Academic Degrees

Academic degrees are capitalized only when the full name of the degree is used, such as Bachelor of Arts or Master of Social Work. General references, such as bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, are not capitalized.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2008.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2008.
She holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from Stanford University.

Abbreviations, such as B.A., M.S. and Ph.D., should be used in text only when there is a need to identify many people by academic degree and use of the full names would be cumbersome.

In most writing, use of the general terms bachelor’s or bachelor’s degree, master’s or master’s degree and doctorate or doctoral degree are sufficient to establish credentials and preferred to use of the full name of the degree (or the initials).

Use an apostrophe (possessive) with bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but not in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Do not use an apostrophe (possessive) with associate degree or doctoral degree.

Never use both a courtesy title and degree

Preferred: Dr. Dana Brooks will...
Acceptable: Dana Brooks, Ph.D., will...
Do not use: Dr. Dana Brooks, Ph.D., will...

Identifying alumni by class year versus degrees earned

To identify someone as an alumnus or alumna of WMU, use the person's preferred class year. Immediately following the name, enter one space, an apostrophe and the two-numeral preferred class year. Both graduate and non-graduate alumni (attended but did not earn a degree) have a preferred class year, and each alumnus and alumna has only one preferred class year, regardless of how many degrees are held.

Mary W. Smith ’79 was elected president of the chapter.

To identify degrees earned at WMU, place a comma immediately after the name, and follow it with a space, the degree, an apostrophe, the two-numeral year the degree was awarded, and a comma (or period at the end of a sentence).

Mary W. Smith, B.A.’79, was elected president.
Thomas C. Clark, B.A.’65, M.A.’67, Ph.D.’79, attended the reunion.

If your intention is to show degrees earned at WMU, then list both the degrees and the years in which they were earned. If your intention is simply to indicate that the person is an alumnus or alumna, use only the preferred class year.

Thomas C. Clark ’65 attended the reunion.
Thomas C. Clark, B.A.’65, M.A.’67, Ph.D.’79, attended the reunion.
Thomas C. Clark ’65 ’67 ’79 attended the reunion.

Degrees earned at other institutions

Except to show multiple degrees earned at Western Michigan University, do not list more than one degree following a person's name. The following examples are a first reference to a speaker who earned her degrees at another university.

Incorrect: Rebecca McKenzie, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., will...
Acceptable: Rebecca McKenzie, Ph.D., will...
Preferred: Dr. Rebecca McKenzie will...

Do not mix degrees earned at WMU with degrees earned at other institutions. If Mary Smith earned a B.A. in 1995 from WMU and a Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of Illinois, list her as "Mary Smith, B.A. ’75," or as "Mary Smith, Ph.D." Never include the two-numeral class year construction with degrees earned from other institutions.