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The question asks it all really. When referring to a master's degree, do you use an apostrophe or not? That is, is it "a master's" or "a masters"?

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  • Relevant discussion at quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/… . One could cut the Gordian knot and say "Master degree"; we don't say "Ph.D.'s degree". Sep 26, 2014 at 13:58
  • Your question is being discussed on meta you might like to intervene and throw in your 5 cents' worth How to update a seven-year-old question?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2017 at 10:03
  • Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Questions where there is likely to be no consensus still need authoritative examples showing divided usage. Dec 26, 2019 at 12:12

1 Answer 1

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I always use "master's degree". You may want to read this article about this topic. Below are some important parts of it which I found very useful.

Masters Degree or Master’s Degree? by Maeve Maddox

To answer this question, I’ve consulted the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, and some university dissertation guidelines.

Speaking generically, you would write master’s degree:

  • Jack has finally earned his master’s degree.

Speaking of a specific degree, you would capitalize Master:

  • He holds a Master of Fine Arts from State University.

When it comes to abbreviating academic degrees, you’d better check the style book that governs your work.

For example, here is what the guidelines say on the site of Ohio University:

  • “Use periods when abbreviating academic degrees. Ex. Dr. Bond received her A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.” –Ohio University

Northeastern University, like the MLA guide, prefers to drop the periods:

  • “Punctuating degrees: Do not include periods in degree abbreviations. [Ex. BS, BA, MA, PhD] The single exception is Hon. for Honorary.” –Northeastern University

NOTE: Not all universities use the same abbreviations for the master’s degree:

  • Examples of the reversed usage include Harvard University, the University of Chicago and MIT, leading to the abbreviations A.M. and S.M. for these degrees. The forms "Master of Science" and "Master in Science" are indistinguishable in Latin, thus MSci is "Master of Natural Sciences" at the University of Cambridge. –Wikipedia
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    If I ruled the world, it would be 'masters degree', which is what I suspect it will one day become without my intervention. Nov 20, 2011 at 8:56
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    @BarrieEngland: You've already got the language named after you. ;-)
    – jvriesem
    Aug 25, 2015 at 16:37
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    I would say master's degrees. Feb 27, 2017 at 18:27
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    The two university links are hopeless. I spent a fair bit of time trying to track down the Northeastern manual style guide on punctuating degrees with no success. But I did update the Wikipedia excerpt, and link. When, and if you have the inclination, maybe you could track down the two university style guides yourself.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2017 at 16:11
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    England ruling the world? Certainly not at football. Oct 7, 2019 at 11:25

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