Why would I want to know how to spell bachelor's degree?
Well, ironically enough, I have a degree in English and yet, when confronted with having to write about my degree itself, I discovered that I was not completely certain how. Turns out that, bombastic know-it-all that I am, I still wasn't totally confident about when and how the whole big "B" little "b" thing played out. I was even wondering about the apostrophe: When do I capitalize "bachelor" and when does it get the apostrophe and the "S?" I thought I knew, but I wanted to be sure. So, I decided to find out. What I discovered is that usage is almost entirely subject to style guides. Here's how it works:
Question: Is It “Bachelor” or “bachelor’s?”
Answer: Yes. Here are the "standard" rules:
- Based on what I found, the correct standard usage when referring to the actual/specific degree or the PERSON holding it, is to capitalize and use the singular noun with its relevant prepositional phrase, like Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy etc. (It should be noted that junior college degrees use the preposition "in" not "of" for their degrees, as in an Associate in Arts.)
- The correct standard form for general reference to these degrees is to use the possessive form of "bachelor" - meaning with the apostrophe and "s" - and to drop the caps, as in "She has her master's degree" or "He has a bachelor's in music."
- Correct standard form when abbreviating is to capitalize the main component words and use periods: B.A., M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D., etc.
- When referencing your degree and major, do not capitalize your major unless your major is in some subject that is a proper noun (like English or French etc.). Correct standard use would be: "I have a bachelor's degree in business accounting." A capitalized example would be: "I have a bachelor's degree in English."
I use the term "standard form" because this form can be easily verified in widely acknowledged and expert resources like the Associated Press Stylebook, Encyclopedia Britannica Online and even my big ol' Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary--not to mention how it's written on actual degrees (I've included a couple so you can see). Note the capital letters and the lack of an apostrophe "S."
The problem with the term "standard," though, is that people interpret that to mean "etched in stone." The simple fact of grammar, and perhaps the great big sigh of relief that came with my English degree, is that "standard usage" is a squishy thing; there's lots of stuff that doesn't submit to some iron-fisted grammatical decree. Oddly enough, it's this lack of structure that explains why so many people hated English when they were in school. People like concrete facts. Definite boundaries and solid rules help us know that we are on track; they provide us with a feeling of control.
So, that said, if you're looking for the short answer to "What's the right way to write 'bachelor's degree?'" well, there you go. Do what I wrote up there and you will be technically correct. However, if you're interested in why and when those rules can change then read on, and you'll see where the style guides come in.
Style Guides: He Who Makes One Makes the Rules
I will repeat, what I wrote up there is totally correct. If it's good enough for the Associated Press, which guides lots of people, from reporters to professors in what to do, then, you're good to go. However, just because that is the correct way to write it does not mean that it is the only way to write it that is correct. Big difference. This is the squishy stuff I was talking about before, and this is where style guides come in.
Style guides are writing guides put out by schools, companies, non-profits, government agencies, you name it; if they're big, they probably put one out. Big ones besides the AP Stylebook mentioned up above are Chicago Manual of Style, APA and MLA Handbook, but corporations and colleges have them too. Totally at random, you can pull up style guides that completely destroy the rule we just neatly clarified.
Take Drake University or Washington State as arbitrary proof. Pull up their sites (WSU screenies above, both links below) and you will see that their style guides state that the specific terms for the degrees NOT be capitalized as I have done above. I realize this may seem like a petty distinction, but these two style guides are in conflict with "The Bible of the Newspaper Industry" as my AP Stylebook's cover accurately declares, and they explicitly state that the specific terms should not be capitalized, as in "bachelor of arts" and "master of science." They seem to contradict the AP people, the Encyclopedia Britannica people and even my Webster's unabridged. These sites suggest that capitalization should not be used at all.
So, who is right, the Associated Press or Drake University? Is there even a rule at all?
Well the answer is: Yes, there is a rule.
But the rule is: Know who is going to read your work.
It's the old "know your audience" thing, just focused on a slightly different detail. So, if it really, really matters; if you are submitting written work to a particular entity - be it academic, government or professional - and you don't want to come off as if you don't know how to write, find out what style guide they use and conform to what they expect. It might take a little time, maybe a phone call or two, but the effort will prevent your paper, article or manuscript from being viewed as "wrong."
The bottom line is that, unless you have some really, really anal-retentive reader, you're probably not going to be hurt if you just stick with the method that I illustrated first up there. However, if you are a student at a university that has a posted style guide to use, you may discover how picky some professors can really be.
