Graduation season is upon us, which means you may be called upon to write about academic degrees more than usual. Not sure how to properly write about degrees? Here’s a refresher on Associated Press style.

Possessives in academic degrees

  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and a master’s.
  • But it’s an associate degree (no possessive).
  • And there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

Academic degrees: abbreviations to know

A few key abbreviations to know are: 

  • B.A. (bachelor of arts)
  • M.A. (master of arts)
  • LL.D. (doctor of laws)
  • JD (juris doctor) 
  • Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) 

When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: Albus Severus Potter, Ph.D., spoke.

If using after a name, these abbreviations should follow a full name only — never just a last name.

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference. For example: 

  • Incorrect: Dr. James Dean, Ph.D. 
  • Correct: James Dean, Ph.D. OR Dr. James Dean 

Bonus tip: A lot of company stylebooks remove the periods in these abbreviations to keep copy cleaner. So, be sure to double-check your organization’s editorial style guide. And if you work for an institution of higher education, there is likely to be a very detailed entry on academic degrees. Bookmark it!