Should you include degrees on your business card?

In my morning wave of email was this query from my friend Rob McNealy of Startup Story Radio, via LinkedIn Questions: “Do you think it is cheesy to put MBA on your business cards and in your online profiles? I am a recovering MBA. I have never put the letters MBA after my name or on my business cards. However, lately I have been seeing more and more people putting their MBA’s in their profiles. Is the MBA making a comeback?”
I’ve thought about this on and off too, as I also have an MBA and an Masters Degree in Education. I think it would look pretty spiffy to have Dave Taylor, MSEd, MBA on my business card, but I think the issue is whether it’s right for your target community or not.
In some of the communities I’m in, having those initials would be clearly pretentious and I think detrimental to the intent of my card reminding people of me later, when they’re cleaning out their briefcase / wallet / purse. If I were more in academic circles, however, then I would definitely include these credentials, just as if I were in the healthcare industry I’d list other certifications too (did you know I was a certified Reiki master, for example? Not really relevant to blogging, is it?)
Let’s open this up, however. Do you have credentials, initials, degrees on your business card or in your email signature? Or do you eschew it all?
By the way, I’ve written about business card design in the past, if you’re curious about my thoughts regarding best practices in this area.


Oh, and in terms of whether the MBA is making a comeback, quite the opposite. The recent coverage in publications like BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal suggest that there’s a great dissatisfaction with the quality of contemporary Masters in Business Administration studies. Indeed, some of the very biggest business schools (Wharton, Stanford, etc) are busy re-examining their entire curriculum to ascertain whether they really prepare managers for success in the “flat earth” 21st century.

74 comments on “Should you include degrees on your business card?

  1. Hi Dave —
    Interesting question! I have an MA in science journalism, and while I always list it on my site, I never thought to list it on my business card. And only one client has ever listed it as part of my bio/credits on the product. That said, however, I do think it’s a significant plus on my resume, and does help to get me work.
    Cathy Dold

  2. I am not a big person for putting academic credentials behind your name unless you are a either a “doctor” – Ph.D, MD, Ed.D, etc or you have a certain type of certification that is relevant to your job function.
    For example, I have an MS degree along with an FMP (Facility Management Professional). I only attach the FMP to my name on my email signature and not the MS degree. The FMP is relevant to my profession – it shows that I have achieved a relevant level of knowledge in the area. The MS degree is added and can be explained in further conversation if needed.

  3. Good post. I am a CCIM, which is a commercial real estate designation. So, in the CRE world, I put it after my name in emails and business cards. I do this mostly because I want to meet other CCIMs. In other circles, however, people have no clue what that means, so I usually don’t mention it.

  4. i think your credentials are part of your name, part of your identity and leaving it off is like leaving off part of your name
    the other day i was checking into buying a house and the guy due to my youthful appearance asked if i had school loan payments. i said yes but forgot i looked young so he assumed undergrad. well this doens’t help my credibility in looking at houses and i was told to look at townhomes. this guy had no idea that i graduated from HS nearly 20yrs ago. So, if i had put my master’s degree on my info sheet, maybe i would have gotten more respect. i guess it depends. sometimes i use it when someone talks down to me at work because they are used to talking to people in my group like that, especially if the person is correcting me when i have evidence i wasn’t wrong. l-o-v-e that 1-2 punch. what can they say. you can soften the blow by saying, hope i can help or at your service or something like that.

  5. “It depends” is the copout, correct answer. If the alphabet soup of initials behinds a person’s name comes off as pretentious, then it is. If it informs or is part of an industry’s nomenclature and lets the audience know you are a person of gravitas, go for it.

  6. (FORTUNE Magazine) � Dear Annie: What is the protocol for listing one’s credentials on e-mail signatures, business cards, etc.? I have an MBA and am a CPA, yet today my boss sniped at me in a meeting for listing these things on my e-mail signoff and business card. He has a Ph.D., and he asked me, “Oh, now I’m going to start putting that on my card?” I was nonplussed, since many other people here use the same professional designations without this kind of ridicule. What is going on? –Puzzled
    Dear Puzzled: Hmm. Your boss is exceedingly modest. Most Ph.D.s not only note the designation on their cards but also like to be addressed as “Doctor,” which seems fair enough after all those years of study. “It is customary to list one’s credentials on one’s card and e-mail signoff, although MBAs do it somewhat less than CPAs do,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder and director of an executive-etiquette training firm called the Protocol School of Palm Beach (www.etiquetteexpert.com). “Your boss really should include his Ph.D. on his card and e-mail signoff as well. For him to make fun of you for this–well, there must be something else going on.” Indeed. I hate to break this to you, but it seems pretty clear that your boss dislikes you for some reason that has nothing to do with this at all. And since he is the CEO, you might be wise to figure out what it is about you that bugs him–or else start job hunting.