Whatever you do, once you pick a form for writing this stuff, make sure you stick to that method throughout the entire work. Don't change strategies in the middle of your paper, letter or résumé. Midstream shifts are guaranteed to draw notice to whichever method that you use, particularly if your reader is the picky type. More than likely, though, most readers aren't going to have any clue - remember, I have an English degree and I still had to look it up. It's just not the kind of thing people really take the time to know (unless you're the wacky English major type like me). So stick to your guns, whichever method that you choose. Besides, you have resources (below) to defend yourself no matter which way you decide to go.
The Associated Press Stylebook - 2007
Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary - circa 2001
Encyclopedia Britannica Online-
http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-9362439 ( June 9, 2008)
http://identity.wsu.edu/editorial-style/capitalization.aspx (June 9, 2008)
Less Serious Links - I Write Fun Stuff Too... Have a look:
- DaultonBooks.com (my website and blog)
Come see how my latest book project is going, check out my blog, and even say "hi" in a comment somewhere along the way. Oh, and have a look at the new video trailer for my new novel, The Galactic Mage. That's worth a click over there all by itself.
- My Facebook page (my novel series)
This is my Facebook page where, if you are into writing, not just about bachelor's degrees, but you know fun stuff like spaceships, dragons, aliens, wizards and even hot chicks with laser rifles, then you'll find good stuff here.
Check out my Amazon bestselling series SciFi & Fantasy series ...
Popular stylebooks / writing guides
A guy gets one on film. :)
Professor Essay from New York on April 25, 2015:
Thanks for sharing this article. How to write the term: bachelor's degree
Joe on December 30, 2013:
This thread is redonkey long. Donkey long. Donkey Kong.
Jaiper Feliciano on December 19, 2013:
I have come to my conclusion that your post head “ ” is one of the neatest, the only thing is the beginning of your post isn’t loading.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on April 24, 2013:
Glad to be of help, Diane S. Hope you get/got the job!
Diane S. on March 16, 2013:
Touche'! Shadesbreath! Thank you for clarifying! I am writing to a potential employer & wanted to know how to refer to my bachelor's degree. :)
valentine flowers pakistan on January 12, 2013:
That's a great attitude, I hope the incoming comments and suggestions are equally positive. I know I've said it in person, but for anyone reading the comments, its awesome!
Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 23, 2012:
Hi Kerry43. Thanks, glad you found it. And yeah, this one has done well all along. It's one of the first ones I ever wrote, and still manages to be one of my top three or four most of the time. Figures the stuff I wrote before I "knew what I was doing" has done so much better than the stuff I wrote after. What's that say? lol
Kerry43 on November 18, 2012:
How cool is this? I just Googled because I wasn't sure about something I was about to publish right here at HP...thought you'd like to know you're way up there with the big G search engine. Good job :)
Shadesbreath (author) from California on October 16, 2012:
Glad it helped, amie. :)
amie Paszel on October 15, 2012:
Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 02, 2012:
You're quite welcome, Steph. It's nice to know we're not alone out here in the wacky language universe sometimes, eh? :D
Steph on August 02, 2012:
Thank you for the clarification, from one "wacky English major type" to another! ;)
Shadesbreath (author) from California on July 05, 2012:
Glad to be of service. :)
bonskie on July 05, 2012:
thanks a lot it's a great help
Shadesbreath (author) from California on July 04, 2012:
Hi Bonskie. Unless your "21st day of July" is part of a title or proper name of some kind, there is no need to capitalize "day."
bonskie on July 03, 2012:
very informative....but I'm in quandary -if the word day in 21st day of July be capitalized or not.....need an answer ASAP Thanks.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 10, 2012:
Hah, Fokcheung, great question. To be honest, I've never seen B.Sc. used here in the U.S. I believe it's a European convention, to which I cannot speak with any expertise. As for the long abbreviations, I think that for the sake of a résumé, I would spell out Information and Technology. There are simply too many words to communicate clearly to my mind if you abbreviate all of that. So, I'd recommend B.S. in Information Technology. The "in" works for you in that instance.
If you're really worried about it, go to your college website and find their Style Guide, and see how they list it. If you can't find it, go to the job placement office on campus, or wherever students at your school go to get help building a resume and/or finding employment. Those folks will have that information for you.
Fokcheung on June 10, 2012:
I just got my Bachelor of Science in Information and Technology. Now, how should I abbreviate it correctly? If it is with periods, then it should be B.Sc.IT. or B.Sc.I.T., since IT is normally without periods? Then what is the difference between B.Sc. and B.S., which both are Bachelor of Science? Then what is the correct one? B.S.I.T. or B.S.IT.? So confusing! LOL... Thank you so much for the answer! :D
Shadesbreath (author) from California on January 12, 2012:
Mine was an AA, and says Associates in Arts. My understanding is the "in" is in at all community colleges. Perhaps your school was somehow different than most. Or, just possibly, have you looked recently at the degree to see? I think most people assume it's "Associates OF..." until they look. I know I assumed that until I started researching this article. Actually had to get up and go look to verify. Turns out I was wrong, it was "in" not "of."
