The landing gear is down on another academic year as students and faculty make their final approach toward the graduation runway. Many soon-to-be newly minted grads are now wading into the sometimes turbulent, often murky, and always anxiety-producing waters of job hunting.
So let’s think about how to correctly write academic degree titles on résumés, cover letters, celebration invitations, and LinkedIn profiles. This can be confusing, and in my twenty years in higher education I saw many resumes and applications where the writer apparently didn’t know how to correctly indicate his or her own degree. Stumbling over something so basic may not go over well with prospective employers. It never hurts to get this right.
To make it as simple as possible, I’ve put this information in chart form (and intentionally left the doctorate out of it as there are so many variations).
|Formal (full) Title Informal Title Abbreviation|
|Associate of Arts/Science associate degree AA/AS|
|(or, Associate in Arts/Science) (note: usually no apostrophe)|
|Bachelor of Arts/Science bachelor’s degree BA/BS|
|Master of Arts/Science master’s degree MA/MS|
NOTE that informal degree titles are NOT CAPITALIZED and that an APOSTROPHE is used with bachelor’s and master’s degrees but usually not with the associate degree.
Examples using bachelor’s degree:
- Formal: Adam has successfully completed his Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
- Informal: Adam has successfully completed his bachelor’s (or bachelor’s degree) in economics. [Note: (1) use an apostrophe; (2) the academic discipline is not capitalized unless the full formal degree title is used as above.]
- Abbreviation: Adam has successfully completed his BA in economics.
WRONG: Adam has successfully completed his bachelor’s of arts (or Bachelor’s of Arts) in Economics.
REALLY WRONG: Adam has successfully completed his Bachelors of Arts in Economics (or Bachelor’s of Arts, or bachelors of arts) in Economics.
Examples using master’s degree:
- Formal: Eve earned a Master of Science in Business Administration in 1995.
- Informal: Eve earned a master’s (or master’s degree) in business administration in 1995. [Note: (1) use an apostrophe; (2) the academic discipline is not capitalized unless the full formal degree title is used as above.]
- Abbreviation: Eve earned an MS in business administration in 1995.
WRONG: Eve earned a master’s of arts (or Master’s of Arts) in Business.
REALLY WRONG: Eve earned a Masters of Arts (or Masters, or masters of arts) in Business.
Here’s another tip: Please, please be sure to get your own field of study correct! For example, at many colleges and universities there’s a “communication” or “human communication” (singular) degree, not “communications” (plural) degree. If you write “communications,” be sure that’s what it’s called at your school. Does it seem unimportant? Think again! If the competition for a position is stiff, every detail is especially important.
Congratulations to ALL graduates and best wishes for your future endeavors.
Originally published in 2017, this essay also appears in my recent book, Whatever Happened to English? (Available here from Amazon).