  7. Hi Dave: In my opinion,I think you should place your credentials behind your name on a business card because it is an accomplishment of hard work and it also tells the receiving party they are dealing with someone that has expertise and knowledge in a certain area of interest. I have a BS in CJ (Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice), MBA in Management and a MS in Psychology. By revealing this information, it starts a networking process that can put you in contact with others with similiar backgrounds and can be good for business as well.

  8. I get to see a lot of business cards and I’ve always found it to be pretentious to list MBA behind your name. My colleagues feel the same. Would you list a BA? (obviously one respondent thinks its okay- but its not!)
    An MBA is not a professional degree, it has no place on a business card. However, I agree it does belong on a resume’ because you are listing your level of formal education. (and, as one response suggests, its not part of your name, for heaven’s sake!)

  9. Michael on June 22, that makes no sense to me.
    You worked hard for your degree(s) they are part of your experience and your identity. List them, what people label pretentious is just their own jealousy.

  10. Kevin……you miss the point, an MBA is just a degree, and not even a highly specialzed one at that. If we all started listing our degrees after our names that would look silly (Joe Schmoe, BA). On business cards and business email signatures, ONLY professional designations should be listed as THAT is what implies a level of accomplishment.
    And every degree you get you work hard for, BA, BS, Master’s…..but they only belong on a resume (unless you’re at the Ph.D. level) since they DO NOT equate to a level of expertise in any area as a designation like CPA, CMA or CFM does.
    I find people might like to stroke their own eqo by listing their education level after their name, but I usually look down at themn for that exact reason…I have met a LOT of idiots with MBA’s, so there really isnt much to brag about there. By putting it out there, youre probably going to get more negative response than positive…..I would even circular file resumes with a degree listed after someone’s name just for that reason.
    Let you skill do the talking and your resume explain your background/education…..

    • Why exactly is a PhD considered a “professional” degree while my AAS is not even thought my associate degree is specialized in the area of my career whilst the PhD may or may not have anything to do with the “doctor’s” career? PhD is simply a higher academic degree. It means you went to school longer and frankly it normally means that while “more educated” you have less experience because while you were in school I was out in the workplace “being there and doing that”. I have never listed any credentials by my name whether professional or academic but it seems utterly condescending for someone who simply has a higher degree to tell those of us “beneath you” that we are being pretentious by listing our degrees. Furthermore, it has been my experience that your level of education is conversly proportionate to your actual intelligence. In other words “Einstein” you might be book smart but that does not make you intelligent. I work with a lot of engineers… most of them couldn’t blow their nose if their brains were TNT! So why should they get more respect because they have a PE after their name? I can do their job but they can’t do mine but they garner more respect. This seems backward to me.

      It’s like I told the Engineer who argued with me last week about putting petrochem equipment near a flare…..he gets paid to work all the nifty formulas on wind velocity and thermal radiation and such while I get paid to already know that there is a minimum 200 foot distance that applies regardless of how you work all those nifty formulas. After two weeks of 3 engineers running their formulas they finally figured out what I told them on day one……you can’t put any equipment within 200ft of any flare…..period. But yet they are given more respect? REALLY? So frankly I will put my AAS after my name if I damned well want to and if anyone doesn’t like it they can kiss my butt.

    • I find it very discouraging that people feel that letting them know about there education is pretentious I would have never thought that.

      I work in the one industry where your degree matters. HEALTHCARE and a MBA surely separates you from your earning potential and where you can be placed in the healthcare field so im not sure why THIS COUNTRY INSIST THAT YOU GET AN EDUCATION ONLY TO TELL YOU THAT IT DOENST MATTER

  11. A MBA is a professional degree and a global respected accomplishment. Although there are higher educational attainment(DBA or PH.D) The MBA is usually look upon as a terminal degree. The same as JD or LLM. The MBA usually expresses you have a level of business skills within the major areas of business operations. It can be useful in any industy. Those who earned one, would agree. I use mine everytime I get a chance. email signuture, business cards, check book with confidence their be no bonus checks.

  12. An MBA is no harder (and in some cases easier) to obtain then rigorous undergraduate degrees in computer science, engineering, or similar. Personally, I never had an opinion on those that included the MBA but I’ve had co-workers point it out on some people’s email signatures and had unfavorable comments. I see less people include it than have it so in general it seems most MBAs are modest while others like to point it out every chance they get.