Captain Kirk on January 12, 2012:
Actually, my first degree was an "Associate of Science" degree from a junior college.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 02, 2011:
Hi smdavis. Congrats on your achievement, or near achievement. That's fantastic! And I think your sentence works perfectly fine as written, although it is a bit of a mouthful. Perhaps we can shorten it a bit and play with either punctuation or breaking it up into two sentences, and even considering abbreviations. Keep in mind, none of these are any more "correct" than what you've got there, just a few attempts to help you figure out how to manage that mouthful you have to crow about:
1. I have a bachelor's of science in business administration with a concentration in business studies (focused on human resource management) and a minor in information systems.
2. I have a bachelor's of science in business administration with a concentration in business studies focused on human resource management. I minored in information systems.
3. I have a B.S. in business administration (concentration in business studies and focused on human resource management) with a minor in information systems.
4. I have a B.S. in business administration—concentration business studies/focus human resource management—and a minor in information systems.
Personally, I think 3 is best. Hopefully this is useful in some way. And again, congrats in advance.
smdavis1117 on November 02, 2011:
I will be graduating in May with a bachelor's in business administration. However, my concentration is business studies and my focus is human resource management. I also minored in information systems. How can I say all of this in one flowing sentence!? "I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration of business studies with a focus in human resource management and a minor in information systems??" Help pleaseeee!
Shadesbreath (author) from California on September 30, 2011:
Yes, there's some slanginess to my natural/internal voice dating back to my ranch youth that just never shakes out. I do "there's many ways to do this or that" kind of sentences/statements almost constantly. You'd think I'd start spotting it at some point, wouldn't you? Thanks for the heads up, Peg.
peg on September 30, 2011:
Very informative, but a little funny that the English major wrote:
Answer: Yes. Here's some "standard" rules
Here is some rules?!
Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 27, 2011:
Sue, that's a great question (and congrats on such great marks!). Yank that I am, I'm not up on the Australian rules (which is my assumption on where you are from based on that), so I'd have to do some research on it. My recommendation to you on that is to follow the "style guide" rule I mentioned. Check your school's style guide on its website, see how they tell you to write it (and if you can't find one for your school, find a prominent university nearby that does), and run with it. The thing to remember is, if you aren't exactly sure, odds are prospective employers aren't either, and that means there may not be ONE right way. So, if you can find a reputable university with a styleguide that explains it, just run with that version. The purpose of writing anything is to communicate meaning, so, as long as it's clear what your point is, and you are consistent with the form you use, I doubt you'll do any damage to your career. The only people who might judge you that harshly for being "wrong" on that kind of a thing are people you wouldn't have wanted to work for anyway.
Sue on August 27, 2011:
How do I write that I attained a first class A in my honours - Bachelor of Science (Hons 1A)
Shadesbreath (author) from California on August 08, 2011:
Hi Sharon. I'm glad this hub was useful to you, although I am sorry you had to find it under sad circumstances. I appreciate the kind comments, thank you.
Napa Valley Sharon on August 07, 2011:
I agree - great writing style! Can't believe I read the whole thing, including all the comments, since I got my answer in the very beginning. I'm writing an obituary and I wanted to get it right. The best tip was "know your audience." Thanks for a great read!
smithhogg on July 29, 2011:
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Essay writing on July 29, 2011:
bachelor's of Computer science because i am BS answer of your question.it is bechelor's not bechelor.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on July 21, 2011:
Thanks, JTR. This was the first or second hub I wrote. It's been one that worked out pretty well over the last couple of years. I'm glad you found some use for it. :)
JiveTalkinRobot from California on July 21, 2011:
Great writing style, I'm going to learn a lot (about subject matter and writing flow) reading your Hubs.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on July 01, 2011:
Hi SamboRambo. That's a good question, and one, sadly, I don't have any authority over, really. I would say you have clearly learned a TON, and probably have a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks if nothing else. The upside of wehre you are now is that, I seriously doubt that, were you to apply for a job in your field, that anyone would give a crap what degree you did or didn't have. Some 24 year old kid with a BA in design or graphic arts applies for the same job you do, Junior has no chance of getting hired (unless they are looking for someone they can pay nothing to and don't expect much more than nothing but "potential" in return lol).
