Do You Capitalize Degrees Like “Bachelor’s Degree”?


do you capitalize bachelors

Understanding how to capitalize words is extremely important both in formal and informal settings. However, while most capitalization rules are fairly straightforward, you might find some quite tricky. One of such tricky areas is when capitalizing academic degrees. As such, you might find yourself asking, do you capitalize degrees like “bachelor’s degree”?

Well, as long as you use them generically, you don’t capitalize the word. Of course, you’ll need to capitalize “bachelor’s” if it starts the sentence. However, if you’re trying to state that you earned a certain degree, you’ll need to capitalize all of it, for instance, Bachelor of Arts.

cap and diploma

Now, while this sounds straightforward, this is only half of the rules involved. Various other exceptions require you to either capitalize or do not capitalize the degree when using it. In this article, we will dive fully into the details.

Rules for Capitalizing Degrees

When considering the capitalization of degrees, the consensus is that you should only capitalize when you use the degree’s full name. As such, it would be okay and grammatically correct to capitalize usages such as Bachelor of Science, Masters of Arts, or Bachelor of Arts. 

On the other hand, you’ll be grammatically incorrect where you capitalize the words when used in general terms. For instance, general reference – as in this case – to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree requires you not to capitalize. 

Also, note that there are cases where an abbreviation gets used instead of an academic degree’s full name. In such cases, you must capitalize the initials. Also, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) recommends the omission of periods. However, in a case where consistency or tradition requires it, you can engage in the use of periods. 

Alternative Rules 

While it does not concern the capitalization of academic degrees, various alternative rules guide the usage of academic degrees when writing. You need to keep in mind that these rules are as important as those concerning capitalization. This is because they enable you to construct grammatically sound sentences. 

So, here are the relevant rules to keep in mind.

Rules Regarding the Use of Apostrophe 

You need to remember to utilize an apostrophe with master’s and bachelor’s degrees as it is possessive. Remember that this does not extend to the doctorate or associate degree.

However, when you state the degree in their full names, avoid the use of the apostrophe. So, it’s not Bachelor’s of Science. Instead, it is Bachelor of Science. 

Rule Regarding the Use of Abbreviations 

Usually, you can use abbreviations in place of the full text. However, this is only suitable when you need to identify multiple people by their academic degrees. In such cases, the use of full names while describing the academic degree would be cumbersome. As such, it becomes acceptable to utilize the abbreviation to avoid this.

Rule Regarding the Use of Full Names of the Academic Degree

In most instances, it would be sufficient to use general terms to describe an academic degree in place of their full names. As such, the use of bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctoral degree would suffice to establish a person’s credentials. 

In fact, using these general terms is preferable to using the complete name of the academic degree. This is also the case with the use of initials.

bachelor degree in red barrel

Rule Regarding the Use of Both Degree and Courtesy Title 

It is inappropriate to use both a degree and a courtesy title in the same sentence. The preferred option is to use the degree while referring to the holder. Alternatively, you can use the courtesy title and omit the degree. However, never use both in a single sentence. 

Rule Regarding the Use of Dr. On First Reference 

It is common for individuals to address individuals with a PhD as Dr. X on the first reference when writing. However, this does not reflect the best standards. Typically, only persons that have an MD should be referred to as Dr. during writing.

Rules Regarding Degrees Earned from Other Institution

It is a common occurrence for individuals to obtain multiple degrees from different institutions. Usually, this is across varying levels. For instance, where an individual obtains his or her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. Then, proceeds to obtain a master’s degree in administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

In such a case, do not state beyond one of the degrees after the person’s name. You can choose to use any one of the degrees after the name, preferably the most recent qualification. 

Illustrative Examples 

Based on the rules above, here are examples of correct and incorrect use of academic degrees.

