as assistant director of a areas studies center whose director is a figurehead faculty member. She normally uses the title “doctor” since she isn’t primarily a professor (though she does have an adjunct appointment and does teach) but “miz/missus” seems inappropriate. This also reminds faculty that she has the same credential they do.

    There is a gender aspect to this. Where we attended grad school (UVa) there was a culture of eschewing the term “professor” entirely, reserving “doctor” for medical professionals, and referring to faculty as “mister” or (I suppose) “miz.” The latter rarely came up since nearly all female faculty considered the ban on “professor” as a relic of single-sex education. “The students called their schoolteachers ‘missus.’ I have an advanced degree and this is college, so I should be ‘professor.'”

    I think I have collected sufficient examples to show that actual usage doesn’t conform to some rule about the rigor of the degree but instead a few cluster of professional preference. Specifically:

    –Holders of healthcare-related doctorates always use the title “doctor.”

    –Holders of education doctorates also always use the title doctor.

    –Holders of the usual legal doctorate never use the title “doctor.”

    –Holders of the “real” doctorate, the Ph.D., sometimes us the title and sometimes do no.

    Your proposed rule that “doctor” is reserved for holders of research degrees really does not hold up because it does not explain the legions of physicians, dentists, optometrists, etc. who are consistently called “doctor” even though they hold a vocational degree.

    1. “Holders of healthcare-related doctorates always use the title ‘doctor'”

      Agree generally, but slight quibble with this quote. It is my experience that physical therapists and occupational therapists, don’t often use it (not sure what the pharmacist convention is). When I needed PT for something, the PTs all usually went by their first names when interacting with patients. One told me that if a patient was giving them a hard time they would remind them they were a doctor and knew what they were talking about.

      1. Fair enough. There are some functional exceptions, likely in part to avoid confusion between the medical professional providing the specific treatment and “the doctor,” typically an M.D.

        I once met a monk who held a doctorate in nursing: Brother Doctor Nurse.

    2. Why is the Ph.D. the “real” doctorate?

      It’s not the original, and they’re not the “real” doctors. When this debate comes up from time to time, I find most people without doctorates say that physicians are the only “real” doctors.

      1. The Ph.D certainly precedes the M.D.

        The original “doctorate” was a teaching credential, awarded in medieval universities. A “doctor” was someone qualified to form and teach a doctrine.

        Originally, physicians and surgeons were two separate vocational paths, and were trained by apprenticeship not university. Physicians only joined academia in the 18th century, and adopted M.D. to distinguish themselves from Ph.D.s.

        Surgeons later merged with physicians, although it is interesting that surgeons in the UK do not call themselves Doctor even though they go to the same medical schools as physicians.

      2. Note I am responding to EV and put “real” in quotes.

  39. “Biden’s thesis”

    Did Neil Kinnock’s wife write it first?

    1. Timely reminder from … 1987.

      Hey Bob- 1987 called. It said, “Remember when you were middle aged? Good times!”

      1. I don’t know — Paul Gigot, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Dianne Feinstein? I think 2020 may be some sort of hellish replay of 1987 — all we need is “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and “We Built This City” to be playing on continuous loop to complete the torture.

        1. Sounds like hell.

          And the target demographic for Fox News.*

          But I repeat myself.

          *Sorry, that’s way to liberal. OANN? Newsmax? It’s funny that we lived to see the day when the conspiracy-minded were all like, “Oh, that Fox News spends too little time spewing out fact-free conspiracy theories. We need a place that is completely divorced from reality!”

  40. A good rule of thumb for when to use titles in a social setting, i.e. outside academia and professional conferences…

    You are in a crowded restaurant. Someone calls out: “Is there a doctor here?”

    If you stand up, then you are a Doctor.

    1. A joke that has been made by the family of every Ph.D., but it also suggests EV’s rule that “doctor” means “holder of an advanced research degree” is wrong.

