“Master’s Degree” or “Masters Degree”: Which Is It?
So you’re putting the finishing touches on your CV or resume website, but you can’t remember how to write out the name of your graduate degree. Does it have an apostrophe? Should it all be capitalized?
Well, you actually have a few formatting options, but the most common and most correct way to spell it all out is “master’s degree”, including an apostrophe and not capitalized.
What is a master’s degree? And how to spell it right?
There is a simple reason for the apostrophe. A master’s degree (from Latin magister, “master” or “teacher”) is an advanced degree awarded by a university or other academic institution after one completes a curriculum and demonstrates expertise in a specific field or profession. This means a graduate possesses mastery in a subject.
Quick reminder: an apostrophe is a punctuation mark indicating (among other things) the possessive case of a noun. So, there you have it! If you have a master's degree, then you should make sure to include the apostrophe to show off your possession of all that knowledge—and that precious diploma.
Here are a few examples of how to use “master’s degree” in a sentence:
They got their master’s degree at a local university.
“Art Garfunkel once envisioned a simple life as a mathematics teacher. He earned a master’s degree and was well on his way to becoming a Ph.D. That plan was derailed when he and Paul Simon became famous as the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel.”— AP News, 25 September 2017
“Eva Longoria is backing up her beauty with a whole lot of brain. The actress graduated with a master’s degree… in Chicano studies from Cal State Northridge, where she physically attended classes for three years, according to TMZ.”—Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2013
Two important points to bear in mind:
When you use it without mentioning the discipline, master’s degree should always be left lowercase.
If you’ve attained superhuman status and have more than one graduate degree, then you would pluralize like this: “They earned two master’s degrees over the years”.
Some other ways to name a master’s degree
The other way you can write out the name of a master’s degree is using its official title. In this case, you’ll want to be sure to capitalize it and drop the apostrophe. For example:
They were awarded a Master of Arts in English by the university.
They completed a Master of Science in Engineering three years ago.
The official name can also be abbreviated like this:
An M.A. in History or an M.S. in Mathematics.
An A.M. (from Latin, artium magister) in History or an S.M. (from Latin, scientiae magister) in Mathematics, if your university has a preference for Latin, like Harvard University, the University of Chicago or MIT.
Note that these abbreviations can work with or without periods, depending on the style guide your university follows and its country of origin. Here are some common abbreviations:
Master of Arts > MA / AM
Master of Science > MS / MSc / SM / ScM
Master of Business Administration > MBA
Master of Education > MEd / EdM
Master of Engineering > MEng. / ME
Master of Social Work > MSW
Master of Fine Arts > MFA
Master of Public Health > MPH
What about bachelor’s degrees?
The exact same rules apply to bachelor’s degrees. You can write out the name any of the following ways:
A bachelor’s degree in psychology
A Bachelor of Science in Psychology
A B.S. / B.Sc. / S.B. / Sc.B. in Psychology
In a nutshell
To sum it all up, someone with a master’s degree has achieved mastery in a particular field. Since mastery is something they possess, the title must be spelled with an apostrophe. Remember: when using the official title of the master’s degree, always capitalize it.
“Master’s degree” or “Masters degree”: Take a little quiz
Before you go, try to answer this question to see if you understood the rules:
Which of the following options are correct?
Masters in Political Science
Master’s degree in political science
Master of Arts in Political Science
Master’s of Political Science
Masters of arts degree in political science
Quiz answers: 2) and 3).
How did you do? This quiz doesn’t qualify you for a master’s degree, but at least now you’ll have one less typo on your resume.
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Tannis Presser, UX Writer at Wix
I have a Bachelor of Arts in History, an M.A. in Conflict Resolution & Mediation, and a second master’s degree in television consumption, which I awarded myself.