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Capitalization of Academic Degrees

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

If you read through our Capitalization rules, you will notice that capitalization is sometimes a thorny area. We do not always have hard-and-fast rules to rely on; some areas are open to interpretation. This is evident in the area of capitalization of academic degrees as you will see from the different approaches of two of the leading American English reference books:

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) recommends writing academic degrees in lower case except when directly preceding or following a name. Proper nouns, of course, should still be capitalized.

Examples:
Orlando is pursuing a bachelor of science in civil engineering. Orlando is pursuing a bachelor of arts in English.
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. AP is in agreement with CMOS that the field of study be written in lower case except when it contains a proper noun.

Examples:
Orlando is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.
Orlando is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English.
Orlando is thinking about getting a master's degree.
He introduced Jennifer Miller, Master of Fine Arts.

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.).

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Pop Quiz

Answers are at the bottom of the newsletter.

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.

5. Abraham worked hard to earn a Bachelor of Science/bachelor of science in Geology/geology and then a Master of Arts/master of arts in French/french.

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Wordplay


Pop Quiz Answers

1. Juris Doctor

2. Master of Science

3. doctorate in history

4. MS OR M.S.

5. Bachelor of Science coupled with Master of Arts OR bachelor of science coupled with master of arts, geology, French

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