    2. And I’m sure that the Rheumatologist would try to help, but the non-MD Paramedic could do a lot more…

    3. Woman screaming from a booth in the corner. Man shouts, “DOCTOR! WE NEED A DOCTOR! ARE THERE ANY DOCTORS OF EDUCATION IN THE HOUSE!?”

  41. The contexts in which this question arises are more numerous than most people realize, I think.

    The principal of my children’s K-8 school was an EdD. who went by “Doctor.” One of their teachers did the same.

    When I was an undergraduate all my professors went by “Doctor” except the young hip ones who liked to be on a “first name basis” with everyone.

    When I did my PhD, the graduate faculty were mostly happy to be on a “first name basis” with grad students, but some insisted on “Doctor” on solidarity grounds: they felt that faculty from underrepresented demographics needed an explicit and normalized way to emphasize their credibility and authority to students with stereotyped views of what a professor should look like. We grad students were all explicitly instructed by the DGS to refer to visiting speakers, interviewers, etc. as “Doctor” unless invited to do otherwise.

    The “sexism” angle crops up a lot with Doctors of Nursing Practice, who are nurses that sometimes insist on being called “doctor” in spite of the potential for confusion there. Since nurses are more likely to be women, the refusal of some M.D.s and D.O.s to refer to DNPs as “doctor” can be a matter of heated debate.

  42. Just call her “stupid bitch.” Women don’t deserve any stature or respect.

    1. The rest of my post got cut off. Was supposed to be “Women don’t deserve any stature or respect, not when they’re actively trying to subvert Western society.”

      1. As an advocate of inclusion I support this pathetic incel’s voice being published here!

    2. Ladies and Gentleman, the post-2016 GOP!

      1. Kirkland.

    3. Lol, you’re a bad person.

      1. No, liberals are bad people.

        1. Dude. Just admit it. You want to murder people you don’t like, are a racist, and literally just said that half the human population doesn’t deserve respect. I don’t think there is any widely accepted moral or ethical system in which someone who believes the things you do could be considered “good.” Maybe you can’t help it because of some kind of personality disorder, but nonetheless you are what you are.

          1. Just admit it. You want to commit genocide against white people so that you can eliminate all the remaining vestiges of Western culture and its associated superiority.

            1. I don’t want to systemically eliminate White people through murder. So I can’t admit that.

        2. “No liberals are bad people.”

          Not any of them?

    4. “Just call her ‘stupid bitch.’ Women don’t deserve any stature or respect.”

      YOU don’t deserve any stature or respect, stupid bitch.

  43. When Jill Biden can (lawfully) remove an appendix, I will call her doctor. I don’t even refer to myself as ‘Doctor’, except in introducing myself to patients, I am a physician.

    I believe (I’ll defer to the native Russian-speakers) that the term ‘academic’ would be useful to describe non-medical holders of doctorate degrees.

    But an Ed.D? Seriously? The only terminal degree easier to get is a DD (and even that was beyond Al Gore)….

      1. In the extraordinarily unlikely event that you actually have an Ed.D and aren’t simply lying about it as you do about so many other topics, I think that’s a more than adequate demonstration of how much respect its award should accord a recipient.

      2. He meant easier to get for persons of at least normal intelligence, so he wasn’t referring to your degree, Ed.

    1. Twas a good thing you put lawfully in there, Doc, because I definitely can perform an appendectomy, with minimum chance of infection, good suturing. Might even have minimal scarring on exterior. But, only in emergency situations.

    2. An “academician” is a member of a national academy, many of which were formed on the model of the French Academie des Sciences. The Soviet/Russian title “akademik” refers to members of the Soviet/Russian Academy of Sciences and is granted to the most accomplished scientific scholars. The British equivalent is “Fellow of the Royal Society.”

      1. We don’t have a federal members-only club of scientists here in the United States.

    3. “When Jill Biden can (lawfully) remove an appendix, I will call her doctor.”

      Remember that in the old days, barbers doubled as surgeons.

