When do you capitalize academic degrees?

  • In addition to the first word in a sentence, the following are generally the only words which should be capitalized.
  • Proper nouns—a specific individual name: Kalamazoo.
  • Proper adjectives—an adjective derived from a proper noun: Romance languages (derived from the proper noun Roman).
  • Common nouns only when used as part of a specific name: Kanley Chapel, Waldo Library (otherwise lowercase chapel, library).
  • Common adjectives only when used as part of a specific name: Brown and Gold Room (otherwise lowercase brown and gold).

University exceptions

  1. The following are the only common nouns which should be capitalized in publications and correspondence of Western Michigan University.

  2. Alumni Association—Capitalize only when it refers to the WMU Alumni Association.
  3. Board of Trustees—Capitalize only when it refers to the WMU Board of Trustees.

  4. University—Capitalize only when it refers exclusively to Western Michigan University.

Titles

Used in text—In text, titles are capitalized only if they precede the name of the individual. A title following the name of an individual or a title by itself is not capitalized.

Capitalize: …President John M. Dunn spoke at the…

Do not capitalize: …John M. Dunn, president, spoke at the… The president spoke at the…

In text, it is preferable for the title to follow the name and, therefore, the title would not be capitalized. This is especially true of titles consisting of more than one word.

For example, it is acceptable to use either “President John M. Dunn” or “John M. Dunn, president.

” However, “John Doe, director of alumni services,” should be used in text rather than “Director of Alumni Services John Doe.”

Some words identifying occupations or professions are pseudo titles and should not be capitalized even if they precede the name. Do not capitalize “attorney Jane Doe” or “pianist John Doe.”

Titles are not capitalized when used in conjunction with the name of an office, department or program. Do not capitalize the title in “Jane Doe, dean of the College of Fine Arts” or “Jane Doe, College of Fine Arts dean.”

Used in a list—When used in a directory listing or other similar situations, the title is capitalized whether it precedes the name, follows the name, or appears in tabular form.

Used in an address—When used as part of an address, the title is capitalized, whether it appears in text or block address form. See addresses.

  • Examples: For more information, contact John Doe, Director of Alumni Relations, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo MI 49008-5404 USA.
  • For more informationJohn DoeDirector of Alumni RelationsWestern Michigan University1903 W Michigan Ave
  • Kalamazoo MI 49008-5404 USA

Rules for Capitalizing Academic Degrees in AP Style

As a firm believer in the value of higher education, I can appreciate people taking pride in their academic degrees. These credentials are hard-earned, representing significant investments of time, money and effort.

It’s understandable for people to want to show them off in capital letters. As a writer following the Associated Press Stylebook, however, I capitalize according to the rules and not people’s egos.

There are clear guidelines for capitalizing academic degrees in AP style.

Academic Degrees to Capitalize

The following formal names of specific degrees should always be capitalized in AP style:

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Business Administration

The forms bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s, master’s degree and master’s are acceptable as general terms.

In case it’s not obvious, I have a bachelor’s in writing.

As you can probably tell, I did not pursue a master’s degree.

Note that these are possessives and should contain apostrophes, whereas formal names of specific degrees are never possessive.

Associate degree is never possessive.

I collected a few dozen associate degrees before deciding to become a freelance writer.

When to Abbreviate Academic Degrees

When it is necessary to establish an individual’s academic credentials, AP style guidelines advise that you use a phrase instead of an abbreviation.

When noting the credentials for several individuals, however, use AP style rules for abbreviations if writing out phrases for each person would render the text cumbersome.

These abbreviations should be used only with full names, and they should be set off with commas.

Bringing together expertise across a range of trades and industries, the panel included Bella Andrews, B.A.; Matthew Song, M.S.; Lloyd Davis, LL.D.; and Phyllis Dreyfus, Ph.D.

Note that the abbreviations M.A. and M.S. include periods, but MBA does not.

See also:  Why is the sky blue?

