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Degree abbreviations explained

Degree abbreviations explainedOne benefit of getting a degree is showing off the letters after your name - but what do they all mean? Decode them with this simple guide.

What goes where?

Degree letters indicate both the level of the degree and the subject area it is in. For example, a BA is a Bachelor of Arts, and an MEcon is a Master of Economics.

Normally, the level comes first and the subject area comes second. However, there are variations, such as the LLB (Bachelor of Law) and PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). This is usually because the name of the degree comes from Latin.

What levels mean

  • Bachelor (B): the usual level for a standard undergraduate degree.
  • Master (M): a degree awarded following higher-level, more in-depth study than a Bachelor's degree, usually after a year or two of postgraduate study. It's also possible to get a Master's degree as your first degree, usually on a four-year science or engineering course.
  • Doctor (D): a high-level degree, requiring a long period of independent research.

Strange subjects

The subjects in degree names don't always match up perfectly to the subject you study at university.

For example, most Bachelor's degrees are either a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or a BSc (Bachelor of Science), and the most common doctoral degree is a PhD, or 'Doctor of Philosophy', whatever subject it is in.

Master's degrees are usually more specific - it's probably safe to take a guess at what someone studied to earn their MGeoscience degree.

Doing things differently

Although the way degrees are named is fairly standard, some universities have their own little quirks. For example, Oxford and Cambridge give out BAs even for their science degrees, and their graduates get an automatic MA a few years after graduating. If you do a doctorate at Sussex University, you'll get a DPhil instead of a PhD.

These differences don't affect how valuable your degree is - they might just make things a little more confusing.