      Besides, you forgot to mention that you want the patient to survive sans appendix, or a good number of AF pilots would qualify, as a 500-pound general-purpose bomb will do an adequate job of removing appendixes (and lungs, livers, hearts, kidneys, and bones)

  44. On the other hand, the New York Times, which has a custom of referring to people on second mention using their titles (rather than just last names), called her “Dr. Ghez” rather than “Ms. Ghez,” reflecting the custom of calling people with Ph.D.s Dr. in that context.

    I read an article in the New York Times just the other day that referred to Rand Paul, M.D. as “Mr. Paul.”

    1. The NYT actually has a rule on that.

      Everyone gets a courtesy title on second references.

      Generally, “Dr.” is reserved for holders of medical doctorates who are active in medicine or a related field.

      “Dr.” can also be used if the subject holds a non-medical doctorate, is commonly known by that title, and requests it. Journalists are to take steps ensuring readers do not mistakenly conclude from this use of “Dr.” that a person is a medical doctor.

      Thus, Ben Carson and Rand Paul are usually referred to as “Mr.” because they are considered active in politics, not medicine.

      George Will would also be “Mr.” because he holds a non-medical doctorate and isn’t commonly known as “Dr. Will.”

      By these standards, it would seem Jill Biden should be “Dr. Biden” only if a great deal of care is exercised.

    2. “I read an article in the New York Times just the other day that referred to Rand Paul, M.D. as ‘Mr. Paul.'”

      Probably should have referred to him as “Sen. Paul”. Whatever put him in the news is probably more relevant to his status as a Senator than as a holder of a medical degree, and “Senator” is the status harder to obtain, and thus more respectful.

  45. Look, can we all agree on at least one thing?

    Dr. Jill Biden is at LEAST more deserving of respect and an honorific title than Dr. Ed.


    1. I can’t speak to that, but how would Mr. Ed fit into all this?

      1. Also more deserving, Wilbur.

  46. It does seem that women with a doctoral degree are more inclined to use it to avoid the endless confusion and debate that comes with the “Mrs/Miss/Ms” title, and I’m inclined to be more generous with the use of “Dr” for women for that reason. Lawyers, of course, have the option of avoiding the title debate by adopting “Leslie Pereira, Esq”, which I suspect is one reason why they have less use for the doctoral title than others who hold non-medical, non-PhD doctorates.

    For both men and women, I tend to regard it as pretentious to insist on “Dr. Biden” in circumstances where titles would normally be dropped, but when the alternative is “Mrs. Biden”, it seems perfectly reasonable for her to prefer the doctorate instead – even where, as with an EdD, it’s the sort of degree where the entitlement to use the title is more arguable than with a PhD.

    For anyone who is not a medical doctor in a professional context to want to be addressed as “doctor” (without a name) is at the very least pretentious and often misleading.

    As an aside, it does seem that some EdDs are basically PhDs with a different name and others are a “higher masters” (like an MBA or an MFA). Perhaps the profession should create an MEA (Masters of Educational Administration) to replace those EdDs and then convert the truly research-based EdDs into PhDs in education (some universities, it appears, already have done the latter). But while EdD degrees are being awarded, it does not seem unreasonable for their recipients to use the title that comes with them.

    1. Lawyers shouldn’t use Esq. to describe themselves.

      “when the alternative is “Mrs. Biden”, it seems perfectly reasonable for her to prefer the doctorate instead”

      She is in the news solely because of her marital status.

      I can see being ashamed of being married to Joe Biden but no reason we should go along with it.

      1. “She is in the news solely because of her marital status.”

        Yup. If anything, it seems MORE appropriate to refer to her as Mrs. Biden than Dr. Biden. It’s the relevant title for the conversation. If she was dealing with a school in a professional context, then Dr. Biden would be appropriate.

        1. My rule has always been that physicians (dentists, etc.) are “Dr.” all the time, and Ph.D.s (etc.) are “Dr.” only when they’re operating in their field of expertise.

        2. “Yup. If anything, it seems MORE appropriate to refer to her as Mrs. Biden than Dr. Biden.”