If possession of an academic degree grants the title Dr. to an individual, do not use both the title and the abbreviation in the same reference.

Incorrect: Dr. Janet Chang, Ph.D.

Correct: Janet Chang, Ph.D.

Correct: Dr. Janet Chang

Doctoral Degrees

When referencing an individual with a Ph.D., say that he or she holds a doctorate, then name the area of specialty.

My former classmate, who holds a doctorate in comparative literature, now works as a campus security officer at our old high school.

Use Dr. as a formal title on first reference to individuals with degrees in medicine, optometry, dental surgery, osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine or veterinary medicine.

For individuals with doctoral degrees in other disciplines, you may use Dr. on first reference as necessary to establish credentials. If the individual’s area of specialty is not immediately clear from the context, take care to specify it within the first two references.

The team enlisted Dr. Abigail Preston, the leading historian on the subject.

If no area of specialty is specified, an individual with the title Dr. is generally assumed to be a physician. In articles involving multiple individuals with different doctoral degrees, however, you may need to specify if any are physicians.

Refrain from using Dr. to refer to individuals with honorary doctorates.

The Rules Apply to Everyone

Capitalization of Academic Degrees – Grammar and Punctuation

[Please note: This original post from March 2009 has been updated and replaced by a new version ofCapitalization of Academic Degrees, published on January 31, 2018.] 

Perhaps you’ve wondered if and when academic degrees (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.) should be capitalized.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) recommends writing academic degrees in lower case except when directly preceding or following a name.

Examples:
Orlando is pursuing a bachelor of science in civil engineering.
He introduced Jennifer Miller, Master of Fine Arts.
He introduced Master of Fine Arts Jennifer Miller.

The Associated Press Stylebook (AP) recommends no capitals when referring to degrees in general terms (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, associate degree) but always capitalizing specific degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science), whether or not they directly precede or follow a name.

Examples:
Orlando is thinking about getting a Bachelor of Science degree.
Orlando is thinking about getting a master’s degree.
He introduced Orlando Cruz, Bachelor of Science.

Our recommendation is to pick your resource and then be consistent.

There is agreement, however, that abbreviations of academic degrees are to be capitalized. CMOS recommends omitting periods unless required for tradition or consistency (BA, BS, MA, MS, PhD), but AP prefers retaining the periods (B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D.).

Pop Quiz

  1. The keynote speaker tonight will be Juris Doctor/juris doctor Michael Abercrombie.
  2. The textbook was authored by Azizah Bakar, Master of Science/master of science.
  3. Eleanor is finally reaching the end of her studies for her Doctorate in History/doctorate in history.
  4. After studying hard for so many years, I definitely feel that I’ve earned my MS/M.S. in biology.

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. Juris Doctor
  2. Master of Science
  3. doctorate in history
  4. MS OR M.S.

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2009, at 6:16 pm

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205 Comments on Capitalization of Academic Degrees

Is bachelor’s degree capitalized?

Understanding proper capitalization rules is crucial if you are updating your resume and want to make an impression on your future employer. You want to make sure that all of your job titles and job titles are properly capitalized since recruiters often spend less than 30 seconds scanning through a resume.

So, is bachelor’s degree capitalized? If you were writing an article, would you quote it as ‘bachelors degree’ or ‘Bachelor’s degree?’ I bet most people won’t get this right.

The simple answer is no, you do not capitalize either of these two words if you are using them generically in a sentence, unless, of course, they are used at the beginning of a sentence when basic capitalization rules apply.

However, if you are referring to the specific degree that you earned or are earning, then you should capitalize it. Title capitalization rules require that you capitalize each word when quoting the specific name of the bachelor’s degree such as Bachelor of Science.

See also:  "a" versus "an": a guide to indefinite articles

These rules can be summarized as follows:

Correct: I enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in arts and science. Correct: I’m studying for a Bachelor of Science.

