Foreign doctorates in the U.S.

Hi, I’ve done some googling on this, but apart from the impression that it’s probably more complicated in Germany than anywhere else[sup]1[/sup], I got nothing.

I hope there’s a factual answer, but opinions from native speakers would do in a pinch. (In other words, mods, please move to IMHO if you think that’s a better fit.)

I’m a veterinarian, and I’ve recently completed my doctoral studies[sup]2[/sup] in Germany. Over here, I can now legally call myself “Doktor”, specifically “Dr. med. vet. Fish Cheer” (short for the Latin Doctor medicinae veterinariae, which is to say “doctor of veterinary medicine”). A DVM that is automatically awarded to any vet school graduate like in North America does not exist in Germany. When you graduate from vet school, you’re simply a vet, not a “Doctor”. (It’s the same for the people doctors, by the way. There are no professional doctorates, and merely completing med school does not entitle you to use the title of “doctor”.)

Now, what title would be appropriate to use when dealing with people from the U.S. or Canada (I’m mostly thinking e-mail signatures and letterheads here)? Are there any hard and fast rules on using foreign doctorates in the U.S. or Canada?

Some examples: Am I…

Dr med vet Fish Cheer (duh; like it better without the dots, though)
Fish Cheer, Dr med vet
Fish Cheer, DVM
Fish Cheer, DVM, PhD
Dr Fish Cheer, DVM, Phd
Dr med vet Fish Cheer, DVM

… or any other combination of those? Or something else entirely?

I’ve seen things like Dr Fish Cheer, MedVet, PhD, but I’m not sure what to make of that.

Which style would be least likely to confuse people who are only familiar with North American academia?

What’s more, I got my veterinary degree from a school that’s not accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association - no German vet school is (and hardly any European one, for that matter). Do I need to add information on where I got the doctorate?

like: Fish Cheer, DVM, PhD (Berlin)

[sup]1[/sup]hardly surprising; case in point:
[sup]2[/sup]see also Doctorate - Wikipedia

Native US English speaker here.

I would think that “Dr. Fish Cheer” would be perfectly acceptable.

In English, the title “Dr.” or “Doctor” replaces the postnominal letters, so you could address someone with a US Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree as either “Dr. John Smith” or “John Smith, DVM”, but never “Dr. John Smith, DVM”. Same thing with a research PhD, MD, DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery, the standard dentist degree), or other professional doctorates.

Notably, the JD (Juris Doctor, the basic degree for attorneys), according to social custom, does not grant the holder the right to be addressed as “doctor”, even though a JD is considered to be a professional doctorate.

In Canada, the same holds true, except for the quoted statement. Looking through the business cards of a few veterinarians I’ve taken my cats to, I find both usages (“John Smith, DVM” and “Dr. John Smith, DVM”); and in one case the veterinarian’s bachelor’s degree is listed as well: “Dr. John Smith, BSc DVM.”

If you say “Dr. John Smith” people will tend to assume you are an M.D., or possibly a dentist, unless the context is clear since generally those, in my experience, are the only people who generally go by Dr. in non-professional circumstances. So “John Smith DVM” would probably be clearest (though some people might not know what a DVM meant).

I suggest you approach the German embassy in Washington.

Some people might, but it may be dependent on context. On a university campus, referring to someone as “Dr. Smith” may lead someone to assume that the person has a PhD and is a faculty member there.

Personally, I think plain Dr. is fine, and if anyone asks what kind of doctor you are, you can say that you are a veterinarian with <list degrees and specify that they are German>.

Use your German title. I’ve seen letters from British academics addressed to Herr Prof. Doktor Schmitt and the like. I see no reason why it should differ outside of academia. Further, trying to translate equivalent qualifications breaks down (especially with Germans, and the German speaking world), as the UK and US don’t have any equivalent form of the Habilitation, for instance.

I teach in Korea. Teachers with a Master’s degree are entitled to the title “Professor” here. I only have a BA, but according to some, I can use the title too. I don’t.

