I have always referred to an academic degree as something I possess—e.g. ‘I have a degree in $subject’.

However, I recently had to get my degree certificate out for a job interview and noticed that it says the following: ‘It is hereby certified that $name has been duly admitted to the degree of Master of Science in $subject’. Same for my Bachelor's.

So what is an academic degree, and how should it be referred to? Is it something one has, or something one is in? Do I have a Master's degree in $subject or am I in the Master's degree for $subject?

  • During your studies, you are in a program in a subject. Afterwards you have a degree. The degree is in a subject. It depends on the ... um... subject. Of the sentence.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 12:04
  • I suppose maybe when you talk about having a degree, you really mean the certificate?
    – Smock
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 13:07
  • 1
    The sentence you quote doesn't say that you are in a degree. It says that you have been admitted to the degree of X in [subject]. The in comes before the subject of the degree, not before the word degree.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


One meaning of degree in Lexico is:


4 An academic rank conferred by a college or university after examination or after completion of a course, or conferred as an honour on a distinguished person.

Note that rank is mentioned, which explains why the certificate is phrased

It is hereby certified that Rumps has been duly admitted to the degree of Master of Science in XXX

The ranks, as you know, progress from Bachelor, through Master, to Doctor. The Masons and other societies rate progress by numerical degree, for example "reached the 3rd degree".

Informally one refers to a university qualification as a degree. So Rumps has/holds a Master's degree in XXX.

The prepositions "in" or "on" could be used while you are studying:

Rumps is in a degree program.
Rumps is on a university course.

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