  13. Since these comments are far and few between I almost passed on giving input, but there is relevance to keeping this topic active. Sounds like those currently employed need not list credentials on cards, because they hang prominently on the wall of their office/cube. On the other hand it sounds like a lot of land mines for those seeking an appropriate first impression. If you have earned an advanced degree be it AS, AB, MBA or certification such as PMP, CPA, etc., you can list it on your business card and be proud of your accomplishments. Since many of us have various resume that target different audiences our business cards also should be specific therefore, it requires judgment on our part. Since 85% of adult Americans have a HS diploma and 25% earn an advanced degree (bachelor) I would say that both the AS and BA are still advance education, but just taking courses is post-secondary (without degree). Like I have said, it is best to know if your industry has some credentials quirk and avoid the minefield.

  14. I find that it’s not at all pretentious to place the MBA designation behind one’s name. Maybe it’s because I’m just accustomed to seeing credentials listed after every professor’s name, usually the PhD designation. I have seen cases where professors only include the PhD designation even when s/he has earned the MBA. In those cases, those professors have earned a PhD degree in a business concentration, such as accounting or marketing. I can see why the MBA would be left out in that case.
    Some healthcare professionals (MD, RN, PharmD, DDS, DDM, etc.) have earned the MBA to gain business administration skills in order to more effectively manage or work in different business settings. These professionals have terminal degrees that are not in business and so attaching the MBA designation behind the healthcare professional degree (ie. Your Name, MD, MBA) would let others know that the person has had business administration/management training/skills and is qualified for management related job functions outside of the customary healthcare functions.

  15. I wanted to thank everyone for keeping this topic current. I have a question for Dave Taylor.
    Do you still see the MBA loosing strength?
    I’m in IT and currently I have a ASA and I’m working on my BIS. I plan on doing a MBA. Like the previous poster mentioned, people in the medical field put MBA after their names to denote they have business knowledge outside their field, that is the same type of presence I would like to portray, IT with a business degree background.
    Does anyone have a recommendation outside the MBA?

  16. When you put initials behind your name without having a PhD you’re screaming for attention and it comes across as what it is. If you’re that intelligent, get the PhD, if not then stop it; you’re not just making enemies, you’re destroying your reputation. I have a masters degree but never put initials behind my name, I snicker and make jokes about those on the job who do: they come across as wanna-be’s and snobs that have little experience and a lot of initials that nobody cares about. Let your actions do the talking, not some MSOW nonsense behind your name.

    • There’s nothing wrong with putting any kind of credentials after your name. I think it is just being petty to mock or be disdainful of people who do.

  17. I have to disagree that listing degrees is pretentious and unnecessary. I work in nonprofit social services where it’s common to list MSW, MA, M.Ed. I don’t see why others get so offended by that.

    • I agree with Jenny. Adding to that, I have always been of the opinion that an Associate degree is simply the halfway mark to a Bachelor degree and not worth much. It’s a start, basically. If you want to argue this point, you might want to spell-check the comments you’ve already posted first. A Bachelor degree is your standard for simply not quitting after high school. Pretty much a bare minimum requirement. I am also a HUGE proponent of traditional school. I earned my Master’s the traditional way…by going to class at a real university. I don’t see a Master’s degree from some Joe’s University online my equal. Honestly, by getting home late from class, trudging through all kinds of weather, sacrificing other things to make it to all those classes, participating in live group settings, etc., I worked harder for it. Interesting though, that it hasn’t been until getting ready to earn a professional certification, that I’ve considered adding M.S. to my business card. It’s kind of like, once you’ve gone there, you may as well list them. So with that, not sure I’d list an MBA by itself, but once there’s some certifications (like, real ones…CPA, etc.), I say go for it. If it suits you, do it.

      • I respectfully disagree with your statement that someone who earned their degree online isn’t an equal to those who earned theirs traditionally. I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Brescia University, and it was all online. My new coworkers were astounded by the work I was required to do, and my fellow interns who were going the traditional route had the same reaction. In-person or online: education is what you make of it.

  18. In our fast-paced world, people do not want to spend the time to get to know you because they likely have more important things to do. Adding your degrees and professional designations after your name greatly helps tell other people what you are knowledgeable in, along with facilitating discussion and networking.
    If you are a professional, adding accomplished suffixes shows people you are dedicated and competent in your chosen profession.
    Those claiming degrees and professional designations are worthless probably just do not know how to leverage their accomplishments. Or, they are already old and have accepted that they will no longer be able to rise in the ranks. Thus, they are trying to superficially boast and brag that they did not have to put those suffixes in order to get where they are, to fool themselves and help make themselves feel better about their current lives.