          If, as seems to be the case, the goal is to disrespect her, then ignoring her doctorate is more meaningful that ignoring her wedding ring.
          The thing is, a lot of people are angry that their choice of idiot didn’t win the election, and they’re looking for someone to take out their frustration on. Dr. Biden didn’t have anything to do with it and just happens to be standing in the wrong place at the time.

          1. I personally am angry that we presented with selection of idiots to choose from, but that isn’t the point.
            Mrs. Biden chose to inject herself into this debate, and she chose to call herself by the ridiculous title to advance her side of the debate. It is false to paint her as an innocent bystander.

            1. “Mrs. Biden chose to inject herself into this debate”

              By existing?

      2. I’m not a huge fan of “Esq.,” but it makes some aspects of law practice simpler since the presence of “esquires” in correspondence indicates counsel and thus triggers privilege and work product concerns.

        1. What really triggers privilege and work product concerns is the attachment of the bar number.

          “Joe Blow, Esq.” could be anyone, but “Joe Blow, bar #100056” is a practicing attorney.

    2. Regarding the last paragraph, that is an ongoing concern. As you point out, some Ed.D.s are research degrees and some are professional degrees. Some schools offer a Ph.D. in education rather than or in addition to an Ed.D., but the difference between the two is not systematic.

      Certainly a Ph.D. has greater cachet and I would expect some Ed.D. programs that require original research and high levels of academic rigor in preparation for university faculty position to rebrand as Ph.D. There has been a similar evolution in theology where some Th.D. programs (e.g., Harvard, Princeton) have rebranded as Ph.D. in theology. This helps graduates compete for academic jobs against, e.g., Ph.D.s in religion and emphasizes that the degree is not professional ministerial education.

    3. “As an aside, it does seem that some EdDs are basically PhDs with a different name and others are a “higher masters” (like an MBA or an MFA).”

      I think I see where you were trying to go with this, but calling an MBA a “higher masters” is just wrong. I enrolled in an MBA program before figuring out that it was a waste of time and money and pursuing a real MS. The giveaway is that you don’t need a degree in business to go to b-school for an MBA. They’ll take anybody with a bachelor’s and some ready cash. As commonly implemented, an MBA is really a postbacc BS in business for people who earned a first degree in some other field. There was more accounting in my AAS in Computer Information Systems than there was in my MBA program.

  47. I follow a simple rule:

    I only refer to a person as “Dr.” if they don’t get offended when I don’t.

    A person who feels the need to be aggrandized by a title is necessarily in need of the mild slight of not referring to them by that honorific.

    1. I like that rule too. Goes along with my intentionally using a deviant transgender’s birth sex just to annoy them.

      1. Doing things just to annoy people is something bad people do…

        1. I plead the 5th to that.

        2. “Doing things just to annoy people is something bad people do…”

          So is claiming to be able to categorically label “bad people” as such, even using clear behavioral cues.
          Which, yes, is what I just did, but I own it and don’t make excuses for it.

      2. Rather, you refer to what you assume a transgender’s birth sex was. Or are you admitting to making forcible inspection to determine same?

        1. There’s no assuming, Pollock. It’s known and it’s a fact no matter what a piece of paper issued by the government or pseudoscience say.

  48. I will stick to my general convention that I’ll call someone by the doctor title when and where it’s professionally relevant — a medical doctor in medical dealings, a professor with a PhD in class, etc. In normal conversation, it’s just pretentious.

    1. In situations where I would normally say “Mrs. Biden,” I don’t mind saying “Dr. Biden,” but Jill Biden constantly wants that “Doctor” in the front like “Doctor” is her first name and “Jill” is her middle name.

      1. When did you earn that degree in psychology that qualifies you to make statements about what Dr. Biden wants? Or is it in parapsychology?

        1. If he had a degree in psychology, it would be unethical for him to make statements about what Dr. Biden wants.
          As an non-diplomate, he can ethically make the obvious observation.

