How to Address a Professor

How to Address a ProfessorAssistant ProfessorAssociate Professor or Any Other Type of Professor

See also how to write an email to a professor.

—-Envelope or letter’s address block:   Note #3
—-—-(Full Name) (post nominal(s) for degrees held)

—-—-(Full Name) (post nominal(s) for degrees held)
—-—-(Graded Rank of Professor)

———-Which looks like: 
—————-Robert T. Barbee, Ph.D. —–Note #3
—————-Associate Professor
—————-McIntire Department of Art
—————-XYZ University
—————-1234 Campus Avenue
—————-City, State and ZIP

—————-Robert T. Barbee, Ph.D. 
—————-McIntire Department of Art
—————-XYZ University
—————-1234 Campus Avenue
—————-City, State and ZIP


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—-Envelope, social:
—-—-Dr. (Full Name)    #1

—-—-Mr./Ms. (Full Name)    #1

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. (Surname):    #1
—-—-Dear Professor (Surname): —–#2

—-#1) ‘Dr.’ is used as an honorific if the person has a doctorate. ‘Mr./Ms.’ is used if an individual does not hold a doctoral degree,

—-#2) Anyone holding one of the graded ranks of professor (professor, associate professor, assistant professor, adjunct professor, etc.) may be addressed orally as ‘Professor’ or Professor ‘(Name)’ – especially in the classroom.

—-#3) Graded levels of professor, e.g., assistant professor or associate professor, are not used in oral address and are seldom used in written address. They most often appear in publications and on lists where the specific hierarchical position is pertinent.

– Robert Hickey

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Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

May an Instructor be Addressed as Professor?

Is it appropriate for a part-time lecturer at a community college to identify or describe himself as a professor?  Can students call me Professor (Name)?
————–– DW

Dear DW,
Anyone teaching at a college/university level can be broadly identified or referred to as a ‘professor’. But only those with a graded rank of professor – professor, associate professor, assistant professor, adjunct professor, etc. – who are orally formally addressed as Professor or Professor (Name).

A lecturer or instructor is more correctly addressed as Mr./Ms. (Name) and should identify himself as a lecturer/instructor (whatever term the institution suggests).

I suggest if someone calls you professor, let it slide. But since you are in a hierarchical culture, it is better to describe yourself as exactly what you are.

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

Is a Retired Professor Still Professor (Name)?

I know I am still Dr. (Full Name).  But am I still ‘Professor (Name)’ now that I am retired?
—-– S.H.W.

Dear S.H.W.,
The short answer is yes. Here are some observations on the question:

—-#1) In the U.S., use of ‘Professor (Name)’ as a form of address is most often tied to the teacher-student relationship. Address as Professor (Name) rather than Dr. (Name) is a courtesy acknowledging the role in the relationship.  It is most frequently used with one’s teachers: a former student can still greet a former professor as Professor (Name).

On an envelope or a letter’s address block a retired professor with a doctorate is addressed as Dr. (Name) and when identification is  warranted (like in an introduction) he or she is identified as a ‘retired professor of ABC at XYZ university’.

—-#2) It’s done differently in Commonwealth countries and where British styles holds sway. There, one’s name is like a resume/curriculum vitae. The formal forms of the names include every honorific, courtesy title, honor, rank, and degree the person has ever been awarded. Names get very, very, very long.

—-His Excellency Ambassador Professor Dr. (Full Name)

In may cultures, if an individual ever taught a course – they like to be addressed as Professor or Professor (Name) for life.  You see this most often in cultures where marks of status (special forms of address) are very important. Everyone is trying to present themselves as elevated. They also use specialized honorifics, not limiting themselves to just Mr./Mrs./Ms. You will see – Lawyer (Name), Engineer (Name), Architect (Name) and Accountant (Name). A retired professor with a doctorate might want to be addressed as Professor Dr. (Name).

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Professor with a Military Rank?

What is the proper form of address for a USN Captain with a Ph.D., who is now a university professor? I’ve encountered Captain Doctor [Name] once or twice on the Internet, but it seems like a bit of a mouthful.
——————-–- P. L. Scott

Dear Mr. Scott:

—–#1) In the United States we only use one honorific at a time. Orally or in a salutation he would be at different times:
—–—–Dr. (Name)
—–—–Professor (Name)
—–—–Captain (Name)

—–#2) Retired officers are entitled to use their ranks socially. But when they take a job in retirement, they use a form of address supported that subsequent job. In this case it would be the form for professor.

He’s entitled to both. Ask him his preference. He may have a preference at the university and another form he preferrs – socially – outside academia.

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Law Professor with a J.D.?

How to I address a law professor? Is the “Esq.” credential acquired upon receiving a law degree, or does it take effect when admitted to a state bar?
What about law professors who don’t keep their licenses active?
When does one become an Esq., and when does that status end?
—-– D.Y.U.

Dear D.Y.U.:
—-#1) Esquire is not a license or credential. When one attorney contacts another attorney regarding a legal matter –for which they provide counsel, the traditional form of address in the U.S. is:
—-——–(Full Name), Esq.

—-—-Esq. is added to the opposing counsel’s name to indicate ‘this is a communication about a legal matter for which you are the opposing counsel’.  In the public’s mind it is a professional post-nominal for some legal qualification – but that’s not what it is.

—-#2A) Law faculty use J.D. as part of their name in keeping with the tradition of academia.  Law professors don’t use Dr. (Name).  Address as Professor/Mr./Ms. (Name).   Check for local practice / the tradition at your school.

—-#2B) Non-law faculty (history, mathematics, biology…) holding doctorates ARE addressed as Dr. (Name) or Professor (Name)  in oral conversation or a salutation.

—-#3) If writing to a retired law academic or retired attorney – don’t use Esq or Dr.  If you are sending personal correspondence to a law professor or a practicing attorney – working or retired – they are simply:
——–—-Mr./Ms. (Full Name)

For more on Esquire and it’s correct use, follow the link.

– Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”