  19. So I googled if I should add my MBA after my name on my business card and it appears just as many say no as say yes. I’m not sure if I’d say it was hard work earning it but it was 2 years of my life beyond the BS. I have my own business, importing and the MBA is in International Trade…seems relevant enough but I certainly don’t want to come across as snooty. I certainly think those on this post that are down right bitter about listing a designation like MBA are missing something in their own life. In business an MBA is a terminal degree…there is no point in getting a PhD if you are staying in business (you are then over qualified or hiding in school). I will give others a clue to adding designations after you name: if you constantly have to explain what SQR, JSD, PPSA after your name means- you are probably one of those people trying to hard. If however you are a lawyer and you list ESQ for passing the bar or MD for your million years of education (I’m thinking I’m answering my own question) there’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward on a business card or email if you are trying to convey to your audience you are a professional committed to taking the industry seriously.

  20. I think the answer to whether to put the MBA in or not really does depend on the person and the situation. Within your organization or field you should follow the norm. If no one else is doing it, you shouldn’t either. If it adds value and provides good information then it is probably okay. Whether it is pretentious or not depends more on how you carry yourself. For instance, as a field engineer, when I finish my MBA in December I think it would be silly to put it on a card for customers. But, for networking and career changing I think it may be okay on a personal card.
    As for whether the MBA is relevant, I will say absolutely. Despite being close to finishing my MBA, I was probably the biggest MBA skeptic until a couple semesters ago (long story why I even started it). With the world changing so fast with globalization I think it has been an invaluable experience. I’ve learned a lot and use it a lot. The training teaches you how to think. I will say the school really matters. There are MBA factories (even amongst reputable schools) and there are good programs. State schools and AACSB accreditation are a good starting point for deciding. A global focus is also important.
    I have found that MBA’s are currently a popular scape goat. I see a lot of people blaming MBA’s but, through the power of Linkedin, I see very few leaders I know have MBA’s. Graduation statistics nationwide back that up (only 25% with bachelors so how many can have an MBA?). I don’t think there is a problem with MBA’s as much as a problem with non-MBA’s reading a book or two and thinking they are MBA’s.

  21. I agree with Jenny and Matthew. Professional, state-issued licenses (MD, DDS, CPA, etc.) should definitely be listed after one’s name if he or she practices in that profession. Likewise, it’s been my experience that advanced degrees (master’s level or above) should also be listed if they support one’s professional credibility. I do agree, however, that some people take things too far by listing obscure designations from professional associations. I have also found that listing a bachelor’s degree is highly unusual. This makes sense, since a bachelor’s degree typically provides a student with very basic knowledge, while an advanced degree is (theoretically) much more rigorous and implies that someone is an expert in his or her profession.

  22. It depends upon the industry and the situation. Personally I have a CPA, a CMA, a MBA and I’m working on a MST. The CPA is a legal license and therefore it must be listed. The CMA (Certified Management Accountant), is a professional certification the doesn’t carry the same weight as a CPA in the U.S. but has more weight than a CPA outside the U.S. The MST is a Masters in Taxation. Here is my current thinking – business card – MST, CMA, CPA; webpage bio – MST, MBA, CMA, CPA; email MST, CMA, CPA; professional article – MST, MBA, CMA, CPA.
    While a MBA is a general degree, anyone who has earned one will probably tell it that it was not a cake walk. That being said, placing MBA after your name with no other credential may look pretentious on a business card or email signature unless you’re in a profession that normally displays that credential, e.g, medical or academic professions. When I was in the corporate world, no credential would appear on your business card unless you had a PhD or a CPA (the CPA would be used only if you were in an accounting or finance position).
    Now the exception – if you are doing a job search then show everything on your “jobsearch” business card and put a short bio on the back of the card.
    The best word of advice I can give is to follow the custom in your profession.

  23. It is perfectly acceptable in the US to add an advanced degree title to your business card when acting in a capacity in which the field of expertise of one’s degree is relevant. It is typically not acceptable to do so with an undergraduate degree. An MBA is an advanced professional degree and can be listed.
    In Europe;however, one can find undergrad degree titles added to business cards because titles bear a significant higher importance in countries such as Germany. In the UK they list their degrees and memberships.

  24. Gosh, you people are so opinionated. You really look down on people that have MBA listed on their business cards? I think you are being petty and judgmental.

  25. I think its sad that so many of you think so little of people with MBA’s. I have a MS degree and I worked hard to get it. I’m proud of my achievement. I’m happy to have it on my card along with my PMP.
    Sounds like the people who shy away are embarassed to say they have an MBA.