          1. This wasn’t a question of ethics, but rather, one of qualification, or lack thereof.

  49. I must say, the Right Reverend is quite conspicuous in his absence.

    Perhaps his brain ground to a halt (ala Asimov’s First Law paradox) when it finally hit him that we’re about to be led by a pair that both so miserably fail to live up to his oft-brayed educational standards for our “betters.”

    1. Damn it, it’s like the Candyman, don’t say it’s name.

  50. I have a Ph.D. In biomedical science, but since I am not a professor or medical doctor, I discourage being called “doctor”. However, this does not stop others from (ab)using the title. I have also noted the media often refers to anyone affiliated with a medical institution as doctor even if they don’t hold a PhD/ScD/DPH/MD.

    1. ” I have also noted the media often refers to anyone affiliated with a medical institution as doctor even if they don’t hold a PhD/ScD/DPH/MD.”

      this must be very confusing for the orderlies.

  51. “I didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called “mister,” thank you very much.” Dr. Evil.

  52. Breaking News

    Man Chokes In Restaurant, Dr. Jill Biden Springs Into Action To Deliver Educational Lecture


  53. My Dad was a medical doctor but I am not sure I can remember any time someone called him doctor. Truth be told most of the time I spent with him was when we were sailing, cruising, fishing, and similar activities. The thing was when we went to the marina and headed for the boat probably half the peeps we met greeted him as “Doc”. On more than one occasion I was with him when he treated someone for things like a fishing hook in their arm; again he was addressed as “Doc”.

    I have to wonder how Jill Biden would feel if she was called Doc Jill Biden.

    While I do have an MS and a JD I would feel foolish asking to be called Master or Doctor. You can call me anything you want as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

  54. What an asinine article. Action research, which is what most EdDs adhere to as an approach to research is no less rigorous or important that that of a PhD. Does a JD produce a 200+ dissertation? Do they need to get approval from an IRB to finish their JDs?

    A JD is about the same as a terminal masters degree. A PhD is a research doctorate, focused on contributions to the literature. An EdD is focused on research that improves practice. You can still do Quan, Qual, or mixed methods; the fact that it’s not meant to be generalizable in the same way as PhD research is not a weakness: it’s an understanding of what the EdD is. We learn rigorous research methodology in order to continue to improve our curriculum and instruction.

    An MD is far closer in purpose (practical and professional) to an EdD than a PhD. Professional degrees are just that: professional. Not “less than,” just different.

    Maybe JDs should not be called “doctor” because they haven’t yet practiced intellectual rigor at the level of a doctorate, something that is quite obvious in this article.

    1. Not only no, but hell no. If one cannot distinguish the difference between difficulty in fields, then the facile argument here makes sense.

      1. ” If one cannot distinguish the difference between difficulty in fields”

        This is a stupid thing to say. Anybody that shows up claiming to be an expert in a field they haven’t studied is a fool.

    2. “A JD is about the same as a terminal masters degree.”

      Outside of the US, you need a baccalaureate law degree to practice law. In the US, a JD is a professional degree, considered appropriate to practice a profession. Just like what the dentists, veterinarians, and medical doctors get. See also: Th.D.

  55. I think if your discussion of whether or not to call Dr. Biden by “doctor” comes down to whining that no one calls you “doctor”, when you haven’t even asked to be called “doctor”, then the problem isn’t with Dr. Biden and her title, but with you being an insecure whiner.

    In short? When reasonable, respect how other people ask to be referred to. Both “Ms.” and “Dr.” are reasonable titles for Jill Biden to claim, and so trying to substitute your own judgement for hers is an act of disrespect.

    And yes, if you asked to be referred to as “Dr. Volokh”, I’d have no problem doing so. This isn’t complicated.

    1. “When reasonable, respect how other people ask to be referred to.”

      Why? What’s wrong with respecting one’s own reasonable preference about how to use honorifics?

      1. “When reasonable, respect how other people ask to be referred to.”

        The point here was not to respect anybody, but rather to DISrespect.

      2. What’s wrong with respecting one’s own reasonable preference about how to use honorifics?

        Let’s say you know a guy named David. You decide to call him Davy, because you like nicknames that end in “y”.

