Doctors Day Quotes For Students And Children

How did the abbreviation Dr for doctors originate, and why do engineers not use Er?

The abbreviation originated in an effort to separate people qualified to practice medicine from those holding the highest academic degree i.e. doctorate in non-medical subjects. Hence, a physician or surgeon is denoted by Dr, while the holders of academic degrees are known by the initial ‘D’ e.g. DPhil (Philosophy) or DLitt (Literature). In USA, only dentists and veterinary surgeons are called doctors. Physicians and surgeons are known as such and do not put ‘Dr’ before their names. Engineers, at least in India, put ‘Er’ before their names.

Q. Can an engineer prefix his name with “Er” like a doctor writes “Dr”?

Yes. Engineers in several countries use different prefixes to show that they have a graduate professional degree just like a doctor. In many countries, professional engineers in most fields must hold a state license just like a medical person. For example, in Germany “Ingr” is used. In India, “Er” is used. In some other countries “Engr” is used. All of these are officially allowed and recognized. In Germany, many professors of engineering will hold a regular PhD and then get a second PhD called a Habillitation. So, it common to see them addressed as “Prof. Dr. Ingr. ABC”. A regular PhD holder in engineering would be called “Dr. Ingr.”.

It’s Dr for Doctors – Why not Er for Engineers

Engineers in many western countries, unlike people from other professions, have not pressed for a specific prefix or other recognition. So, it is not common in these countries. But, it is common elsewhere in the world.

On another note, how much self-promotion is needed for a profession determines how much people in the profession advertise and recognize themselves. In the US for instance, it is not uncommon for attorneys to routinely call themselves “Attorney ABC” although no such official prefix has been approved or required by the American Bar Association- only the Esq. suffix is approved. Then there are the cases of Chiropractors, doctors of naturopathy and other alternative medicines and so on.

But, with the case of “Ingr” or “Er”, it IS approved by the respective state bodies and is in common practice. So, it would behoove us to address an engineer from those countries by the prefix, even if it is not common in our countries, just as we would address a Frenchman as Monsieur, to be polite.

Interestingly, many suffixes are available to engineers in most countries compared to prefixes. Many countries have a licensing body or a professional organization that assesses and certifies engineers. Certifications and licenses given by them are used as suffixes compared to the Er or Ingr prefixes. In the US for example, a licensed engineer would write P.E. after their name for Professional Engineer. Such a license may be required to practice in some fields of Engineering. In some Commonwealth countries CEng for someone with a “Chartered Engineer” certification is common. In these same countries, a fellowship of the professional organization of engineers is often the highest certification attainable by an engineer, often given after many years and experience and attaining a high standing in the field. In the UK this would be an FRAE (for the Royal Academy of Engineering). In some other countries, it is FIE for the institute of engineers. Almost always, such fellows are addressed with the FIE or FRAE suffixed to their names.

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