What is the correct phrasing to tell the people that I have successfully obtained a master's degree? I want to convey the idea that I have had all classes and defended my dissertation.

BTW, is "defending the dissertation" a meaningful and correct phrase?

  • 1
    I might be generalising, but I would think you graduate from an institution (e.g. I graduated from Cambridge with a Master's) but you complete or finish or obtain your degree. – Andy F Mar 7 '12 at 12:23
  • Maybe print up some calling cards to hand out, like: John Q. Jones, M.A., Oxon. – GEdgar Mar 7 '12 at 15:00
  • "Had all classes and defended a dissertation" of course actually does not mean you have a Masters degree. You need one more thing: A diploma is what confers the degree. – Mark Beadles Mar 7 '12 at 17:15
  • If someone uses "master's course" it's somewhat ambiguous whether they mean a series of classes resulting in a master's degree, or a master class, a class taught by a master (famous, not always degree-holding) in a subject. – user2400 Mar 7 '12 at 18:37
  • When you say "the correct phrasing", what are you looking for precisely? The phrasing which would be most commonly used across all native English speakers? The phrasing which would be most commonly used among other holders of a postgraduate degree? The phrasing which would be preferred by a highly pedantic academic? Also, are you interested in a particular dialect / regional subset of English, or are you looking for an answer which covers global variation in usage? – Peter Taylor Mar 8 '12 at 11:19

Having met several people who have finished their Masters, there is one phrase they use all the time:

I have finished my Masters...

EDIT: In view of the OP's comment below, there's also the variation:

I finished my Masters...(number of years ago, etc.)

  • The only thing about using "finished" is would you say that 30 years later? It seems like there would be a point in time when this sounds odd. – JLG Mar 7 '12 at 18:50
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    @JLG Maaaaybe "completed" in that case? Somehow that word feels more long-term in this context. – Izkata Mar 7 '12 at 19:00

The normal phasings are "finished my master's [degree]", "obtained my/a master's [degree]", or "have my/a master's [degree]". The word degree is optional in all phrasings and should be used where it sounds better. It is frequently omitted when naming the subject (i.e. I hear "master's in engineering" more often than "master's degree in engineering"), but including it still sounds completely normal.

As for "defending the dissertation", that is both meaningful and correct, but it is not terribly common to use the word the in that phrase rather than a pronoun. You more often see "defending his/her/my/your disertation", even when context has already established which dissertation is being discussed.

  • The only other things I can think of that follow the pattern of dissertation are one's body parts. Not I hurt the hand, but I hurt my hand. Is it only body parts and dissertations? It would be a strange coincidence if it were true. – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 9 '16 at 21:20

We often have authors (with PhDs and DVMs) write that they have earned their degrees.

Also, as the questioner wrote, I think it is most standard to use the apostrophe with the word master’s. See The New York Times article "The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/education/edlife/edl-24masters-t.html?pagewanted=all

So your sentence could be: I earned my master's degree from State College.

  • 1
    Side note: "Earned a degree" is sometimes used to specifically contract with receiving an honorary degree. When a politician or some such dignitary gives a speech at a college, they are often given an honorary degree of some sort. I have no idea what the point of this is, like who cares, but that's another story. Thus job applications and the like sometimes ask about "earned degrees" to distinguish them from honorary degrees. – Jay Mar 7 '12 at 16:57
  • Interesting. Can you find an example of that wording and post it? It seems an honorary degree is the opposite of an earned degree. I know honorees are often said to "hold an honorary doctorate" or that the degree is "awarded" or "conferred" rather than earned. – JLG Mar 7 '12 at 17:22
  • I think the intended word was contrast, not contract. – Ben Voigt Apr 2 '12 at 22:12

First of all, congratulations on your accomplishment. As a fellow M.A., whenever anyone asks, I always phrase it as "I have a Master's Degree." This conveys everything you are looking for, I believe, and does so quite simply.

If you need a contrast, when I was in grad school, my phrasing was "I am working on a Master's Degree."

  • thank you very much! simple and effective formulations :) – Draconar Mar 8 '12 at 20:17

It is best to simply say:

I hold a Master's (degree) (in ...).


When I hear and read this in the United States, it most often resembles this form:

I graduated with a Master's in Computer Science from Stanford.

protected by tchrist Dec 11 '14 at 21:05

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