Rule 1: Do Not Capitalize Academic Degrees When Uses as Generic Terms 

Incorrect 

  1. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Harvard 
  2. He holds a Doctoral Degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  3. They completed their Master’s Degree after two years in the University 
  4. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration, yet he hardly shows it 

Correct 

  1. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Harvard 
  2. He holds a doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  3. They completed their master’s degree after two years in the University 
  4. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, yet he hardly shows it 

Rule 2: Always Capitalize an Academic Degree When Used in Full 

Incorrect 

  1. She earned herself a bachelor of Arts degree in English through hard work
  2. He just graduated top of his class in his Bachelor of arts program in accounting from Stanford University 
  3. He just completed his thesis that led to the award of a master of social work degree from a world-renowned university 
  4. She recently started her master of Science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Correct 

  1. She earned herself a Bachelor of Arts degree in English through hard work
  2. He just graduated top of his class in his Bachelor of Arts accounting program from Stanford University 
  3. He just completed his thesis that led to the award of a Master of Social Work degree from a world-renowned university 
  4. She recently started her Master of Science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rule 3: Always Capitalize the Abbreviations of Academic Degrees

Incorrect

  1. Dr. Paul Newman, phd, is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors
  2. Abbreviations such as ph.D, m.S, and b.A should always take the upper case 
  3. Rebecca Brooks, b.A will speak on the role of international law in ensuring world peace at the event 

Correct 

  1. Dr. Paul Newman, PhD, is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors
  2. Abbreviations such as PhD, MS, and BA should always take the upper case 
  3. Rebecca Brooks, BA, will speak on the role of international law in ensuring world peace at the event 

Rule 4: Always Use an Apostrophe when Using an Academic Degree in General Terms

Incorrect 

  1. He earned his bachelor degree from the University of Harvard 
  2. They complete their master degree after two years in the University 
  3. He has a bachelor degree in business Administration, yet he hardly shows it 

Correct 

  1. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Harvard 
  2. They complete their master’s degree after two years in the University 
  3. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, yet he hardly shows it 

Rule 5: Do Not Use an Apostrophe with the Doctorate or Associate Degree

Incorrect 

  1. Dr. Paul Newman holds a doctorate’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  2. Dana Brooks is interested in getting a doctoral degree from Harvard University
  3. Paul Newman just got his associate’s degree in applied business from a highly rated institution

Correct 

  1. Dr. Paul Newman holds a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
  2. Dana Brooks is interested in getting a doctoral degree from Harvard University
  3. Paul Newman just got his associate degree in applied business from a highly rated institution

Rule 6: Do Not Use an Apostrophe when You State an Academic Degree in Full

Incorrect 

  1. She earned herself a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English through hard work
  2. He just graduated top of his class in his bachelor’s of Arts accounting program from Stanford University 
  3. He just completed his thesis that led to the award of a Master’s of Social Work degree from a world-renowned university 
  4. She recently started her master’s of Science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Correct 

  1. She earned herself a Bachelor of Arts degree in English through hard work
  2. He just graduated top of his class in his Bachelor of Arts accounting program from Stanford University 
  3. He just completed his thesis that led to the award of a Master of Social Work degree from a world-renowned university 
  4. She recently started her Master of Science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rule 7: Do Not Use a Degree and a Courtesy Title in the Same Sentence

Incorrect 

  • Dr. Paul Newman, PhD is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors

Correct 

  • Paul Newman, PhD is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors

Preferred

  • Dr. Paul Newman is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors

Rule 8: Do Not Use Multiple Degrees from Different Institutions in the Same Sentence

Incorrect 

  1. Paul Newman, BA, MA, PhD, is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors
  2. Rebecca Brooks, BA, MA, will speak on the role of international law in ensuring world peace at the event 

Correct

  1. Paul Newman, PhD, is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors
  2. Rebecca Brooks, MA, will speak on the role of international law in ensuring world peace at the event 

Preferred

  1. Dr. Paul Newman is currently away on vacation and is unavailable to receive visitors
  2. Rebecca Brooks, MA, will speak on the role of international law in ensuring world peace at the event 

bachelors degree in the keyboard

In Conclusion

It can be quite challenging at first with all these rules. However, do not let this challenge stop you from maintaining proper grammatical construction. Even more, the good news is that it gets easier over time. 

All you need to do is constantly watch out for the right capitalization when writing academic degrees. In time, you will surely get accustomed to them. 

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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