AP Style Academic Degrees


Sometimes it is necessary to establish the credentials of a subject in your text. When you need to do this, the AP Stylebook prefers you to write out the title of a degree in a phrase and to avoid using an abbreviation. For example,

  • Correct: John Smith, who has a doctorate in astronomy, showed us constellations in the night sky.
  • Wrong: John Smith, who has a Ph.D. in astronomy, showed us constellations in the night sky.

Bachelor Degree or Bachelor’s Degree?

AP Style states that you should use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. For example,

  • Correct: I have two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree.
  • Wrong: I have two bachelors degrees and one masters degree.
  • Wrong: I have two bachelor degrees and one master degree.

An associate degree, however, does not use an apostrophe. For example,

  • Correct: I received my associate degree before my bachelor’s.
  • Wrong: I received my associate’s degree.

There is also no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, etc.

  • Correct: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics.
  • Wrong: I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Linguistics.

Abbreviation of AP Style Academic Degrees

Use such abbreviations as B.S., M.S., LL.D., J.D., and Ph.D. only when you need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference and doing so in the AP Style academic degrees preferred way would be cumbersome. You should use abbreviations like these only after full names, never after just a last name.

When an academic abbreviation is used after a full name, commas should set it off. For example,

  • Charles Smith, Ph.D., will present tonight’s lecture.

You should never precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and then also follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference. For example,

  • Wrong: Dr. Smith, Ph.D., will present tonight’s lecture.
  • Correct: Dr. Smith will present tonight’s lecture.
  • Correct: Charles Smith, Ph.D., will present tonight’s lecture.

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