Thursday, June 25, 2015

Do you put "Ph.D." behind your signature when signing documents?

A great question from chemistry Reddit user "packpeach", who asks: you include PhD in your signature at work? I get that if it's an informal email/letter/note/memo you sound like an ass if you sign PhD but if you're signing something official is it okay to sign it after your name?
I sign batch production records routinely and that sort of thing routinely, and I don't put "Ph.D." behind my signature.  No one else does, either. I don't remember what my professors did in graduate school, when they were signing theses and the like. Maybe they did? I should go and look.

Also, what's your e-mail signature look like? Mine's the typical:
[CJ Chemjobber]
Research chemist
Forest City Chemicals
Every now and again, I'll add the "CJ Chemjobber, Ph.D." when I am writing more official e-mails to customers or vendors from whom I'm trying to get quotes from or something. Readers?


  1. Similar. Now I put my title in. I did use PhD more often when I was a postdoc.

  2. It depends on the environment. In most pharma, biotech, materials, CMO/CRO companies if you toss some pasta in any direction it is going to stick to a Ph.D. An internal e-mail signed with a degree could bounce back with friendly advice to check your self-esteem issues with your therapist.

    An external business e-mail/memo may be covered by a company police and there could be a requirement to disclose the title.

    On the other hand if you work for a small government outpost where you might be the other Ph.D. in the county adding the degree to your sig could establish your position as the "Doc" who knows something. You will be tested, though....

  3. Where I work, those with Ph.D.s have them after their name in their signature for emails. I generally just use my first name to sign off on emails, all my information is at the bottom. We have a very friendly work atmosphere, and it doesn't seem to cause any problems/big heads.

    1. Yet, most here comment under the name "anonymous" nor will mention even the industry within which they work...guess I will do same...

  4. Meh.

    I did us the Ph.D. at the end of my name for some letters I sent off to Warren Buffet and Tony Nicely. I had placed a claim into GEICO and the agents called my a liar and some other things when looking over the car and only agreed to cover a portion of the claim. I didn't like this so I wrote those two about the whole ordeal (well documented) and signed Ph.D. I did get a prompt call from a VP and everything did get resolved in my favor. No, I did not lie regarding the claim.

    I just figured that they would take my letter more seriously with the Ph.D. on the end. Would it have worked without out it? Possibly, but who knows.

    Oh, when sending out cover letters and CVs my typed named would have the Ph.D. on the end, but I used my normal signature.

  5. For me it's the same as Anonymous at 6:34PM. My company/university made me business cards that say Uncle Sam, Ph.D. on them, but it makes me cringe a bit and I never use it in email. I never use it on my CV either. It just says under my education where I got the doctorate.

    But that goes back to when I defended my thesis. Not an hour later, my boss asked me if I was now really proud of accomplishing this great deed (or something to that effect), and I told him that no, it made absolutely no difference since there are so many people with Ph.Ds now, and it didn't help you to get a good job anyway. So now the degree didn't matter as much as it did maybe at the time he got it, and that I wasn't even going to the graduation ceremony. He got mad at me, and said "Well, that what was the whole point!? I can't believe you think that way.", but he couldn't stay mad at me for long because it was the day of my defense. I think I was proven right in the long term. What I didn't tell him was that I also thought that some of those who did get a Ph.D. from our university didn't really deserve it. But there are also plenty those who really did earn it, who are now underemployed or doing something completely unrelated which doesn't use any of skills they learned.

    I actually completely ignore the title for strangers, but when my postdoc friend used it a year after getting his degree in all his emails and online social networks, I thought he was being stupid.

  6. "It is worse than I thought" said the psychologist before jumping off the roof in "Criminal Minds" S3 E3.

    Somehow the corporate mind messed with our heads and convinced us that the Ph.D. is "nothing". It is only worth nothing when you buy it on line. We were also infused with a message that we are a commodity. We are not. The number of people with Ph.D. in chemistry is a tiny fraction of the US population. The current job squeeze comes from factors external to us: graduate school politics and corporate reshuffling.

    There are two different and separate metrics that every one needs to keep in mind, and keep them well separated:
    - VALUE - it is how you monetize your education and experience. It is the sum of your social skills and what others want to pay you.
    - WORTHINESS - it is the sum of your mind's productivity and the effort you put into training yourself.

    These two quantities are separate and need to stay that way. Induction of anxiety by forcing you to mix value and self-worthiness is a tool of negative control.

    When we let this mixing happen we let strangers tell us what to feel and think. Like that we should be paid "nothing" because we are worth "nothing". How much we are paid to be chemists is mostly the result of external circumstances. We get to decide how much that Ph.D. is worth to us.

    I suggest that you start adding your well earned three letters and two dots whenever you start feeling uneasy toward doing that. If you still write any checks start by changing your signature at your bank. That will force you to use the complete version of your sig.

  7. I'm staff at a university. It's on my email signature (Old Biddy, PhD) but I don't use that unless I am corresponding with someone and want them to know I'm not a student. When I was in industry I didn't use it.

  8. Re: SJ

    I don't think that I (or my degree) is nothing. I do, however, feel that it shouldn't be necessary to demand respect. Don't take my non-usage of the letters as me seeing myself as a commodity...just as I don't see your usage as a insecurity and demand for respect.

    1. Sorry for not addressing my response more clearly. I was writing more to uncle sam's cringing at the importance of his degree upon graduation. Denying a clear achievement is a dangerous trait. The hazard is that continued self-denial does damage to both value and worthiness associated with the individual's career. Without a hard check there is no bottom to this slide.

      As a father of a high-functioning autistic child I was working with his school on his award acceptance skills. There was little educational progress (despite his measured capabilities) until he was trained to accept praise and acknowledge his achievements. After resolving that issue his progress skyrocketed and now he is a successful college student.

      To briefly repeat myself, the sense of commodity and the associated valuation is usually imposed by the environment. The sense of worthlessness is typically related to an internal struggle.

      As to not demanding respect, I think you are successful at judging when to use your degree and when not to use it. My top comment was meant more as a general guide when you can expect the use of your degree to be helpful and when it may be required. Observation skills, subconscious or controlled, are always useful here.

  9. If it is apart of official communication then your Ph.D. goes at the end just like other professions add M.D. or LL.M. It is your actual title now, however much that has gone out of fashion. What actually counts as official communication for science types probably is limited to legal or employment documentation from my little experience.

  10. Interesting discussion. For correspondence with Europeans, I precede my name with "Dr. rer. nat.". But North Americans would likely be confused by that title. So for them, it's just "Dr.".

  11. I think of this as an American thing.

  12. Decision Tree:

    Is it a personal email to family and friends?
    No title, no degree.

    Is it a work or other professional email to someone I've not met?
    Full title and degree.

    Is it a work email to someone on my team or close colleague?
    No title, no degree.

  13. Corporate internal emails? Generally no, unless I am introducing myself to someone in a far-flung branch of the company, or something very specifically related to IP (lawyers are kind of sticklers about such things).

    Emails to customers, suppliers, etc? Generally yes, until the point we have had a beer together somewhere.

    Emails to friends, family, etc? Never.

    Emails to politicians, reporters, public officials, corporate complaint departments, etc? Generally yes.

  14. Hmm. My previous comment was swallowed by the computer and has disappeared.

    When writing professionally, I always put my name, title, and position on the email. When writing personal emails, I just put my name, or sometimes just my initials.

  15. signing things PhD seems like something a high functioning autist would do

  16. I'm putting it on everything! LOL I earned it I'm using it. LOL