For example, If I got a PhD from a school in Pakistan or North Korea would the United States still legally recognize it?

  • 4
    The US has no such concept as "legally recognizing" a PhD. If you have a PhD from some institution, every person and organization gets to make their own decision as to what to do with that fact (offer you a job, etc). Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 21:08
  • @Nate putting a dr. Before your name with out a doctorate does have legal issues so yes there is someone who must decide.
    – William
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 21:09
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    Can you give a specific example of such issues, i.e. a particular statute that you think might be violated by using this title? I'm not aware of one. Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 21:12
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    @William: Using a tittle does not have a legal issue; purporting to be a registered professional without being one (e.g. a medical doctor or a lawyer) has legal ramifications. There is no legal issue with falsely claiming a doctorate, outside normal fraud considerations; I think your confusion comes from the American usage of "doctor" to refer to physicians. So calling myself "Dr. Sharur is not illegal; Calling myself "Dr. Sharur, MD" would be.
    – sharur
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 21:12
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    @William there are indeed laws against misusing titles in some European countries, and I suspect that you may be European since you did not use a capital D in "Dr," as is customary in English. The US does not have such laws, however. If you use a title falsely and your employer finds out, they can fire you, but it's not generally illegal.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


No. Nor would the United States recognize your degree if you got them from the UK or France, or even from within the United States. The United States does not legally protect or sanction PhD holders as such, and has no role in the awarding of nor forming guidelines for PhD programs (other than funding, directly or indirectly, much of the research that is required).

Your comments suggest that you think there are legal issues with falsely claiming to hold a doctorate; there are not, outside of normal fraud concerns for deception (wherein someone relies on you or your expertise to their detriment, based on your ), which can affect legitimate doctorate holder's as well (for example, someone with a doctorate in Music presenting themselves as an expert in Economics, for the purposes of soliciting investments, say).

For example there are a variety of performers who do not hold doctorates, but legally have stage names containing "Doctor" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stage_names has a dozen), because they are committing fraud in doing so (a claim of "I liked this song when I thought it was written by a PhD" would be laughed out of court, because holding a PhD has no bearing on musical composition).

There are, however, legal issues with falsely claiming to be a member of certain legally regulated and licensed professions in the United States, such as lawyers and physicians. I believe that this is the source of your confusion, as these professions often have protected titles that contain the term "doctor", such as physicians (MD, for Medical Doctor, and dentists(DDS, for Doctor of Dental Surgery). It should also be noted that physicians are almost universally addressed as "Doctor", but very few actually hold doctorates, the MD being a non-academic professional degree that doesn't require doing any new research.

  • So if I published a book under a dr. John Smith even having a legit doctorate but let's say in a different field could cause legal issues if it isn't relevant to the field.
    – William
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 21:53
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    Only if it could be proven that the deception caused you harm; generally speaking, "I bought this book because I thought this writer had a doctorate" is not harm, because you got the book you paid for. "I'm Dr. (of Music) John Smith , and if you pay me I'll tell youf what changes my economic research suggests you should make in your cooperation to make more money" seems more actionable, but I am not a lawyer.
    – sharur
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 22:05
  • @William No. If my mother (who had a PhD in Educational Administration) had published a book about Ancient Greek linguistics, for example, it would not have been improper for her to be identified as Dr. Willeke. And unless you specifically state on your resume that you have a doctorate in something that you don't and merely state you have a PhD that fact that you are doing work outside your field as a consultant, for example, is irrelevant. Legal consequences are limited to licensed professions (doctors, lawyers, professional engineers, CPAs, actuaries, etc.).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 12:58
  • @William my father who worked in public health had a colleague with a Ph.D. in musicology. Her stationery identified her as Jane Doe, Ph.D. Apparently there was some grumbling about this from some people when they found out that her Ph.D. was not in public health, but there were no legal consequences. Her position was that she worked hard for that title and she was going to use it.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 21:55

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