        He tells you, “I don’t like that, call me Dave or David”. What’s the reasonable, respectful thing to do? (A) Ignore him and keep calling him Davy, or (B) honor his request and call him Dave or David?

        Let’s say you know a woman that recently got married. She was previously Ms. Smith, now she’s Ms. Doe. You decide to keep calling her Ms. Smith, and she asks you to cut it out.

        What’s the reasonable thing to do? (A) Keep calling her Ms. Smith, as a way to express your disapproval of her marriage, or (B) Start calling her Ms. Doe?

        Let’s say you meet a guy that, due to a quirk of family tradition, shares first and last names with his father, their names only being differentiated by his middle name. He asks everyone to call him by his middle name.

        What’s the reasonable thing to do? (A) Insist on calling him by his first name, as is your preference, or (B) call him by his middle name, like a reasonable human being?

        You go back to school, and get a teacher. The teacher is very formal, and requests everyone address them by their title and last name.

        Do you (A) call them by their first name, deliberately antagonizing them, or (B) call them by their title and last name?

        Hint: if your choice is ever “do what I want, contrary to their request”, then you’re an asshole who, as I surmised above, doesn’t understand “respect”. People’s names are their own, not yours. It’s comparable to treating other people’s property according to their standards, and not your own. It’s also a trivially easy way to give deliberate offense, which I’m sure you’re aware of.

        In short: your feigned ignorance fools no one.

        1. You’re conflating title and name.

          I agree that in most cases, it is respectful to call a person by the NAME that they prefer.

          If they demand to be addressed by a TITLE, then you are not necessarily under an obligation to oblige them.

          This does not mean that you are disrespecting their accomplishments.

          1. Depends on whether they’re demanding to be addressed by a title they have earned, or one they have not been able to earn. If Tony Hawk starts demanding to be called “Doctor of Skateboarding”, approximately nobody is obligated to do so. On the other hand, if he were to actually get an academic institution to award him a doctorate, then he’s “Dr. Hawk” no matter what your opinion of skateboarding might be.

  56. “I have PhD’s in both psychology and parapsychology.”

    1. Ghostbusters for the win!

      1. There is only Zuul.

  57. The people whom I have known who felt most strongly that a J.D. was not the same doctorate and those possessing only a J.D. should not be addressed as Dr. were colleagues who were J.D./Ph.D.s.

    I would also add in my experience in educational administration/higher education administration (decades worth) is that there is greater variance within different doctoral programs (Ed.D. and Ph.D.) than between the two degrees so basing assumptions about either based upon an N of 1 is unwise.

    1. the main differences between a Ph.D. and a JD are that A) Ph.D. candidates pass through Masters’ degree programs on the way to their Ph.D. degree, and JD’s may or may not continue after earning a JD to also earn an Ll.M. degree and B) Ph.D. candidates are expected to produce an original contribution to/for the human race’s accumulated trove of knowledge.

      Another difference, though not a major one, is that when Ph.D.s publish, the publish in journals that are reviewed by other Ph.D.s, whereas when J.D.s publish, they publish in journals that are reviewed by J.D. candidates. Or the self-publish online.

  58. Jill Biden’s insistence on being called “Doctor” is annoying because she feels the need to whip it out constantly, in context where we don’t normally use titles. In a situation where we are addressing each other by title, then I find the use of “Dr.” by someone who isn’t in medicine to be a trivial annoyance. But if we’re not in a situation where we’re using Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss./Rev./Capt./Sen., then calling yourself “Dr.” is just obnoxious.

    Unless we’re addressing formal correspondence, putting placecards on wedding tables, or writing something according to a stylebook, we generally skip the titles entirely, especially with full names. We say “Donald Trump,” not “President Donald Trump.” No one else on the Cosby Show credits was listed as “Mr.” or “Ms.” but Bill Cosby decided to be “Dr. William Cosby.” But Jill Biden wants to be called “Doctor Jill Biden” in ever context as if “Doctor” were her first name.

