When it comes to overblown titles, one thing that’s rampant in the Christian world (besides mail order degrees) are pastors and other leaders using honorary doctorates as if they were actual Ph.D. degrees. In case you were wondering – authoritative sources say they shouldn’t. While there are only a few instances I could find of written policies such as this one from Brandeis University, many, many university presidents, and highly regarded professors agree: an “honorary” doctorate is more of a “lifetime achievement” award. Certainly it’s a great honor, and should be celebrated, but it’s in no way comparable to a degree that someone works years to complete.
From one major Christian university president:
“I don’t usually refer to honorary docs as Dr. It’s a principle thing, but there are no rules on this. What irks me most is when those with honorary docs call themselves Dr. It’s one thing for others to use that title, but another thing for the recipient to use it.”
From a department head of a leading seminary:
“There is nothing against the use of Dr. explicitly, but it normally is abbreviated h. c. (for cause out of honor) in a CV to distinguish it from an earned versus honorary degree.”
Another major Christian university president:
“The practice is long standing in university life, but NO, no one who gets an honorary doctorate ever takes upon themselves the name, “Doctor.” That is an earned title.”
Enjoy your honorary doctorate. Frame it and put it on the wall. List it as an honorary award on your resume or CV. But pastors and ministry leaders – let’s save the “Dr.” title for those who have actually earned it.
Anyone care to disagree? Do you think the title of “honorary” doctor is overused?