Do You Capitalize Fields Of Study And Majors In College?

do you capitalize fields of study

In the English language there are some specific rules for capitalization. One of them has to do with whether or not you should capitalize fields of study.

Do you capitalize fields of study? The simple answer to this is that academic degrees are capitalized only when the full name of the degree is used (e.g. Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science). When you’re discussing the subject matter, the field of study in an informal way, you do not capitalize it.

Using Apostrophes in Regards to Fields of Study

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that is used to indicate possession. When you’re mentioning that something is either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree you’ll want to use this punctuation mark in your writing. However, when you’re writing out the full name of the degree (e.g. Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts) you don’t need to use an apostrophe. You also should never use an apostrophe when making reference to either an associate or a doctoral degree. 

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Abbreviations for Academic Degrees

When you are abbreviating an academic degree you should omit the periods. The only time you shouldn’t do so is when the periods are being used for traditional or consistency’s sake. One example of this is a university bulletin that’s always used periods to abbreviate the degrees that their faculty members hold (e.g. B.A., Ph.D., M.S.). It’s important to note that these abbreviations should only be used in text when you have several people whom you need to identify alongside their academic degree. Doing so while also listing their full names would appear cumbersome here. 

Other Grammatical Rules Pertaining to Fields of Study

When you are simply making a general reference to a degree (master’s, doctoral, bachelor’s), there’s no need to capitalize them. For instance: She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997. With most types of writing it is preferred to simply use the general terms (e.g. bachelor’s / bachelor’s degree; master’s / master’s degree; doctorate / doctoral degree) instead of writing out the full name of the degree or even just its initials. Only when someone has a MD (medical degree) after their name are they to be referred to as “Dr.” and then you should only refer to them in this manner when you first reference them in your writing.

When you’re listing the names of alumni in your writing a bachelor’s degree is considered to be the default and you don’t need to write any letter next to it. However, you would need to write the following letters next to the other degrees: “A” for associate, “M” for master’s, and “D” for doctorate. So it looks like this: Sally Huff A’90, ‘92, M’99, D’02 which would mean Sally Huff associate’s degree 1990, bachelor’s degree 1992, master’s degree 1999, and doctoral degree 2002. 

Do You Capitalize Fields of Study in the Arts?

Today many people are majoring in the arts, including music, art, dance, and theater. When you’re using them to speak of a course’s title or a college major, then they should be capitalized. Even when you’re referring to them collectively as “The Arts,” this title should also be capitalized. 

Do You Capitalize Majors?

College majors are not capitalized because they are not proper nouns (a noun – person, place, or thing – that identifies a single entity; e.g. London, Sara, Microsoft). Only proper nouns are capitalized. For instance you’d say, “I majored in physics, but flunked Physics 101.” In this sentence, the word physics is a generic word but the phrase Physics 101 is used in referring to a specific class.

This is different when referring to languages (e.g. Spanish, English, Japanese) because languages are considered to be proper nouns. 

Some people do consider the rule pertaining to whether or not majors should be capitalized to be optional saying that it’s more of a judgment call. This is why sometimes you’ll see a person capitalize their field of study or profession and typically nobody will find it objectionable for them to do so. Doing so does help the reader to distinguish what form of the noun the writer is using. 

Here’s another way to look at this. When you’re discussing the biology of a specific ecosystem you should use the term in what’s known as its “first definition” form. However, if you were to say that your interest in ecosystems led to your career in Biology the capitalization here would be fine. 

It’s also important to note that when you see someone create a bulleted list of college majors they’ll typically be capitalized.

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Do You Capitalize Fields of Medicine?

The different fields of medicine are also considered common nouns (the generic name for a person, place, or thing). As such, there is no need to capitalize them.

When Sue graduated from medical school she had to choose between specialties. Her favorites were neurology and cardiology.

This is also true when you’re making reference to a section of a medical institution.

  • The hospital is well-known for its cardiology department.
  • I have a friend who is a doctor of cardiology.

The reason why it is written this way is because it isn’t a title, it’s merely a job description. With this in mind you may be wondering if there’s ever a case when you should capitalize the specialty and yes there is. You’ll obviously want to make sure that it’s capitalized at the beginning of a sentence but you should also make sure that it’s capitalized when it’s being used as a title.

Fred Franklin, M.D., Doctor of Endocrinology

But if you’re being less formal:

Fred Franklin is the facility’s doctor of endocrinology.

While this grammatical rule isn’t commonly understood, in short there are only a few times when you should capitalize a medical specialty. These same rules also apply to academic fields, which you should only capitalize on rare occasions.

Dr. Stone is a geology professor.

Do You Capitalize Your Major on a Resume?

When you’re creating your resume you’ll want to look as professional as possible. With this in mind, you should capitalize those parts of your work experience that include a proper noun. This includes things like company names, acronyms, and initials.

Do You Capitalize Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

According to the Associate Press Stylebook (AP) you should never capitalize anything that refers to a degree in general terms. However, when you are making reference to a specific degree (e.g. Bachelor of Arts) you should always make sure that it’s capitalized. It doesn’t matter if the phrase directly precedes or follows a name or not. The rule still stands the same.

Do You Capitalize Bachelor’s Degree?

The only time you should ever capitalize an academic degree is when you’re using the full name of the degree (e.g. Master of Social Work, Bachelor of Arts). You should never capitalize a general reference (e.g. the type of degree: bachelor’s master’s, doctoral).

Do You Capitalize Certification?

You should capitalize the name of a degree, certificate, or minor just like you would capitalize the abbreviation for a degree or the complete name of a degree. Of course, you should never use capitalization when you’re referring to a degree informally. 

Do You Capitalize Course Names?

Another area that’s closely related to fields of study are course names (e.g. the name of a school subject like math, psychology, geology). You shouldn’t capitalize any of these words unless you’re referring to the name of a language (e.g. English, Spanish, Japanese). However, when you’re referring to a specific course, then it should be capitalized (e.g. Algebra 101, Biology 201).

Examples Of When Fields Of Study Are Capitalized

Now that we have discussed the proper English grammar nuances behind capitalizing fields of study, here are some examples to further aid you in your understanding of this:

  • I studied religion at the Department of Religion, Westminster College.
  • I studied English at the Department of English.
  • I’m excited to be taking a history course this summer.
  • This summer I’ll be taking History 101 at the university.
  • I’ll be studying Russian at the local college this summer.
  • I studied the history of France at the Department of History.
  • While I was in college I majored in Language Arts.
  • I studied mechanical engineering at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Penn State.
  • I studied English literature at the Department of English, Duquesne University.
  • I studied the history of America at the Department of History.

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Now that you know more about how to correctly write fields of study you’ll be prepared for when you need to do so. You never know when you may need to revamp your resume or write up someone’s bio. In either case, now you won’t make a mistake or wonder, “Do you capitalize fields of study?”

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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