    1. But of course, it is VITALLY important that we categorize the womenfolk by whether or not they’ve been able to rope down a man, so none of that “Ms.” bullshit around here! They either got a husband, or they don’t.

  59. This op-ed fails to make sense. The author assumes that proper ways to address people are about difficulty or rigor or even sillier course credit hours. The terms of address are not about congratulations but about knowing whom someone is addressing or who is being referred to in a news story.

    If a story mentions an attorney – esq will make that clear, a medical doctor, MD, a doctorate recipient Dr.

    These exist for communication and having custom allows for instant understanding and avoids confusion – parsing things improperly – according to course credit is not on point – the POINT is a shared custom which is quite clear in terms of manners and proper addresses.

    Jill Biden is Dr. Jill Biden, Lawyers are simply not addressed that way – and to do so would be confusing.

    We simply need to follow protocol not dissect it.

    1. Lawyers worked out how to award themselves with titles, and started adding “, Esq.” to their names, as literally any other person is entitled to do, but nobody else does.

  60. When I was an MBA student at U. Chicago more than 40 years ago, we were told to address the professors as Mr. rather than Dr. We were told that the tradition dated back to when Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi taught there (likely apocryphal). When he was hospitalized there once after receiving the prize, the nurses referred to him as “Mr. Fermi” without knowing his reputation. When they learned about his fame, one of the nurses apologized for not addressing him as “Dr. Fermi.” He supposedly said that “Mr.” was fine because they needed some way to tell the scholars apart from the doctors! At least that’s how it was explained to us.

  61. A JD is more like an MD than it is like a PhD. Both JD and MD are professional-school degrees, and neither one requires as much rigor as a PhD.
    Achieving any of the three is an accomplishment worthy of respect.

  62. The most highly-paid professional at nearly every research university is not called “doctor”. He is called “coach”.

  63. This seem to me to be much ado about nothing. I have both a J.D. and a Ph.D., and I work at a university. We call professors who have Ed.D. degrees doctor, just like we call professors who have Ph.D. degrees doctor, or professors who have other professional doctorate degrees (D.M., for example) doctor. In short, in the non-legal academic community, if you have a doctorate degree of any stripe, you may use the title, even if your doctorate is a J.D. The fact that lawyers and law school professors do not use the title is one of long-standing tradition more so than any impropriety. That said, you are correct in noting, at least implicitly, that there is an academic pecking order with the Ph.D. at the top and the Ed.D. on the bottom rung with the J.D. and other professional degrees somewhere in the middle. The Ph.D. degree is the hardest to earn.

  64. Since apparently all the Kool Kids are elevating horseshit Trumpian name insults the level of Principled Discourse, I’ll be calling you “Tiny Vegney” from now on.

    I’m sure you won’t complain, but if you do you’re part of cancel culture.

    1. I’m sure you won’t complain, but if you do you’re part of cancel culture.

      Whence comes this bullshit that any “criticism-of-criticism” constitutes canceling.
      Canceling is when a person loses his job, his friends, his ability to make his way in the word, because he expresses his opinion.
      Incidentally, Joseph Epstein, the author of the article, was removed from Northwestern’s listing of its emeritus lecturers because of this. Weak canceling, but the best Northwestern could do.

  65. I have a JD (from the same school as Professor Volokh) and whenever the school sends me mail or calls me (usually asking for money) they refer to me as Dr. I get really confused for a minute. My initial thought is they’re looking for my uncle who is a real doctor with a Ph.D from the same university and has the same last name as me. I guess I don’t mind it if someone else wants to refer to me as Dr but it would be downright shameful to demand someone else refer to someone like me as Dr. I mean, come on, seriously?

  66. A doctorate is an earned degree, and it requires a dissertation; a dissertation requires research. Both Dr. Jill Biden, and my mother, who has a EdD, are called “Doctor,” and should be; I have a PhD and I also am called doctor. No one in any of my academic positions has ever suggested otherwise!