<offtopic quotes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas>

</offtopic quotes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas>


This. I have a Master’s degree in science, but that degree is not “MSc”. I have a doctorate, but I don’t have a PhD (even if it’s a PhD-type doctoral degree). Thus, I would never use “2square4u, PhD”. If you worry about those who don’t know the German system, “Dr” is usually enough information anyway.

And, yeah, I’m a bit irritated that people with a non-doctoral medical degree put “Dr. thisandthat” on their doors or business cards.

The normal practice (in the United States, at least) is to use either an honorific before the name (“Dr”) or a post-nominal after the name (“PhD”), but not both at the same time (Here’s a cite, if you can ignore the poor graphic design.) However, note that, except in very specific circumstances, one does not use the honorific (“Dr”) when referring to oneself (cite). In addition, you would never use the honorific (“Dr”) after the name. Among these three guidelines, that means that you would *not *use [del]Fish Cheer, Dr med vet, Dr Fish Cheer, DVM, Phd, or Dr med vet Fish Cheer, DVM[/del].

Finally (if I remember correctly), your post-nominals shouldn’t be redundant. If “DVM” and “PhD” both refer to the same degree, then you should use one or the other, but not both. (You may use multiple post-nominals to refer to multiple degrees or certifications if relevant.) In professional correspondence, the rule here should be nominally set by the professional organization, as it indeed seems to be: “Fish Cheer, DVM” appears to be preferred.

Finally, although I’m not a veterinarian, I note that the AVMA does recognize “listed veterinary colleges” seperately from accredited ones, so it seems to me that your use of “DVM” would be acceptable.

You should use the title that has been awarded to you in Germany. In the US, there are rules that are established by the licensing boards of the various states for the manner in how you “hold yourself out” as a particular licensed individual. If you try and mimic the US style you could be making an ethics violation by attempting to hold yourself out as a US licensed vet.

Just to be clear, it sounds like you got a regular veterinary degree intended for practicing vets, then did extensive additional studies (for several years) including a major thesis, in order to get a PhD?

If so, then IMHO, “Fish Cheer, DVM, PhD” is the best. No chance of accidentally making people think you’re a medical doctor (for humans), and won’t annoy anyone who doesn’t like PhD’s using 'Doctor So-and-so". In an academic context, being called “Doctor Cheer” is acceptable, especially if you need to get other PhD’s to listen to you, but only then, IMO.

Bolding mine. These people exist?

Thanks a lot, all of you!

Yes, Quercus, that’s exactly what I’m trying to convey, and I think your suggestion would be the least confusing option.

Fish Cheer, DVM, PhD

But as Wilbo523 and even zut (by his/her very instructive AVMA links) have pointed out, calling myself a DVM might not be appropriate. And, (as per 2square4u’s post) even the PhD part is not exactly true. I have completed German vet school (making me a Tierarzt), and then spent three years on a research thesis (which I defended successfully, making me a Doctor medicinae veterinariae). But I have no diploma that explicitly says DVM or PhD.

The safe approach probably is

Dr. med. vet. Fish Cheer
My current institution

But I will contact the embassy anyway (thank you, Quartz). They should know.

You should not “translate” your degree. You should use only the degree as granted by the institution that granted it. Further clarification might be necessary.

Other people might address you as “Dr. Fish Cheer” or “Dr. Cheer” but in my opinion you should never give yourself that designation prenominally when you write your own name.

So of the University of Berlin granted you both a D.V.M. and a Ph.D. (and that’s how the University of Berlin writes those degrees)–

Fish Cheer, D.V.M., Ph.D. (Berlin), veterinarian

I have heard, and this is surprising hard for me to research, that some people want to make it illegal for anyone other than an M.D. to use the title Dr., or to imply they are doctors. So I’d have to say ‘yes, such people exist.’

Just look for the “doctor” threads on this board. Plenty of people hate on non-physicians’ using “doctor.”

Well, too bad for them. “Dr.” implies a doctorate, not that the person in question is a physician. Doctorates are not limited to medicine. I’m a doctor, but I’m definitely not a physician

ETA: but I have to admit, I’m guilty in using my “Dr.” title in heated discussions with nurses…