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Abbreviations and Titles

In Higher Education

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Abbreviations serve as shortcuts for long expressions or words. Some abbreviations are appropriate in academic writing, while others are not appropriate. Below you'll find a list of abbreviations you are likely to use in your experience as a student.

Abbreviations for College Degrees

A.A.

Associate of Arts: A two-year degree in any specific liberal art or a general degree covering a mix of courses in liberal arts and sciences. It is acceptable to use the A.A. abbreviation in place of the full degree name. For example: Alfred earned an A.A. at the local community college.

A.A.S.

Associate of Applied Science: A two year degree in a technical or a science field. Example: Dorothy earned an A.A.S. in culinary arts after she earned her high school degree.

A.B.D.

All But Dissertation: This refers to a student who has completed all the requirements for a Ph.D. except for the dissertation. It is used primarily in reference to doctoral candidates whose dissertation is in progress, to state that the candidate is eligible to apply for positions that require a Ph.D. The abbreviation is acceptable in place of the full expression.

A.F.A.

Associate of Fine Arts: A two-year degree in a field of creative art such as painting, sculpting, photography, theater, and fashion design. The abbreviation is acceptable in all but very formal writing.

B.A.

Bachelor of Arts: An undergraduate, four-year degree in a liberal arts or sciences. The abbreviation is acceptable in all but very formal writing.

B.F.A.

Bachelor of Fine Arts: A four-year, undergraduate degree in a field of creative art. The abbreviation is acceptable in all but very formal writing.

B.S.

Bachelor of Science: A four-year, undergraduate degree in a science. The abbreviation is acceptable in all but very formal writing.

Note: Students enter college for the first time as undergraduates pursuing either a two-year (associate's) or a four-year (bachelor's) degree. Many universities have a separate college within called a graduate school, where students may choose to continue their education to pursue a higher degree.

M.A.

Master of Arts: The master's degree is a degree earned in graduate school. The M.A. is a master's degree in one of the liberal arts awarded to students who study one or two years after earning a bachelor's degree.

M.Ed.

Master of Education: The master's degree awarded to a student pursuing an advanced degree in the field of education.

M.S.

Master of Science: The master's degree awarded to a student pursuing an advanced degree in science or technology.

Abbreviations for Titles

Dr.

Doctor: When referring to a college professor, the title usually refers to a Doctor of Philosophy, the highest degree in many fields. (In some fields of study the master's degree is the highest possible degree.) It is generally acceptable (preferable) to abbreviate this title when addressing professors in writing and when conducting academic and nonacademic writing.

Esq.

Esquire: Historically, the abbreviation Esq. has been used as a title of courtesy and respect. In the United States, the title is generally used as a title for lawyers, after the full name.
  • Example: John Hendrik, Esq.

It is appropriate to use the abbreviation Esq. in formal and academic writing.

Prof.

Professor: When referring to a professor in nonacademic and informal writing, it is acceptable to abbreviate when you use the full name. It is best to use the full title before a surname alone. Example:

  • I'll invite Prof. Johnson to appear as a speaker at our next meeting.
  • Professor Mark Johnson is speaking at our next meeting.

Mr. and Mrs.

The abbreviations Mr. and Mrs. are shortened versions of mister and mistress. Both terms, when spelled out, are considered antiquated and outdated when it comes to academic writing. However, the term mister is still used in very formal writing (formal invitations) and military writing. Do not use mister or mistress when addressing a teacher, a professor, or a potential employer.

Ph.D.

Doctor of Philosophy: As a title, the Ph.D. comes after the name of a professor who has earned the highest degree awarded by a graduate school. The degree may be called a doctoral degree or a doctorate.

  • Example: Sara Edwards, Ph.D.

You would address a person who signs correspondence as "Sara Edwards, Ph.D." as Dr. Edwards.

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