  26. You need to be honest with yourself about why it is that you are “credentialing” your name. Are you selling a product-is the fact that you have MBA after your name really going to make you more credible? I too, know at least three unreliable people that have MBA’s (online degrees). Are you open to new job opportunities-hey you may come across a future employer. Are you looking for immediate respect? Don’t feel like you have the time to really show people what you know? You may also want to consider your environment- folks in smaller towns may eat it up. Probably, not so much in larger metropolitan cities. MD’s, PhD’s, ANP’s, PA’s, DDS’s,etc. need to show credibilty from the get go. For obvious medical reason’s, but also because because they trully are experts in their feilds. Master’s degres generally show, above average knowledge of a subject- but expetise is what sets one apart from the pack. Their credentials are proving one’s expertise, you may very well be an expert in a particular feild, with only a BA, BS, MBA, MPH- but only more advanced degrees can prove expertise.

  27. I am surprised at some of the comments. I think if you have a masters or higher then list it on your business card, dont you hand out business cards to sale yourself. IF you have a professional certification then list it too. When I started out in industry I was working with an guy that had multiple degrees and certifications hanging on his office wall and i asked him why he had all this on his walls why he did not think people would think he was showing off and he answered me that he earned every one of them and it made no sense to put them away in a closet somewhere whe someone took the time to print it off to reconize what he had done. It made sense to me what he said and besides the people that are offended by this are the ones that are not proud of what they have done with themselves.

  28. Google’d this topic to see suggested protocol – I’m wrapping up MBA in a few months – worked very hard, not just for the education, but the self discipline and balance of life I needed to keep in order to finish timely and with honors. I work in non-profit, as such, I liaison with lots of business people to get things done. When it’s time to reorder new business cards, I will be adding MBA to mine. We should celebrate our Masters achievements, no matter the discipline.

  29. I’m surprise that no one has commented about this subject on an international level. How is the designation of a degree/education in your signature and/or on your business card viewed by persons in other countries? For example in Japan a greater deal of importance is placed on the business card and there is a customary process to the sharing of business cards. It would be very important to be judged appropriately, by your card, in those countries especially if you do business in an area where it may have an impact on your ability to serve your client, such as sales. I have an MBA and do business in several countries. I include my MBA as a sales and marketing professional so that those who obtain it will understand that I have some level of expertise beyond the typical business person.

  30. I haven’t got the time to worry about whether listing credentials after my name is “pretentious” or offends people. I tend to see that any offense that someone takes regarding this topic has to do with the fact that the person regrets not continuing his/her education and is jealous. I have wondered about the etiquette of this very topic and my philosophy is as follows:
    – As far as educational (i.e., degrees)credentials go, I would list anything at a Master’s Degree level and above. I would be slightly apprehensive to do this only if the degree had little or nothing to do with my current career, but I truly feel that no matter what, the degree shows a certain level of general competancy and is something that we should all be proud of and display. I certainly will display my M.S. in my signature and business cards as soon as I complete it.
    I apply the same philosophy regarding licenses and certifications.
    However, for a sake of avoiding clutter, I probably would limit what is listed to three degrees and/or licenses, with degrees being listed closest to the name followed by certs/licenses.
    Ex:
    Firstname Lastname, M.S., P.E., R.N.
    Have a great holiday, everyone.

  31. I’m finishing my MBA in June 2011 and will be placing “MBA” after my name on LinkedIn, my business card, and my work email. I worked hard for this degree over the past 2 years at a recognized school (University of California-Irvine) and earned the right to place those letters after my name. Be proud and display your graduate degree. Don’t listen to the haters.

  32. I’ll only speak with regards to MBAs. I’m not sure about MSWs.
    For MBAs, I think a lot depends on your environment. In the corporate world, and especially in corporate finance, 90% of the people I run across have earned MBAs, so it really makes no sense to put it on a business card. I’ve got plenty of friends at Google, IBM, Chase, BofA, HP, Chevron, etc., and none of them have MBA on their cards. However, many of my colleagues have professional designations on their cards such as PMP => Project Management Professional, CFA => Chartered Financial Analyst and/or CPA => Certified Public Accountant.
    Bottom line…if you feel that your MBA “separates you from the pack”, or if you’re in small business (or small town), then by all means throw that MBA degree on your business card. If you’re in the corporate world, leave it off (unless you’re fresh out of an MBA program and you’re using cards supplied by your B-School).

  33. I think it depends on the field you work in. I have a MA in education and I work in education. I have observed that people put graduate degrees on their cards, i.e. MA, EdD, but not BA. It is assuemd you have at least abachelors degree if you teach. A graduate degree is usually required for Community College teachers and College Lecturers so I usually see them listed.