Incorrect: I enrolled in a Bachelor’s Degree program in arts and science. Incorrect: I’m studying for a bachelor of arts and science.

The same rules also apply for a master’s program and doctorate degree programs.

Why don’t we generally capitalize ‘bachelor’s degree?’

Remember the basic rules of capitalization that you learned in middle school? Well, they will apply here. The rules of grammar require that we do not capitalize common nouns such as school, house, hospital etc. as they are general names.

The term bachelor’s degree is also a common noun. There is no particular degree by the name of ‘bachelor’s degree.’ It is simply a generalization. However, when giving the degree a name, then it earns an identity.

These are referred to as proper nouns and should, thus, be capitalized.

Conclusion

The rules of capitalization cannot be summarized in a single article. Deeper research is therefore recommended to fully grasp the guidelines pertaining to proper capitalization.

For example, although we now know that ‘bachelor’s degree’ is not capitalized and that the degree name is, did you know that the major specialty in the degree program is not capitalized? I leave you to ponder upon this.

In the meantime, give our free tool a try.

Capitalization

  • Academic degrees are not capitalized when spelled out.
  • A bachelor of arts in English
    A master's degree in psychology
  • A doctorate in chemistry

Building Names and Names of Structures

Proper names of buildings, thoroughfares and monuments are capitalized:the White House; the Capitol (when referring to the U.S. Capitol or state Capitol buildings)

  1. The Patten House
  2. The Lupton Library
  3. Founders Hall
  4. The University Center
  5. DuPont Parkway
  6. The Washington Monument
  7. Chickamauga Battlefield

On second reference to a named building, for example the Lupton Library, by the shorthand “library,” don’t capitalize.
Students using the Lupton Library will find reference materials on the library's first floor.

People were outside the UTC Arena at 5 a.m. Friday waiting to get inside the arena when it opened.

Don’t capitalize references to buildings using common, generic terms, such as library, bookstore, arena.
He had never been to the new library.

College Names within the University

Uppercase College when used as part of the proper name of a college; lowercase otherwise.

  • Joe was accepted into the UTC College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Academic advisers help students choose appropriate college courses.

Course and Subjects

Capitalize a specific course or subject:
Geology 101, Investigations in Earth Science

Don’t capitalize names of school or college studies, fields of study, majors, minors, curricula or options unless they contain proper nouns when no specific course is referenced.
He is studying geology.

  • She is majoring in engineering.
  • The Department of English offers a specialization in creative writing.
  • She has a dual major in philosophy and English.

Departmental and Office Names

  1. Departmental and office names are capitalized when written out completely in a formal manner (the Office of … the Department of …).
  2. Words such as school, department, office and other common, generic terms are not capitalized when used alone.

  3. The UTC School of Rock; thereafter, the school
    The Department of Mathematics; thereafter, the mathematics department; or the math department; or the department
    The Individualized Education Program; thereafter, the program
    The Center for Economic Education; thereafter, the center
  4. The Office of Records; thereafter, the records office

 

Elected Officials and Governing Bodies

Senate, Congress: Governing bodies are always capitalized:Most Senate incumbents are in favor of the change

Capitalize when used as the proper name:U.S. Senate; U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. Congress.

Capitalize and abbreviate in reference to a member and his or her title:U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander; U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

Do not refer to members as, nor use as titles, “Congressman” or “Congresswoman.”

Tennessee General Assembly: Capitalize, but don’t capitalize the informal name, Tennessee legislature.

Capitalize the proper names of the two legislative bodies:Tennessee Senate; Tennessee House.

Capitalize and abbreviate a member’s title in reference to a specific individual, but otherwise lowercase:

  • We met state Sen. Todd Gardenhire.
  • We met the newly elected state senator.

Federal, State Lowercase: The program is awaiting state and federal funding.

See also:  The math of a solar eclipse

Governor: Lowercase at the beginning of a sentence and spelled out when not a reference to a governor by name:The governor will not redo the bill

Capitalize and abbreviate in reference to a governor by name:Gov. Bill Lee will not redo the bill.

