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Academic degrees

The majority of students in English-speaking countries do a three or four-year bachelor's degree as their first degree. The most common degrees are Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc). Master's degrees are so-called postgraduate degrees. Master’s degree programmes are usually one or two years long.

Here's a selection of bachelor's and master's degrees:

Bachelor's degrees

Master's degrees

BA Bachelor of Arts MA Master of Arts
BA ARCH Bachelor of Architecture MA ARCH Master of Architecture
BEd Bachelor of Education MBA Master of Business Administration
BEng Bachelor of Engineering MEd Master of Education
BFA Bachelor of Fine Arts MFA Master of Fine Arts
BMedSci Bachelor of Medical Science MMedSci Master of Medical Science
BMus Bachelor of Music MMus Master of Music
BPhil Bachelor of Philosophy MPhil Master of Philosophy
BSc Bachelor of Science MSc Master of Science
BSc (Econ) Bachelor of Science in Economics MSc (Econ) Master of Science in Economics
LLB Bachelor of Law LLM Master of Law


 Tips about degrees

  • In most English-speaking countries, bachelor's degrees are differentiated either as "ordinary" degrees (also called "pass" or "general" degrees) or as "honours" degrees. Honours degree programmes are generally of a higher academic standard and are usually four rather than three years long. At some universities you have to do a four-year honours degree in order to go on to a master's degree. US universities and colleges award bachelor's degrees with "honors" to their best students – usually "cum laude" (with praise), "magna cum laude" (with great praise) and "summa cum laude" (with highest praise).
  • When writing or talking about degree titles the abbreviation is usually used. In the UK you will see the abbreviations written both with and without full stops. In the US degree title abbreviations are usually written with full stops. So you'll see, for example, both BA and B.A. for Bachelor of Arts degrees and BSc or B.Sc. for Bachelor of Science degrees. Note too that some abbreviations are only written in upper case while others are a mixture of upper and lower case (see table). The abbreviation for "honours" is "Hons", so a Bachelor of Science honours degree, for example, is abbreviated to BSc (Hons) or B.Sc. (Hons).
  • You will also see the words "bachelor's" and "master's" written without the apostrophe (bachelors and masters).
  • When writing about bachelor's, master's or doctor's degrees in general or less formal terms, use the lower case for the degree type (e.g. "bachelor's). The degree subject tends to be written in lower case in the UK and capitalised in the US.


He received a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering.

She did a bachelor's in philosophy.

She received her doctor's degree/doctorate in 2012.

  • The specific titles of degrees are usually capitalised. For degree titles there is no "s" at the end of "bachelor" or "master".
    • Right: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistic and International Studies.
    • Wrong: I have a Bachelor's of Arts in Linguistic and International Studies.
  • If there is a standard English translation for a degree title, use it. Otherwise write the German and give the nearest English equivalent in brackets.
    • Right: Diplom Physiker (approximately equivalent to a Master of Science in Physics)
    • Wrong: Diploma in Physics
  • The abbreviation for a doctor's degree (also called a doctorate) is PhD (Doctor of Philosophy - US: Ph.D.). You can say you received/earned a doctorate or you received/earned a PhD. The adjective is "doctoral", so you write your doctoral thesis (UK) or your doctoral dissertation (US) and you do your doctoral degree.

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