Are Professor, Principal, Dean, and Other Faculty Titles Capitalized?

Summary

Capitalize faculty titles and academic ranks when they appear before a name and form part of it.

Examples
  • Your new faculty head is Professor Jane Holmes.
  • Here is a note for Principal Cheung.

Avoid capitalizing such titles when they appear after instead of before a name in running text.

Examples
  • We interviewed Luis Sanchez, professor of philosophy at University of Puerto Rico.

Also lowercase such words when they are used standalone as common nouns.

Examples
  • The professor isn’t here yet.
  • She became dean of admissions in 2001.
  • Talk to the principal about this, please.

Academic titles

Academic institutions involved in teaching and research comprise faculty and staff with titles like professor, principal, chair, dean, chancellor, provost, rector, and fellow.

Examples
  • Our philosophy professor used to be a basketball player.
  • Anita has been appointed chair of the research committee.
  • Who is the new dean?
  • We have asked Professor Dash to join us.
  • Please wait for Principal Diaz to address the students.
  • We’ll have to check with Vice-Chancellor Brown.
  • Our new chancellor is Dr. Angus King.
  • She is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

In this article, we discuss when to capitalize academic ranks and faculty teaching positions in colleges and universities.

Before a name

Capitalize words like professor, principal, and dean when they are used as titles before a name.

Examples
  • We were taught philosophy by Professor Lobo.
  • This notice has been signed by President Jones.
  • Submit your applications to Dean Williams.
  • We have asked Principal Gomez for clarification.
  • Has Chancellor Brown been informed?
  • A thorough review was conducted by Vice-Chancellor Wu.
  • The students will meet online with Dean Williams today at 2:30 p.m. PST.

To address someone

Also capitalize such words when they are used to address a person directly or on an envelope or cover letter.

Examples
  • Please, Mr. Chancellor, allow me to clarify.
  • Thank you, Madam Chair.
  • The Dean of Admissions
    on an envelope
  • Attention: The Dean of Admissions
    in an email
Note

Words like sir and ma’am are generally not capitalized when addressing someone.

Examples
  • Here are the documents, sir.
  • No, ma’am.

After a name

Don’t capitalize academic ranks like professor, dean, president, and chancellor when they are used descriptively after a name rather than as titles before it.

Examples
  • We asked Derek O’Brien, professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Studies, for his opinion.
  • Have you met Ariana Cheung, principal of the School of Advanced Wizardry?
  • Remiramen Femy, professor emeritus of economics at California State University, has published a new book.
  • Grace Gabkwet, head of the physics department, opened the symposium.
  • In February, Minerva Dash, president of the university, instituted certain new policies.
  • Arindam Das, dean of student affairs, has refused to comment.
  • Send your applications to Wendy Chung, provost of faculty affairs.
  • Dr. Angela Reyes, distinguished alumna of the University of Santo Tomas, is our new chancellor.

But do capitalize such titles on nameplates, visiting cards, etc. and in lists and headings, when it makes sense to do so.

Examples
  • Derek O’Brien, Professor of Economics
    on a nameplate outside an office
  • Prof. Adedotun Adekunle
    Head, Department of Physics
    University of Lagos
    on a visiting card

In named professorships and fellowships

Named professorships and named fellowships are capitalized, even when the title follows the name.

Examples
  • Ksenia Golovina, Martha Bellows Fellow of History
  • William Whiston, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics

Standalone as common nouns

Don’t capitalize academic titles like professor, fellow, reader, and lecturer unless followed by a name. Lowercase such words when used as common nouns rather than as titles. In official designations as well, academic ranks and teaching positions are generally not capitalized.

Examples
  • Who is your new professor?
  • My brother is a school principal.
  • Have you checked with the dean?
  • She is a fellow of the Royal Society.
  • He was promoted from research associate to senior researcher in 2013.
  • Is she a senior lecturer or a reader?
  • He is a professor emeritus of physics at Princeton.
  • The title of chancellor is equivalent to that of president of a university.
  • The rector keeps changing the rules.
  • Are any of the professors here yet?
Caution

Capitalization is a matter of style rather than grammar. As an editor, feel free to use your discretion. While the general advice is to lowercase titles, roles, and positions unless followed by a name, capitalization may be preferable in some cases. Take, for example, the sentence, “Here is a list of Aspen Institute Crown Fellows of 1998.” Lowercasing the word fellows would hamper readability.

The style guide followed by a college, university, or publication may mandate capitalization. As an editor or writer, respect and follow the capitalization guidelines of a house style.

Capitalizing university, college, class

Capitalize words like university, college, and class when they form part of a name (like you would any other proper noun).

Examples
  • He is a professor at the University of Exeter.
  • She teaches at the College of Engineering.
  • We belong to the Class of 2007.
  • Are you taking History 101?

When not part of a name (i.e., when used as common nouns), such words are lowercased.

Examples
  • He’ll go to university next year.
  • She studied philosophy in college.
  • We’ll be late to class if you don’t hurry up.
  • I am studying for my history exam.

Other official titles

Capitalization guidelines for other job titles, including civil, judicial, military, royal, and religious titles, follow the same general rule: capitalize when used as a title before a name or to directly address someone; lowercase otherwise.

Examples
  • What does Coach Carter think?
  • Anita is reading a book by President Obama.
  • I need to speak with Captain Anand.
  • Their only daughter is Princess Anne.
  • You must ask Bishop Ramos.
  • but
  • Angela Carter is our new coach.
  • There are three presidents in U.S. history who have been impeached.
  • I need to speak with the captain.
  • Can peas hurt a princess?
  • He is now a bishop.

Quick Quiz

Which capitalization style is correct?
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Which is correct?
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Which is better style?
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Which is correct?
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Did You Know?

Upon is the formal alternative to on.
Know more:Confusing Prepositions: Differences and Usage Examples