Two questions

1. What are the perceptions, advantages, disadvantages, etc. involved in putting ", PhD" after your name? I know some people do it and others don't, but why? I get the sense that Bitch PhD's pseudonym is intended to have a dramatic pause before the "PhD" part. I believe that when she started her blog, she had a period after "Bitch," and the "PhD" part is added (if you're reading it out loud) as a "Ms. Jackson if you're nasty"-style afterthought.

I ask because I just received business cards with my contact information. When ordering them, I looked at some samples from other professors in my department, and they had the ", PhD" after the names. I went ahead and put it on there, too, but I don't put the ", PhD" part on any other correspondence. I'm not sure why. I guess for some reason it seems more suited to an industry context, and I've also wondered in passing if putting the ", PhD" after the name carries a certain hint of insecurity -- like "I have a PhD, see?"

2. I've been thinking about job placement rate statistics. Let's say you have a graduate program, and they claim to have a 100% placement rate (as many in my field do). What would you need to know in order for that number to be really meaningful? I submit the following; anything else?

  1. Number of years searching: Say that 100% of the graduate students get jobs the first year on the market, or that 100% of the graduate students get jobs, but 80% of them have to search for five years or more -- two very different situations.
  2. Number of jobs applied for by candidates in the program: Are those 100% of the graduate students who are getting positions applying for ~140 jobs? Or is the program still able to claim a 100% placement rate even though some (or all) graduate students are being a little more selective -- doing regional searches, or only applying to certain kinds of schools?
  3. Kinds of institutions where the program is placing students: I'm not saying that some categories of institutions are automatically or necessarily better than others, and I suppose this question doesn't much matter from an administrative standpoint, but as a prospective graduate student trying to decide on a program, I'd want to know that. Are the students coming out of a given program successful in getting jobs at the kinds of institutions they want? For example, if they're interested in positions at small liberal arts colleges, HBCUs, schools overseas, schools in urban areas, etc., are they able to get those?
  4. Kinds of jobs: This is a pretty obvious one, but are all of these tenure-track jobs? Does a non-tenure-track or administrative job warrant a +1 in the placement category? That's fine as long as those are the jobs that the candidates wanted, but if not, it would be kind of misleading to put those as positives in the placement category. It would amount to saying, "We have a 100% placement rate! Not one of our graduates is unemployed *cough!--but some of them are underemployed--cough!*"
  5. Job candidates' options: I know there's the "you only need one job" argument, but as a prospective student, I'd also want to know if most folks coming out of a given program had multiple offers, or if they barely managed to get one.

I know there are all kinds of individual complexities and good reasons that some people coming out of the program should not be counted in either category: "successfully placed" or "unsuccessfully placed." Still, though, I think directors of graduate studies should always tell prospective students the whole story when it comes to placement. I'm sure most of them do, anyway; I only mention it because in my field, which is much less competitive than others when it comes to getting tenure-track jobs, many -- if not most -- of the PhD programs claim to have a 100% placement rate (jobs are so plentiful, in fact, that it's sort of bad if a program doesn't have 100% placement).


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Question 1 only

It has always been my impression that people using Ph.D after their names were either 1) at an institution that has a fair number of folks without Ph.Ds teaching, or 2) were a bit insecure. Same for Dr. as a prefix.

Business card etiquette

I used to think that the Ph.D. after the name was a bit redundant, since after all the title and field usually communicate that information to the savvy reader. But it turns out that in many cases that isn't so. I have a friend who is a "lecturer" at a major university, because though she has a Ph.D. she doesn't want to bother with the hassle of tenure track. The Ph.D. on her card allows people to take seriously her expert status (and she is an expert in her field). Also, my husband has a university business card with an M.D. after his name. As a patient, it can be helpful to know whether your physician is an M.D.; an M.D., Ph.D.; an M.D., M.P.H.; or a Ph.D. epidemiologist with no M.D. So yes, I do think the Ph.D. is a useful clarification.

business cards

2 Board Alley
I don't have a Ph.D, but I do have business cards. My way of looking at it is that when I'm at conferences and am sharing my cards and getting a fistful in return, I am giving people a snapshot of who I am and how to contact me. I'm not trying to show off my credentials, but it may be important in some instances for people to know that I have an M.A. (ONLY an M.A.? or, WOW, an M.A.!)and am an associate professor. I know that when I look at other people's cards, I don't really pause at their degree creds--just scan them and move on.

my thoughts

I'm all for the PhD at the end of the name but when I saw a fellow grad student who had only recently defended his dissertation already had checks printed with "Dr. so-and-so" in the address section, I thought that was way too desperate for attention.

Business Cards & Courtesy Titles

This reminds me of Deborah Tannen's "There is no unmarked Woman" because the courtesy titles offered women - Ms, Mrs, Miss, PhD - require (and allow) us to make distinctions. Tannen recounts reactions when she uses PhD - Oooh, excuuse me - you are a Dr.! I only have an MA and there seems to be no courtesy title to go with that. On top, our department does not make business cards for instructors. So - when I am going to a conference - as CCCC upcoming - I use some homemade cards with only my job title.

My question for others: What signature block do you use on your email and when? I now have one that I use with students and textbook publishers and sometimes with colleagues on my level, but rarely with colleagues who are above me in rank.

This is an interesting dilemma.

Sara Jameson


The AP Stylebook knows all:

"Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, or doctor of podiatric medicine degree: Dr. Jonas Salk.

"If appropriate in the context, Dr. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. However, because the public frequently identifies Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to assure that the individual’s specialty is stated in first or second reference. The only exception would be a story in which the context left no doubt that the person was a dentist, psychologist, chemist, historian, etc."

NOW, the underlying point is this: Context and propriety.

I have "B.S., B.S., M.A." in my hedder now, but when I started my blog it was "B.S., B.S., (M.A.)" to signify that the M.A. was incomplete. Now it's complete, and I leave it, well, because it goes along with the whole idea of an "erudite" "redneck." :-)

My bidness card, as a longtime ink-stained wretch, does not reflect my degrees, but it never occurred to me to slap 'em on there. I think it would neither help or hurt. It'd just be a flourish.

Here's the deal: If you busted yer ass to earn the damn thing, and you still owe half a fortune to pay for it, for God's sake don't let anybody talk you out of showin' it off if you want to.

There's a small chance that I will go on for the pee aytch dee myself. I'll be damn near 50 if and when I complete it. I for damn sure will be wearin' it on my sleeve.

Anybody who says that's a sign of insecurity is either just plain jealous or the kind of person who likes to bring people down to their own size, IMHO, and I tend not to give a damn what people like that think in the first place.

Of course, I know sharks swim in academic circles. They can kiss my M.A. :-)

Erudite Redneck

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