    Someone in this conversation has suggested that professor does just as well as doctor. However, “Professor” is a position, not a title. Most universities level their positions as Assistant Professors (or Lecturers), Associate Professors, and finally, after yet MORE research and publishing, Full Professor. So “professor” so and so is not an option, or at least not an accurate one. It’s much more inappropriate to take on a position one has not attained than it is to use the title that one has actually earned.

    Dr. Jill Biden earned her doctorate, and anyone not willing to give her the credit for that (and having seen my own mother go through an EdD program, there is nothing “easy” or less intense than my own doctoral program had been) is successfully demonstrating more about their own insecurities than they are disrespecting a woman who completed classwork, wrote numerous research papers, and finally, composed a useful document on an important topic. The degree she earned was a Doctor of Education. I mean, it says DOCTOR, right there in the degree!

    It has not been the custom of Master Plumbers to call themselves “master,” but if they did, I would never try to say that I had the authority to determine if they “deserved” to be called “master” or not. I am satisfied that those master plumbers have a series of strenuous tasks and projects and examinations they have to complete to become master plumbers (and a Master Plumber absolutely advertises as a Master Plumber). I am certainly not going to tell the guy fixing my sink that he really shouldn’t advertise as a master plumber because it sounds pretentious.

    I notice that most of the PhD’s here agree that those who have earned a DOCTORATE in Education are and should be called Doctor…I am shocked that anyone would think otherwise, but some people are just not willing to let a woman take credit for what she has earned. That, and anti-intellectualism, are the only reasons I can think of to even broach this issue.

    1. “Someone in this conversation has suggested that professor does just as well as doctor. However, “Professor” is a position, not a title. Most universities level their positions as Assistant Professors (or Lecturers), Associate Professors, and finally, after yet MORE research and publishing, Full Professor. So “professor” so and so is not an option, or at least not an accurate one. It’s much more inappropriate to take on a position one has not attained than it is to use the title that one has actually earned.”

      It is true that in a research university, not everybody who teaches a class is a “professor”, although a lot of people don’t realize that. However, a number of private schools do assign the title of “professor” to everybody who teaches. (See, e.g., the fictional Hogwart’s school of magic, which hired practitioners as “professors”.)

      Isaac Asimov, the science-fiction author (among other writings) earned the academic title of Associate Professor of Biochemistry, a title he held until he died even after he suspended his teaching career. On the other hand, Edward Elmer Smith, another early SF author, had earned a doctorate and is commonly known as E. E. “Doc” Smith and is credited as such on his book covers.

  67. Lawyers are not called doctors. Not sure why but maybe it is honor enough being called a lawyer by itself. I know lawyers in the past were referred to as Lawyer plus their last name, i.e. Lawyer Brown, Lawyer Smith, and so on. Also, lawyers get to be esquires. In the profession that Dr. Biden is in being called doctor is an indication that she has earned the highest degree in that career path. She has earned a masters plus advanced study and a dissertation past a masters. She has earned the right to that honorific. I don’t think it is our call whether she should or should not use it. It is relevant to her profession.

    1. ” Also, lawyers get to be esquires.”

      Of course, literally everyone else can, too.

  68. Th.D holders are also doctors, although many receive titles from their church organizations that they prefer to be known by.

  69. My father (a dentist at the time) told me there are only two reasons a person might legitimately call himself “Dr.”:

    1. He wishes it known that he has medical training that might be called upon in an emergency, although that should also apply to nurses and paramedics, which it emphatically does not.
    2. He wishes to get a good reservation at a restaurant.

  70. The prior first lady lied under oath(!) about having a degree in architecture, when she had actually spent that time in naked lesbian photoshoots (hard to pose under those bright lights). WSJ, National Review: Nothing

    New first lady has a 45 year teaching career, earned a real degree but under some interpretations, she shouldn’t use “Dr.”. Elitist! Poser! Faker! Horrible degrading person (see the National Review).

    Me: “Hmm… This is all purely objective ‘reason’ing.”

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