  34. If you put an MBA on your businesscard, so you should always also write down the university you got it from. Otherwise it is useless since nowadays you can obtain an MBA by doing a 2-week business course.

  35. I’m surprised that this topic has been an ongoing discussion for almost four years now. Like many I too googled this topic and here I am, still to my demise with no concrete answer. It seems like a 50-50 debate. I like what Rob on November 2, 2010 said about the one guy that had all his achievements on his wall, I too believe that after you have earned it you should post it wherever you can.
    Personally I did not even complete my diploma (I’m in IT – Failed two programming modules over and over again). It is not easy to just have a simple diploma in IT (I’m in South Africa).
    I have recently completed four highly sought after certifications from BlackBerry, the guys I work with have failed these a number of times, they are technicians with much more experience than I but only four of them have one cert each out of nine of us in total – I have four and just came from a discussion with my Managing Director (Not direct boss he says to get my direct boss’s opinion) though he does not like all my certs on my e-mail signature and I won’t even bother getting my direct boss’s opinion (He wants me to just put “the one that is most valued” his words on and leave the rest because I am apparently bragging)
    Funny enough the company I work for does not neglect to mention/advertise to our clients that they have 8 certs (Half of them held by myself – Literally)
    Most of you guys are discussing MBA’s PMP’s(Much respect to you – in my field this was rated by a study to be the highest paying IT-Certification in 2010 the world over – http://www.ozzitronics.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87&Itemid=124) and PHD’s and so on, I value education and plan to one day complete my diploma and finally attain my PHD in IT (Multimedia specialisation). So what should I do then if I am to die tomorrow as those that say the only thing to mention should be the PHD and nothing else, I should never have anything to my name after having worked so hard. I can at-least agree that a diploma or bachelors degree should not be mentioned (Though think this should be out of choice not norm)
    I have scaled down to just include the once cert in my signature (After-all I am a BlackBerry Technical Trainer), should I not be the one expected to have the most certs to further encourage confidence in my credibility to my students and potential clients?

  36. I have a Masters and I list it next to my name on my university business card. Otherwise, I never list it outside of a resume. I have read that in Great Britain, people commonly list all of their credentials by their names.
    Is this true?

    • yes I have worked with people globally and they place everything from a bachelor to master degree

      I work in healthcare so credentials and education MATTERS

  37. I finally put my MS on my business card after 11 years of not thinking about ever doing it. My boss was actually the one who pushed me to do it. I am the sole R&D chemist in the US subsidiary of a Japanese company, and the only person in my division here in the US who has above a bachelors degree. I work with a lot of R&D chemists for our customers, and they have degrees ranging from BS to PhD, and my boss thinks it helps my gravitas with customers for them to know I have an advanced degree. Interestingly enough, I am in Europe right now at a technical conference presenting a paper, and have received many business cards from other atttendees. I see over here many Europeans even list BSs or Diplomas (a program between a bachelors and a masters). Now while including a bachelors degree on a business card may be accepted in Europe, I think it is outside the norm to do so in the US, and therefore best left off. Putting a graduate degree, be it an MS, an MBA, or above, is common enough here to be acceptable depending on the circumstances. There are a few rules of thumb to follow:
    1. Make sure the degree is relevant to your job. If you are in industrial equipment sales, leave that MFA off the b-card.
    2. Generally, list the highest, most relevant degree. For instance, if you are a lawyer who got a masters in engineering before going to law school, just list the JD. It may be that you are in patent law and your masters in engineering helps you out, but still just include one. There are all sorts of caveats and exceptions to this of course. For instance, if you are a lawyer and got an MBA to help manage your firm better, leave that off, but if you are a tax lawyer and also have a masters in accounting, then you may want to list that.
    3. pay attention to what your colleagues do. If you have other people at your job who do similar work to you and have a similar educational level, see what they are doing, and follow it.
    As an aside, while I can see some potential pitfalls to having an alphabet soup at the end of your name, and I myself was reluctant to include my MS on my card, I do have to say that pretty much everyone here who came out strongly against putting a masters on a business card really came across as bitter, petty and biased. I wonder if some of them are envious of those who attained a higher degree, while those who have the higher degree but don’t value them are bitter about having chosen a graduate program poorly so that it did not serve them well in the work force.

    • Thanks for the comment Mark. At the very least, I will use my MA designation on my LinkedIn web site, although I have never done so previously and got the Masters 3 years ago. I am job hunting again and I think it might catch the eye of prospective employers in the field I’m hoping to get into. Like you, I have done international work/ worked with people overseas and since I am trying to get into a field that is more international in focus, it makes sense to provide designations that will likely provide more recognition of hard work performed in the field.

