How Should I List Multiple Degrees After My Name?

Jun 10, 2024

Dr. Vicki Johnson, a mid-age white American woman with straight brown hair and a green blouse. She is a graduate school admissions expert. The words, Ask Dr. Johnson are on the left-hand side.

Dear Dr. Johnson,

I have been applying unsuccessfully for academic positions and fellowships for about a year now. I was given the feedback that my signature may be the problem. I have five university degrees from five different universities in different subjects. I often send out emails with a signature that looks like this:

[Full Name], PhD, MA, MPA, BA (Honors), BA

I looked on Google to see if I should show all my credentials after my name and it seemed like this was the right thing to do since each degree is unique. Some people tell me that this works against me because it looks arrogant. I know I am the only one who will “toot my own horn” for me so I am not sure what to do. Can you please advise regarding how I should credit myself correctly in closure?

– Credentialed

From Dr. Vicki Johnson:

In the U.S., the most common practice is to include just your highest degree after your name, so for you, PhD. Everyone with a PhD has a Bachelor’s degree, and most PhD holders have one or more Master’s degrees. So it’s unnecessary to list all your degrees after your name because your PhD signals that you have achieved the highest degree possible in your field and it’s assumed you have other degrees.

I think what you are really asking is whether it is helpful for you in the job and fellowship application process to list all your degrees after your name. The simple answer is no.

While I agree that it is important to promote yourself in the hyper-competitive academic market, listing all your degrees can rub some people the wrong way (and you already received this feedback). Benjamin Bolger was recently featured in the New York Times for his feat of achieving 14 advanced degrees, plus an associate’s and a bachelor’s. But rather than applause for this accomplishment, most of the readers’ comments are negative, criticizing the assumed privilege it would take to pay for so many degrees and never hold a “real” job. The assumptions may be unfair but they reflect what people are really thinking.

So, if you want to have more success, take note of social norms and the assumptions that might be made about you.

It’s rare for anyone, but especially PhD holders, to list a BA after their name. So my advice is, don’t do this.

Some might say that it would be ok to list your two Master’s degrees after your PhD, but I don’t think this adds tremendous value.

In any case, the list of degrees after your name does not express the many disciplines you have studied, and there’s simply no space in a signature to add this detail. So take a common approach.

When applying to academic positions and fellowships, you submit a CV and cover letter. The CV is comprehensive and can express all your educational and professional accomplishments.

The cover letter is where you can express why you are a good fit for a particular role. I recommend cherry-picking the most relevant degrees to the role when describing your educational path in your cover letter.

Sometimes less is more. Best of luck!

Dr. Vicki Johnson is the Founder and Director of ProFellow, the world’s leading online resource for professional and academic fellowships. She is a four-time fellow, top Ph.D. scholar, Fulbright recipient, and an award-winning social entrepreneur. She is the creator of the Fully Funded Course and Mentorship Program, which helps graduate school applicants enter top graduate schools with funding awards. 

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