G.I. BILL

Capitalize, periods on G.I., no space; capitalize Bill

HOMECOMING

Capitalize in reference to a specific, named campus event:UT Chattanooga Homecoming 2018.

Lowercase in general use:Anne looked forward to the family’s homecoming.

POLITICAL PARTIES, PHILOSOPHIES

Names of national and international political organizations, movements, and alliances and of members of political parties are capitalized, but not the words political party, movement and platform.

ROOMS

Capitalize the word room when designating a particular room.

The class meets in Room 204.

SEASONS OF THE YEAR, SEMESTERS, HOLIDAYS

  • The four seasons are not capitalized.
  • Semesters are not capitalized: fall semester, spring break, summer session.
  • Religious holidays are capitalized, as are most secular holidays.
  • Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day, Labor Day

STUDENT CLASSIFICATIONS AND CLASSES

Don’t capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate.

That course should be taken in the freshman year.
She is a junior from Collegedale.

TITLES OF PERSONS

The title of a position is capitalized when it precedes the name of the person who holds the position. Titles are not capitalized when they follow names.

Chancellor Steve Angle came to UTC in 2013 . . .
or

In 2013, Steve Angle was appointed chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Creative Services Director Steve Rumbaugh moved to Chattanooga in 2017 . . .

or

Steve Rumbaugh is creative services director.

Exception: General titles describing professions (author, actor, pilot, artist, etc.) are not capitalized before a name.. . . according to author Shawn Ryan . . .

Introducing actor Dennis Haskins . . .

Titles following names are not capitalized (unless they contain proper nouns).

Verbie Prevost, UTC professor of English, said . . .
Tim Smith, head of the Department of Safety and Security, said . . .

Titles without accompanying names are not capitalized.The chancellor said . . .

Rules with Academic Degrees

WEX has had a few questions in the past couple of months regarding ways of acknowledging academic degrees in our writing, and we hope this posting would help clarify the rules.  

Capitalization: In the academy we might feel compelled to capitalize all our degrees as well as subject areas.  We’ve worked hard and our subjects are important to us.

However, the “rulebook” instructs that most subject or content areas are not capitalized, because they aren’t “proper nouns.” Proper nouns are specific persons, places or things. Therefore, do not capitalize fields of study (e.g.

biology, business, education, leadership, psychology, environmental science, etc.).

These subject areas become proper nouns when identified as a particular program and/or school. Therefore, capitalize programs of study, a particular school in a college system, or its acronym.  The following examples might help clarify:

  • I am studying leadership in the Graduate School of Leadership and Change and hope to finish my PhD in 2 years.
  • I have applied to the School of Education and look forward to studying urban education.
  • I am studying to get a doctorate in environmental science.

Antioch University offers the PhD degree in environmental science, a Ph.D. in leadership and change, and several doctoral programs in psychology, including PhD and PsyD degrees.

The PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology degree; PhD is the Doctor of Philosophy degree

Exceptions: On most title pages of dissertations, your program handbook establishes how you refer to the program and the degree. As a result, many program handbooks capitalize the field of study, program, and degree.

Review: In general use, do not capitalize when you “informally” refer to the degree & its subject area (e.g. master’s in education, associate (without apostrophe), master’s or doctorate.  

Capitalize when you specify the actual degree (Associate of Arts, AA, BA or Bachelor of Arts, PsyD, PhD).

Apostrophes: Use an apostrophe (possessive) for referring to the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but not when stating the full name of the degree, such as Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Do not use an apostrophe (possessive) with associate degree or doctoral degree.

I have a master’s in education vs I have a Master of Arts in education. We’re studying education.

Use of Periods: Most style sheets now omit periods in abbreviations of academic degrees.

AA, MA, MS, PhD, PsyD

*Languages are always proper nouns: French, English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Swahili, etc.

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