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Introducing a New Expert Content Section: Careers!

How do you feel about using your professors first name?

TheAverageJoe71TheAverageJoe71 Registered User Posts: 35 Junior Member
I generally feel comfortable with using my professors first name. However, when I hear a student use doctor when referring to the professor, I typically call them doctor after that since I feel it is safer to in that case. I have noticed that most of the time, it is considered acceptable to use your professors first name in college. I feel like part of the college culture and how it differs from high school culture is that the professors treat you more equally to them as opposed to acting as an authority over you, and I feel like part of that is letting you use their first name. I have even had professors explicitly tell me and the class that it is okay to use their first name.
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Replies to: How do you feel about using your professors first name?

  • aunt beaaunt bea Registered User Posts: 9,122 Senior Member
    I agree that if the professor tells you that it's okay to call them by first name, then you can do that. My children use the "Dr." label often, since they don't feel comfortable presuming informality.
    The majority of my professors assumed that the students would use their titles-they earned it.
  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri Registered User Posts: 6,987 Senior Member
    edited July 11
    At the college where I work students call the professors Professor + Last Name. None of them use their first names with students. The professors at the colleges my children attend also use their titles. I'd address them formally unless they tell you otherwise. That's a good policy for business too.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 34,599 Super Moderator
    edited July 11
    I'd address them formally unless they tell you otherwise.
    Agreed. Follow the lead.

    I had an instructor who on the first day of class said, "When you graduate, feel free to call be Steve. Until then, you may address me as Professor Smith."

    On the flip side, I had another instructor who said, "Please feel free to call me Peter. I am not a medical doctor, so I prefer not to be called 'Dr.' and calling me "Professor" reminds me that I was denied tenure."
  • jujunette01jujunette01 Registered User Posts: 74 Junior Member
    start by addressing them formally, but then do what they ask. if they ask you to call them by their first name, it is considered rude to call them doctor in some instances
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 9,184 Senior Member
    I cringed every time a classmate called our instructor Ms. Lastname instead of Professor. It felt so disrespectful.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 34,599 Super Moderator
    I cringed every time a classmate called our instructor Ms. Lastname instead of Professor. It felt so disrespectful.
    Well, it depends on the person's job title. If the person is a female lecturer without a doctorate, I would certainly address her as Ms. Lastname.
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 326 Member
    At my institution faculty generally go by Professor or Dr. X. There is the occasional professor who has a terminal degree of MFA (for ex) and therefore is never Dr. X but might be called that by accident. I never invite first name basis until my students graduate.

    @skieurope I don’t understand why being called professor would remind someone of being denied tenure. If someone earns tenure they are also called professor (as they were before tenure). Failing to finish the PhD would deny you the right to use doctor. But failing tenure has no such trigger. Can you elaborate? I’m curious.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 34,599 Super Moderator
    edited July 11
    @skieurope I don’t understand why being called professor would remind someone of being denied tenure. If someone earns tenure they are also called professor (as they were before tenure). Failing to finish the PhD would deny you the right to use doctor. But failing tenure has no such trigger. Can you elaborate? I’m curious.
    I did not ask his rationale. I suppose it's because since he was denied tenure, his job title is not "Professor" (or Asst/Assoc Professor). @ProfessorMom1
  • ProfessorMom1ProfessorMom1 Registered User Posts: 326 Member
    edited July 11
    @skieurope. Ok. That’s still odd bc if someone is denied tenure, they’d most likely be denied further employment anyway. Anyone on tenure track with a terminal degree would still be “Professor”. Oh well. I suppose all institutions have their peculiar policies. Thanks for the clarification.
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 9,184 Senior Member
    Well, it depends on the person's job title. If the person is a female lecturer without a doctorate, I would certainly address her as Ms. Lastname.

    She was an "Assistant Teaching Professor" with no PhD, but I feel like that's beside the point.
  • InigoMontoyaInigoMontoya Registered User Posts: 1,704 Senior Member
    H was very young looking when he started teaching, and felt awkward with Dr. + LastName, so he goes by Dr. + FirstName.

    However, most students begin by addressing him as Dr. + LastName and then he invites them to use Dr. + FirstName.

    There are many professors and lecturers who do prefer to be called by their first name, but I would never assume that. Even with H's co-workers, many of whom are much younger than we are now, I address them with their professional title until they indicate they prefer informality.

    While the relationship between college faculty and students is at a different level, never forget that the faculty are still the authority figures, regardless of how informally they prefer to be addressed. Best to begin the relationship with respectful formality and be invited to be informal than to make assumptions and offend a professor who prefers to be addressed formally. It's their choice, not the student's.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 10,457 Forum Champion
    You should always assume Dr. Lastname unless you have specifically been told by the professor otherwise.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 34,973 Super Moderator
    When we met, my husband was my dad's engineering student. For years after we were married, DH still called my dad "Dr. __." After we had kids, DH started calling him "Granddad."
  • NewBeginnings3NewBeginnings3 Registered User Posts: 427 Member
    I may be old-fashioned, but I always find it wise to address a professor with formality. If a professor wants to be addressed by his or her first name, he or she will be very explicit about that on the first day of class.

    You don’t want to be put in that awkward situation where you call a professor his first name and he corrects you. I’ve seen that happen to some peers, and it makes me embarrassed for them.
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