  38. It is completely inappropriate to put anything beside your name, unless it is a professional designation (like CPA – something for which you are licensed or certified) or if you have a Doctorate. Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees have no business in a signature. Not only is is arrogant, but it’s grammatically incorrect.

  39. Mark: you’re actually incorrect, the so-called Diploma degrees (such as Diploma Engineer in Germany or Finland) are considered full equivalents of MSc degrees. On average, it takes 4-7 years of studies to get one. Upon competion of the degree you have the right to continue with a doctorate, which is something that a BSc does not allow.
    Note that until the very recent changes, all German and Finnish university graduates were either on MSc of DSc (=Phd) level. For instance, the 8 person management board of BASF (world’s largest producer of chemicals) consists solely of doctors, most of them having their Phd from chemistry. This would be extremely unlikely in the large stock corporations of the US, because 99,9999% of managers are either bachelors or masters.
    Thus, a 3-4 year BSc degree such as in Britain or the US did not even exist before.
    My point was, there’s a reason why people write their degree on their signatures in Europe: people respect formal education more than in the US.

  40. Keep it simple and cater to the user.
    Business card, certifications and/or professional memberships (if relevant)
    Resume, list qualifications in relevant section
    Email signature – job title only (if relevant).
    When someone includes certifications or qualifications on an email, you can assume they have obtained them very recently and probably have little relevant experience.

  41. Hey Dave,
    Awesome man! What an idea! I think and in fact would recommend putting in your degrees in your business cards because it reflects and gives a good impression about the person (at least to good people). And mentioning on that the university you got accreditation is something that would add a plus more to you. As there is a say that talent doesn’t requires a degree so consider a person done BBA and is finalizing a deal with a firm for the firm he works for, what an impression that kind of person leave. People will say ‘He is just a BBA but what a mind of dealing!’ Just my way of thinking and considering!

  42. I agree that credentials should be used in a professional capacity only but that doesn’t mean others are wrong for listing their credentials in other circumstances.
    Why should only a Ph.D be listed? A Masters degree
    isn’t exactly a cereal box prize, is it? Historically, a Masters was a terminal degree on the way to a doctorate but many people today do not go for a Ph.D because they have a Masters.
    It seems that Europeans include every last credential. Why are Americans discouraged from listing theirs?

  43. I just finished writing a letter of recommendation for a close friend. Though I know his accomplishments and have seen his resume, which was professionally written, it lacked the nomenclature outlining the skill set that is in common use in MBA programs. I used those words to translate his skills, abilities, and accomplishments into modern business language. To lend further validity to the letter, I signed it MBA. When the designation can bring clarity, it should be used, if it does that on a business card then go for it. On the other hand, I work with a person who proudly puts MBA on everything, and she is the worst at forming cross functional relationships and in fact always seeks out her own interest above others no matter how much needless work it creates for others. This goes against the philosophy of the MBA, and I’m getting ready to call her on it. After all, she is boasting that she has the skill set to know better. In this case, her use of MBA after her name is clearly to her disadvantage. So remember, it can cut both ways.

  44. Whats the protocol for listing a professional degree? I have a bachelors in geology and a masters in mining engineering. I’ll be working in the mining industry, so it seems to me that they should be on the business card, especially as I’ll be doing international work.

  45. I run a recruitment company (President & Senior Recruiter) and I have a BA in Psychology. It’s relevant and I put BA after my name.
    Interested to know if someone might have a problem with that?

    • I think that’s awesome! I was feeling sad because all the comments have been negative regarding listing any credentials lower than a Master’s degree. I have a BS and a BA and I worked very hard for those! Although I didn’t get my Master’s, I DID receive TWO bachelor’s degrees in unrelated fields so I am very proud of all my hard work. What’s wrong with that?

  46. I’ve been curious about the etiquette here as well.
    I’ve just completed a master’s in Australia by DE (distance education). It’s an IT related degree, Mater of Networking and System Administration, and I’m unsure where/when to disclose it, as I’ve never heard it mentioned or seen it written before. It would be MNSA I guess?
    As a mature age student who left public HS in the 70’s, I am now the only member in our entire extended family to achieve a degree of any kind. Over 20yrs of industry expertise and a collection of globally recognised (Cisco) certifications got me that foot in the door to Uni, and I financed and survived that monster challenge on my own. It was an extremely sharp learning curve and you can bet I pretty damn proud to have achieved it… with distinction!
    Of course a Doctorate is by far a worthy inclusion, but I don’t agree all else is trivial, and unworthy of mention.
    My 2cents..