Samuel E. Richardson from Salt Lake City, Utah on June 30, 2011:
What about "bachelor's degree equivalent?" Because of details that are best explained elsewhere, I had three years at a university, two years at a two-year college (after the U), and two more years in the same subjects (Graphics and Design) at another two-year college just recently, to update my technical prowess on things that have gone obsolete. Plus I've had 30+ years experience in printing and design. Am I authorized to say I have a B.A. equivalent?
Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 30, 2011:
Thanks, Cags. And you're right, having a degree means almost nothing in a way. I know plenty of people who sit through classes playing on Facebook and do the minimum required to get the minimum passing grades so they can have what is known as a "vanity" degree. It means nothing, and their future employers will find it out when they hire them and find out they don't know crap. So, anyone who really wants to learn something can just start reading. I think probably the main advantage I see about college is that, if you get really good professors (which is not a guarantee lol), they can speed up the rate and depth of learning in fantastic ways. They point you to the right stuff, in the right order to really get particular ideas laid out, fleshed out and refuted from various sides. They bring the advantage of having done a lot of reading to you, so you can skip some dead ends (which is not to say dead ends don't have value too). Plus, they can really teach you how to learn, which is an art in itself. But, in the end, you get out of it what you put in, self taught or college. It's mostly about desire and discipline either way. Nice to see you on this one, thanks for reading and commenting. :)
Raymond D Choiniere from USA on June 30, 2011:
Hey Shades, I saw this one on the feed and realized I've never commented on it. It's nice to see you give back to others, what you've learned, but then again, I always see you do that. :P As for how to spell it? I don't really care, because I don't have a degree either way. My high school education has seem to be enough really, but as you already know from my writing, my learning has not stopped. I prefer to learn in many ways, and I really didn't see a need to go for a higher education. I'm not saying it's not a bad thing for those who do go on, but to do what I wanted, it wasn't required. And, yes, I will agree with you...the English language can be really confusing. I wasn't ever good at English, but was good enough to graduate. :P LOL! Thumbs Up! :)
Shadesbreath (author) from California on June 30, 2011:
You're not alone, Hope Vinson. This article gets a steady trickle of people just like us. Just proves the "rules" of English are confusing to everyone. :)
Hope Vinson on June 29, 2011:
It's funny that I found myself wondering about that as well. Whenever I got confused, I would use initials rather than write the words out.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on May 21, 2011:
Thank you, htodd. :)
htodd from United States on May 21, 2011:
Shadesbreath (author) from California on April 25, 2011:
Hi Petra. I am very happy to hear you could find some use for anything I have written. And there are so many fun and clever people at HP, I enjoy the folks here a great deal, just as you have experienced. Sorry to hear you didn't get that one question right, but hey, as they say, "Now you know," right? :) Thanks for reading.
Petra on April 24, 2011:
Hello Shades, I've been studying English as a foreign language and I've found your writing very educational and fun to read. Thanks so much for the tips and clarification. Last weekend, I took an exam and Bachelor's or bachelor's degree in English were multiple choices. Needless to say that I should have read your article first! Many thanks to all of your fans too. I've learned so much from everyone. Keep it going. Kudos!
Shadesbreath (author) from California on April 20, 2011:
Yeah, I see the posts. I delete spammy links and respond to real (and semi-real) comments. :D
Academic Writing on April 19, 2011:
I am surfing via google and i found your blog full of interesting material really enjoyed here and i am wondering that you will keep updated on every post.
Shadesbreath (author) from California on January 16, 2011:
It is sort of confusing, Aslanlight, but you actually have it right. I'll clarify to show you how. I have a degree in English, so I'll be the example:
1. I have a bachelor's degree in English.
2. Because I have it, I am a Bachelor of Arts with a degree in English.
Hope that helps.
aslanlight from England on January 16, 2011:
Very informative! I find the term a little confusing in that I'm not sure if a person is a bachelor of so and so, or has a bachelors?
Shadesbreath (author) from California on November 17, 2010:
Ha! What a fantastic title you have there. Now all you have to do is get your Ph.D. pass the bar and get knighted and you could be Sir Dr. Thomas Surname (BSc GDipPD MEnv Ph.DXyz), Esq. How fun would that be? Get cracking, you still have a lot of work to do!
Thomas S on November 16, 2010:
Just to explore the confusion some more, I was looking hard at how to describe my qualifications here in Australia, and thought that my university would be the place to go to find the proper nomenclauture.
It turned out that, having been unsuccessful in finding it twice, and discovering this well researched hub page in the process, the third time was the lucky one.
Summary : University of Melbourne specifies the shortened term, is written without periods, and is described in an appendix to the regulations relating to the awarding of qualifications.