  47. When I was a failure at the university level, I would look at peoples names which had degree suffixes with instant high regard. Regardless of what the title was; BA, MBA, PHD, RN…and so forth. What the suffix told me was their level of knowledge.
    Fifteen years later and into my MBA in the United States, I still feel the same way. In the new “flat world” it is necessary to inform people your level of knowledge, skill, and education.
    I would put titles, regardless of level on the following:
    Business card, professional emails, resume, and professional documents.
    I would NOT put titles on the following:
    Social sites, personal emails, and door placards (unless your a teacher/professor).

  48. HI I HAD COMPLETED MY MBA IN UK. HOW SHOULD I WRITE ON MY VISITING CARDS MY DESIGNATION.HOW TO WRITE LOCAL MBA DISIGNATION ON VISITING CARDS.

  49. I think it’s embarrassing when people put a basic degree on a business card or email signature.
    I had a girl reply to me recently with BSc (hons) on here email. she is a property manager. I don’t see the relevance. I have 2 science degrees (one a MSc) but would never sign an unrelated email with them. I don’t use them on my business card either as I’m not in academia or research where it might mean something. I have used my titles once or twice when sending science related letters to science bodies or departments.

  50. I see alot of commen here dismissing the practice of crowing about ones personal achievements… directly after listing your own.
    Interesting… 😉

  51. I think designations should be used only when relevant and makes you stand out. I am in institutional real estate investment. I never use MBA in my signature or on business cards as it is customary to have an MBA. I do use two designations that are relevant to and respected in the industry, but are not widely held. I would find it pretentious if someone signed a professional letter related to real estate investment with Ph.D if the Ph.D was in anatomy. I do not address, when writing or speaking, Ph.Ds as “Doctor” and only do so with MDs when I am in their work place.

  52. I think that if you earned that degree, put it on your business card. I have it on mine and I use mine to show that I am academically qualified to do my job. I use my resume to show that I have the necessary skills to do my job. I do not put my bachelors degree on the card. I only put my MPA, JD and PhD on there.
    Brian, as far as not addressing PhD’s by doctor is rude unless they have asked you not to. My spouse is a physician and we went through our respective doctoral degrees and from personal experience I can tell you it was more difficult to get my PhD than it was for her to get her MD, even she admitted that. All she had to do was memorize and regurgitate. I had to create knowledge and then write a several hundred page paper explaining that knowledge. Even before I had a bachelors degree, if you had a doctoral degree I called you doctor, period. They EARNED that title, they earned being set apart from the rest of society. The degree is DOCTOR of…. and they deserve the title that goes with that.

    • im very confused as to why an MBA is pretensions but Phd isn’t

      one person said that a MBA does not qualify you to do the job well a PHD can be in any field,

  53. Whether you use your advanced degree, is purely a matter of opinion. In some industries it seem to be a common practice, and in others it varies according to a person personal feelings. There is way too much discussion over nothing. If you got it, flaunt it! Now that I am a senior and retired, I don’t use letters after my name.

    Whenever I go out and hear some blow hard talk about how much education they have, and how smart they are to impress all the people around him who don’t have advanced degrees, I have to wonder if he is really that ignorant or just plain. Please use some common sense!! Get a life!!

  54. I agree that if credentials are necessary to do your job, they can be included, otherwise it is pretentious. I have friends and family who sign personal letters adding their degrees, hoping to impress. I earned a PhD but I don’t need people to address me as Doctor. I know who I am. I also know a lot of docs who lack common sense and probably need the letters behind their name to remind everyone how brilliant they are.

  55. I’d like to add that while I value education, having a series of degrees proves nothing!! Some of the wisest, most gifted and talented people I know do not hold advanced degrees. Knowledge can be obtained and created in a variety of different ways….we were each born with unique expertise that was provided by God long before we learned to compose a dissertation.

  56. I have several degrees, with the highest being a Masters. I work in social services for a medical company. I always list my M.S. after my name in my email signature and on business cards. When I am replying to an email that I previously replied to, I usually just put my first name in subsequent correspondence. It’s common practice at my company to list credentials, no matter how ridiculous they may seem, I am never judgemental of the acconplishments of my peers.

  57. I agree I work in healthcare if I want to be the director of operations they want to know if iam qualified and education is apart of that

    MBA IN HEALTHCARE MANGEMENT

    its discouraging that this country tells you to get an education only to tell you it don’t matters. How many people have MBA’s Masters, etc those accomplishments stand for something. WTH am I reading???!!!!

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